On the announced retirement of John. Gully from the championship he had so recently won, "Bob" Gregson, his sturdy opponent in two battles, put forth a claim to the title. He was matched with "Tom" Cribb as the likeliest opponent, suffering defeat in twenty-three rounds. Cribb was thus elevated to the championship in 1808 and held the title until his voluntary retirement in 1822.
NEBRASKA STATE JOURNAL,SUNDAY 31 MARCH 20, 1910
on the announced retirement of John. Gully from the championship he had so recently won, "Bob" Gregson, his
sturdy opponent in two battles, put forth a claim to the title. He was matched with "Tom" Cribb as the likeliest opponent, suffering defeat in twenty-three rounds. Cribb was thus elevated to the championship in 1808 and held the title until his voluntary retirement in 1822.
Possibly no champion, has ever been such a popular idol as the huge, good natured, clean fighting "Tom" Cribb. He received many testimonials throughout his career of the high regard in which he was held by all followers of the sport and was not so much the champion of England as a national institution.
Two of his hardest battles were fought with "Jem" Belcher,the 'man who never could not learn -what defeat meant. In 1810 he was matched with "Tom" Molineaux. an American negro of great promise. Cribb won the victory after thirty-three hard rounds, and the black demanded another trial. The second fight -was Cribb's last pitched battle, confirming him in his title and in public esteem.
CAPTAIN, BARCLAY entered the tavern where many of the distinguished amateurs and patrons of the sport were to pass the night before the great fight with no less a person than "Tom"' Cribb himself in tow. Shouts greeted their arrival and places were quickly made about the table. Attention centred upon the fresh, lean face and stalwart figure of the champion, who had kept himself out of sight these three months. There had been many rumors as to his condition and this was the first opportunity the fancy had had to size up their truth.
"Why, Tom, man, you've fallen away,'' was the comment of Major Mellish, as he looked the boxer over critically. "Where's your girth? I suppose this is your doing, Barclay, with the' diet and training nonsense you've been dinning in our ears."
"Ay," said the Captain, with a proud smile. "I can say it's my doing. You all know how I've gone a seeking of a docile subject Well, I've found one now and never could have wished a better patient than Cribb. Look at him, will you, gentlemen" Thirteen stone six pounds he weights, and as hard all over as your thick head,Major."
"I very much doubt it," replied the Major, shaking that member. "Thirteen stone six “Why,that's near a stone under his weight when he met Molineaux last trip. -Barclay, my good friend, I've a notion he'll be wanting that stone to-morrow. .Most likely you've taken all the poor. fellow's strength away with your "milk and eggs and forty mile walks and sweatings. What of it, Tom? I'll go bail now you're limp as a cat under it all. Plain, easy living, rare beef and good porter - there's the training for any boxer who ever stepped."
"Oh, you'll find me fit enough," laughed Cribb evasively: If these gentlemen wished to dispute over his condition he would have no part in it for there was betting afoot or he was much mistaken. For himself he had never felt better. The eleven -weeks of hard training at Barclay's estate of Ury and in the Highlands had brought him to the keen edge of bodily well being.
This was just the kind of discussion that Barclay had hoped for. At a time when systematic training of athletes was almost unknown he had devised and practised a method of his own that had enabled him to achieve notable feats of strength and endurance, such as walking one hundred and ten miles in nineteen hours and throwing a half hundredweight a distance of eight yards. The battle of the morrow was to put his theories to test once for all.
"There's still more to it, Major," he said. ",'When Tom came to my place in July he weighed sixteen stone, not a pound less. A loss of thirty-six pounds and you have the net result." Mellish threw up both hands and appealed to the company. "Then he's a gone man. 1 leave it to any gentleman if a fighter can afford any such sapping of his strength. Barclay, I misdoubt you've done him an ill kindness."
"Are you minded to place any bets on the outcome. Major?" purred the Captain,with a twinkle. "Um-m-m," grumbled Hellish, returning to his inspection of Cribb. "You'll note, Barclay, that your own information, volunteered just now, is an element in the situation."
"Make the most of it," returned Barclay, stoutly. “its every word of it true." "What odds would you offer” asked the Major cautiously. Bets Three to One. "From your confidence I might have demanded them of you," smiled the Captain. "But I'll give you Three to one." "Done, for £3,000," cried Melllsh excitedly. "Done," answered Barclay, and the wager was recorded.
Cribb felt no uneasiness at the size of the obligation assumed on his account by his friend and faithful backer. More than any other he was in a position to testify to the wonders -wrought by Barclay's training- The champion had just completed his thirtieth year. Born near Bristol, the birthplace of so many holders of the title, he had served as a sailor in the navy and had fought his first public battle at the age of twenty four. After a single defeat early in his career at the hands of a minor boxer he had won his way steadily up the pugilistic ladder by a series of notable victories.Unlike Jackson or Gully “Tom” had been no favourite Of fortune. Success had come to him only after He had beaten down all obstacles with his Mighty arms.
Of modest, unassuming nature, Cribb had gradually won a following before he stepped into the championship. No fairer or cleaner fighter ever held the honor. He bad kept his record without, reproach. For The rest he had attained his superiority by Hard work and careful study of the science. No natural boxer like Belcher, he had shown But mediocre ability at the start.he had been Classed as a “slow hitter” and never developed Into a remarkably swift or agile pugilist .His best qualities in the ring were his excellent generalship, his knowledge of the game, his wonderfully sound wind and his rock founded courage.
In another inn of tbe vicinity the challenger. was put up for the night before the big battle. "Tom"' Molineaux bad been a slave on a Virginia plantation, where he was born.Having found refuge in England, he had presented himself as a candidate for pugilistic fame under the auspices of "Bill"' Richmond, another American negro who was well known to followers of the sport as a second and a fighter of merit. Two victories over minor boxers of the day had recommended him as a fitting aspirant to the championship and he had issued a challenge to Cribb.
Cribb. after his second defeat of Belcher, bad practically decided upon retirement. When the ambitious defiance of the negro was presented, however, he had yielded readily to the wishes of his friends. The situation was somewhat similar to that now existing between Jeffries and Johnson. Cribb was called upon to uphold the supremacy of the race in the ring and gave over his private arrangements for a quiet life in retreat to respond to that call. As a newspaper of the day put it:
"Some persons feel alarmed at the bare idea that a black man and a foreigner should seize the championship of England and decorate his sable brow with the hard earned laurels of Cribb. He must, however, have his fair chance. Although “Tom” swears that for the honourof old England “He’ll be dammed if he will relinquish a single sprig except for his life”.
Molineaux ,had put up a terrific fight in his first Meeting with the champion and had honestly won his right to a return engagement. The black was a man of great strength and not without science, which he had improved by constant practice since his arrival in England. He was in no way an opponent to be despised, a fact to which the intense interest of the fancy and the almost unprecedented attendance at the second battle amply testified.
The scene of action was Thistleton Gap,in the Parish of Wymondham Leicestshire.. Thousand's of fight followers had been gathering from all parts of the country for a week, and on the night before the meeting accommodation was not to be had for twenty miles around. On the morning of September 28,1811 the throngs were on the move long before dawn seeking advantageous places about the ring.
A stage twenty-five feet square was erected in the centre of a large stubble field. To prevent interference from the vast concourse a larger roped arena surrounded the stage.
At twelve o'clock Cribb mounted the stage, followed by his old friend, the former champion, Gully, as second and the veteran "Joe Ward as bottle holder. His appearance was the signal for a thunderous demonstration, which was swept onto Molineaux a few moments later, when he showed himself -in company with "Bill" Richmond, his second and "Bill"' Gibbons as bottle holder. The two fighters tossed up their hats in token of defiance and began to strip to breeches; stockings and pumps. At eighteen minutes past the hour the umpires gave the signal and the boxers stepped forward.
Cribb now gave visual evidence of the benefit of Captain Barclay's training. Five feet ten and a half inches in height, he was a man of ponderous frame, with a natural tendency, to flesh. His present weight of 188 pounds meant that he was all bone and muscle and firm skin, at the exact line between the pink of form and the point of dangerous firmness. He represented the type of the rugged, massive, deliberate exponent of the art. secure in his solid strength and endurance, prepared to give and take the blows of Titans.
Molineaux was power carved in ebony. The negro had, never been one to give proper attention to his condition, but the watchers could pick no flaw in him. He too had reduced weight since the last meeting, though certainly not so healthily, and he came to the mark ,at about 155 pounds. His height was five feet eight and quarter inches.His most striking physical characteristic was his remarkable reach, backed by arms of tremendous development.
With gladiators of this kind in the ring there was little chance of a sparring exhibition, and as the two advanced to the handshake there were immediate hostilities.it was known the black was keen for revenge and many looked to see him force the pace from the set to.The opponents fell on guard for an instant and battle was joined with a whirl and a rush.The Negro hammering in for a brief fierce attack against Cribbs cool effective guard.
Cribb Starts Trouble.
Suddenly Cribb went upon the offensive. In the first tentative clash which serves the alert fighter as a clearing and defining of values he bad tasted his superiority, sensed his own great ability and resources once more. He drove in manfully with right and left smashes.The first got home a glancing cut on Molineaux’ body the second was skilfully parried as the black stepped into the opening and sent a large lunge to the champions head.Cribb wavered not at al but drove one , two again at the body.Molineaux was ready for him covered himself and they stood knee to knee in some pretty exchanges.
It was nip and tuck for a full minute with Some of the hardest rallying the two had ever Tried.The crowd paid the Negro the tribute due to His cleverness and good will. He never gave back But stood up at blow for blow with the great Champion.More than that he had just a trifle The better of the session and ripped in a drive To the forehead that all but snapped Cribb of His balance. Cribb acknowledged the hit with A grin. The black was a better boxer than ever And it was a pleasure to mill with such a straight forward stand up opponent. So thought the champion as he came back from the check and waded in with increased speed.
They were fighting at distance for Cribb was Not ready to break to close quarters and Prefered to take his chance with the fists. Molineaux feinted at the body and swept A cut at the head that the champion deftly Warded, countering to the ribs. The black stepped Back at the battering ram drive, but Cribb Followed him sending a neatly aimed straight Arm to the throat that forced Molineaux Over for a clean fall. The champion received The roaring approval that was his due for Bold scientific work, but the prevailing Odds of 3 to 1 were not altered by the Outcome of the round, the Negro being plainly unhurt.
Molineaux opened the second round after the manner of "Dutch Sam," the lightweight marvel and whirl wind fighter of the day, with a bewildering and ferocious attack. Cribb held him off for a moment, but gave ground just in, time to break the force of a wicked smash, to the mouth that drew first crimson.
The negro forced his lead, head held low making his reach count. Cribb backed another step, but stopped there, taking a slam to the ribs and coming back strong with a right hander that found its mark on the chest and checked the African's impetuous advance. Molineaux swung over the champion's guard smoothly and landed hard to the head.
Cribb had now worked himself in to half arm without seeming to have done so deliberately. He foresaw much trouble if he permitted the black to run the fight at a distance with all the advantage of reach. The champion carefully avoided showing his adversary that he had no particular liking for the long exchanges, but cleverly tempted him in closer, taking body punishment willingly to achieve his end. Molineaux's first rush bad worn itself out. but he had plenty' of steam and stopped two wicked hooks to the jaw while getting home some slicing jabs. In another swift exchange the black snaked through a beautiful drive that did execution over Cribb's right eye.
Having whetted the black's appetite for close work by several openings the champion now cautiously put into practice one of his favourite manoeuvres, which was ever a distinctive part of his play. This was milling on the retreat. He gave back slowly, tempting his adversary to extraordinary efforts and exhausting lunges, while watching craftily for his chance and holding his powers in reserve. He found his opening and came back with vigor. But Molineaux, profiting by his previous knowledge of the champion's tactics, ducked under the blow and came to grips.
The wrestle was long and contested with the utmost fierceness, the big fellows stamping and straining from rope's to ropes. Molineaux proved slippery and Cribb could not catch him to advantage, while the black's long arms wound to firm holds. Suddenly the negro threw his weight to the side, tripping cleverly and throwin the champion a heavy fall. It had been evident from the first that the black had few real partisans in the throng, but there was a spontaneous outburst of applause at this exhibition of dexterity. Odds fell to 5 to 4 on Cribb. It was clearly the negro's round.
Cribb opened the third round and forced a stiff rally, losing no time in coining well within the firing line. His right eye was almost useless, but he found that neither aim nor judgment had been impaired. The showing made by Molineaux was no surprise and he had not fallen into the error of underestimating his task. He set to work with perfect, confidence and possession." If he knew anything of signs the black was finding the bottom of his wind, and this was a point upon which Cribb largely counted. With his magnificent equipment and preparation Cribb himself was scarcely breathed. He bided his time, meanwhile seeking to lure the negro with another retreat.
Molineaux merely improved the opportunity to deliver two long range smashes to the face and Cribb bored back hastily. A terrific rally followed, the champion beating down the others guard twice for body blows and taking full receipt about the head. To the spectators the negro had suffered nothing to speak of since the start and there were impatient cries, to the champion to make his mark upon his man. Cribb was in no wise hurried, but launched upon a one, two with irresistible strength. Molineaux turned one aside, but the next, sweeping through unchecked, caught him a "doubler"' over the stomach with resounding force. The blow was enough to have laid out many a more stalwart one on the spot. It sent him spinning across the ring and all but off the stage. By desperate effort ho regained his balance and kept his feet, before Cribb came up with him. To the surprise of the crowd the black lost no time in retaliating with a powerful swing to the ear. As Cribb rushed in confidently Molineaux sprang upon him with renewed vigor, checked the advance and milled back determinedly. He sealed the work he bad begun upon the champion's right eye, ripped to the chin and won back his lost ground.
The champion found that he had counted too much upon his tremendous drive and sought to repeat it but Molineaux blocked and got right and left to the ribs. Cribb retreated drawing the negro to several wrenching misses and landed several times with his left without damage... As he drew off for a swing Molineaux closed with judgment and caught a good hold. The struggle was short and once more the champion went crashing to the stage while the black stood firm and safe.
Cribb was quite as Conscious as any anxious friends in the gathering that he was approaching the crucial moment Of the battle. Molineaux ,as he was willing to admit was his equal and a little more in science, speed and strength. If the black could hold the present pace the issue would almost certainly be in his favor. But Cribb was convinced that he could not hold the pace. At the clinch the black's chest had laboured in utmost distress, and the champion had felt him wince at battering blows. Barclay had told him that this fight would be won on condition alone if all else failed him and he believed in Barclay.
Cribb came to the mark strong and eager at the opening Of the fourth round and led off with right and left in body and head. Molineaux was too quick and bored back slamming through the white man's guard and landing to the face. His persistent high aim had wrought great disfigurement and he continued to center his punishment, about the eyes. They mixed it fiercely neither yielding and both tacking short arm jolts until Cribb once more tried to lure the black into a pursuit. Molineaux stood his ground and shot through two flush hits to the head with the left at long range the last almost closing Cribb's sound eye.. This was the negro's best blow and the champion's followers began to look glum at the ease with which planted it.
But Cribb wasted little uneasiness upon immediate reverses. Either Molineaux was failing fast or he had fought his score of battles to no purpose. While outwardly in bad case, fearfully cut and crimsoned from a score of wounds, the champion had not sacrificed wind, strength or temper. In the next rally the negro showed plainly that he was losing his earlier Steadiness and resolution. He missed a humming left swing and caught a nasty clip to the mouth as he flung up his guard. Instantly he lunged in with both arms, crying Out angrily. The champion improved the chance by coolly planting several telling smashes to the ribs and the black danced back gasping.
Both Like Demons.
Cribb smiled, though the result was somewhat awry and attacked with a ferocity and determination that be had not yet shown. The spurt was well timed to follow Molineaux's first break of weakness. The champion walked in whirling sledge hammer blows upon the black's guard and forcing him back with right and left to the body and right and left to the head. Molineaux outmanoeuvred and threatened by another terrific “doubler" retreated to the ropes Here he made a desperate stand and some of the hardest Fighting of the battle took place. Cribb broke through repeatedly to the ribs,but seemed to make little impression. Molineaux"s drives and swings to the face was masterly, and Crlbb attempting to duck a particularly savage one was hit off his balance by the alert negro. Before he could recover Molineaux had knocked him down with a swift rap under the ear.
Both, men seemed bent upon decisive results from the fifth round. They stepped instantly into a give and take of heavy blows, but Cribb found that the black was still a hardy customer. The negro peppered him with hard right and left smashes to head which Cribb could not avoid. or properly return and the exchange was altogether in favor of the challenger. The champion fought for a body drive, but launched too slowly and came to grief from the black's terrible left once move. The swing caught him under the ear and staggered him while Molineaux shot over a scientific right to the jaw immediately afterward that sent him reeling. As Cribb was falling the negro with wonderful quickness, put in another straight arm to the face.The crowd quickly betrayed its partisanship by howls of disapproval but the umpires, after a discussion decided that the blow was fair, Cribb's hand having been at liberty and not having touched the floor.
As the boxers approached each other for the sixth round the champion felt that his time had come Molineanx’s wonderfully clever work which had won him the advantage in each of the last four rounds, had been accomplished at a killing expense, of wind and strength. The negro's chest and sides were heaving painfully, and his actions, as they fell off guard were those of an exhausted man in deep distress. He lunged right and left, but wildly, and Cribb avoided, countering with a hard hook that the negro parried. They stepped into a rally and Cribb jammed through another of his tremendous body blows. Molineaux fell away like a broken reed, holding his arms across his stomach. Cribb followed and the negro met him half heartedly. The blow bad found him out. For soe minutes the champion vainly tried to find the black, who danced and led him a chase all around the stage. Molineaux seemed unwilling to risk more suffering, capered, hit short and was nil abroad. Then Cribb caught, him, battered him almost at will about the head and floored him with a flush drive to the jaw.
To many the sudden turn in the tide of battle cameAs a surprise. It was exactly what Cribb bad looked for. The question now was one of endurance and the negro had gone the length of his tether. Odds rose to five to one on the champion. Molinennx opened the seventh round in a rage, but he had lost the power to make it dangerous. He reached Cribb's jaw lightly and the champion drove to the throat. Stepping back. Cribb parried rind repeated to the throat. He got in the blow a third time when the negro, charging wildly, wrenched himself off his balance, stumbled and fell.
Molineanx attempted a brief rally at opening of the eighth round, but either could not judge his distance or feared to stop boldly into it. Cribb slammed him about the face, then, rushing in. caught the negro's head under his left arm and battered him until he dropped.
In the words of one of the sporting writers present, it was "Lombard street to a China orange. Moliniux came up for the ninth round staggering and wild. Summoning his failing forces, he made a mad rush, which Cribb met neatly with his left. The blow caught the black in mid career and sent him crashing to the stage with a fractured jaw. Molineaux was Unable to get up and his attendants raised, him with difficulty. At the end of the half minute the black was not yet in shape to continue but Cribb refused to appeal to the umpires, wishing to give his opponent every opportunity.
Finally the courageous negro came weaving to the centre for the tenth round. He attempted to bore in. but fell from weakness. Cribb gave him another long interval, but Molineaux was too far gone. His attendants carried him to the centre for the eleventh round, and he stood there for an instant, weaving and helpless, then fell before a blow was struck. The battle was accorded to Cribb amid thundering cheers, and the champion,as the proof of his condition,danced 'a Scotch reel with Gully abut the stage. The fight, had lasted nineteen minutes ten seconds. Captain Barclay won £10.000 from Mellish and others, but took his chief satisfaction from the establishing of his training theories. Cribb's purse was £400. Before the crowd had dispersed. John Jackson,as was his kindly custom made a collection for the defeated contestant and presented Molineaux with £50.
KNUCKLES AND GLOVES
BOHUN LYNCH .
WITH A PREFACE BY
SIR THEODORE COOK
First Impression, October, 1922
TOM CRIBB AND MOLINEUX
WITH those whose charity begins and ends at the farthest possible point from home, with those who, to be more particular, born of British blood, cannot speak of the British Lion without referring to mange, who never refer to British traditions or institutions without a sneer, the present writer has little patience. It is necessary to say that at some point in this chronicle in order to avoid misunderstanding. Tutored by Pierce Egan, Borrow, and other and later writers, we are apt to lose all sense of perspective in regarding that one-time wholly British institution ,the Prize-Ring. Further, other sources of enlightenment, and especially our schoolmasters, have blinded us to any flaw in the tradition of British Fair Play, the love of which, as already said, is an acquired and not an inherent virtue.
And if in this and other chapters some account is given of events where the love of fair play was conspicuously lacking, and which perhaps tend to show that a great tradition can be, after all, but a great superstition, that will not, I trust, be taken as evidence of the writer's anti-English proclivities. At this time of day, the truth, so far as one can discover it, can do no harm if indeed it ever can.And with that much by way of explanation and warning, we proceed to some account of the two immortal battles between Cribb
and Molineux, the black.
The history of the Nigger in Boxing has yet to be fully explored. From the time of Bill Richmond and Molineux (thefirst black boxers whose names have come down to us) till the time of Jack Johnson, negroes in this country have fought, with certain exceptions, under the severe handicap of unpopularity. Without entering too deeply into the Colour question, we may say that this unpopularity comes also from tradition. The vast majority of negro boxers had been slaves or the descendants of slaves. In early days and in the popular imagination they were savages, or almost savages. Also it was recognised from the first that the African negro and his descendants in the West Indies and America were harder-headed than white men, less sensitive about the face and jaw; most black boxers can take without pain or trouble a smashing which would cause the collapse of a white man. Occasionally this is balanced by the nigger's weakness in the stomach but, one thing with another, the white man is at a disadvantage. But physical inequality is not the only point of difference. Niggers are usually children in temperament, with the children's bad points as well as their good ones.
The black man's head is easily turned, and when his personal and physical success over a white man is manifest he generally behaves like the worst kind of spoiled child. In extreme cases his overwhelming sense of triumph knows no bounds at all, and he turns from a primitive man into a fiend. His insolence is appalling. When the black is in this condition ignorant white men lose their heads, their betters are coldly disgusted. There have been exceptions, the most notable of whom was Peter Jackson, whose exploits will be found in the second part of this book. Peter Jackson was a thoroughly good fellow. As a rule, however, it is far better that negroes, if fight they must, should fight amongst themselves. No crowd is ever big-hearted enough, or "sporting" enough, to regard an encounter between white and black with a purely sporting interest.
Thomas Molineux was born of slave parents in the State of Virginia. He himself had been legally freed, and he came over to England, without friends, with the idea of earning a living with his fists. " Thormanby" the pen name of the late W. Wilmott Dixon) tells us that he had been in the service, in America, of Mr. Pinckney, subsequently United States Ambassador at the Court of St. James's; and he was a good friend to the lonely black on his arrival in London. Molineux put himself in the hands of Bill Richmond, a fellow negro who had been taken into the service of the Duke of Northumberland when that nobleman was campaigning in America, and, later, educated at his expense and by him set up as a carpenter. Richmond appears to have been a very well-behaved fellow, and at the time of Molineux's arrival was keeping an inn in the West End of London.
By all that is fair, even in love and war, Molineux should have won the first of the two battles he fought with Tom Cribb. He was aiming high, for his conquests, previous to his challenging the champion, were few and insignificant. However, Tom could do no less than accept, though he underrated the black: and a match was made for £200 a side. The place chosen was Copthall Common, near East Grinstead, in Sussex, and the day December 10th, 1810. Vast numbers of people came down from London to see the fight, travelling through a downpour of rain which made the ring into a mere pool of mud. Cribb was seconded by John Gulley and Joe Ward, and Molineux by Bill Richmond and Paddington Jones. " Time " was kept by Sir Thomas Apreece.
Bets were made that Molineux would not last for half an hour and, as the event proved, lost.
The men were splendidly matched. Cribb stood 5 feet 10 ½ inches and weighed 14 stone 2 lb.: Molineux was two inches shorter and almost exactly the same weight. Neither man was in absolutely first-rate condition. Cribb was always inclined to be " beefy " and the Moor (as Egan calls him) was a somewhat dissipated customer. Indeed the majority of fighters in those days were plucky enough in battle, but lacked the higher and more enduring courage to go through a long period of arduous training.
Owing to Gentleman Jackson's perspicacity, the ring had been formed at the bottom of a hill, so that the great crowd of spectators could get an excellent view of the proceedings. Nothing of any importance occurred in the first four rounds. Molineux was thrown in the first and drew first blood from the champion in the second. The wet ground made foothold precarious, and on that account a comparatively light blow knocked a man down. Even so it was Cribb who did the most knocking. The fifth round was very fierce. Each in turn had some little advantage. The round was a long series of rallies, quick leads neatly stopped, hot counters, one of which landed on Cribb's left eye. There was no betting at the end of this round. In the eighth the champion had a good deal the worst of it, but stood and took his gruel like the man he always was. Egan's description of the ninth round may be quoted in full as being typical of that author, with his numerous exaggerations and underlinings.
" The battle had now arrived at that doubtful state, and things seemed not to prove so easy and tractable as was anticipated, that the betters were rather puzzled to know how they should proceed with success. Molineux gave such proofs of gluttony, that four to one now made many tremble who had sported it; but still there was a ray of hope remaining from the senseless state in which the Moor appeared at the conclusion of the last round. Both the combatants ppeared dreadfully punished; and Cribb's head was terribly swelled on the left side; Molineux's nob was also much the worse for the fight. On Cribb's displaying weakness, the flash side were full of palpitation it was not looked for, and operated more severe upon their minds upon that account. Molineux rallied with a spirit unexpected, bored in upon Cribb, and by a strong blow through the Champion's guard, which he planted in his face, brought him down. It would be futile here to attempt to portray the countenances of the interested part of the spectators, who appeared, as it were, panic-struck, and those who were not thoroughly acquainted with the game of the Champion began hastily to hedge-off; while others, better informed, still placed their confidence on Cribb) from what they had seen him hitherto take".
By the thirteenth round the betting had changed to 6-4 on the Moor. But the fight remained extraordinarily level until the end of the eighteenth round, when both appeared to be exhausted. They were both heavily punished, and on the whole fight perhaps Cribb had been the more severely handled. Both were unrecognisable, and their colour only distinguished them.
In the nineteenth round, during which the half-hour from the beginning was up, Cribb, who for some time past had been " milling on the retreat," tried to land a desperate blow at the moment when Molineux had him up against the ropes. These were in three rows, the top one being five feet from the ground.The black dodged the blow, and, seizing the top rope on either side of Cribb with his two hands, pressed upon the champion with all his might. Cribb could neither hit, nor fall. The seconds on either side argued the propriety of separating the men: but the umpires decided that no such interference was allowable. One of the combatants must fall before a second touched either. At that moment about two hundred of the
onlookers, infuriated at the black man's behaviour, rushed the outer ropes and pressed upon the ring-side. Several men snatched at Molineux's fingers, which still clung to the top rope, and tried to dislodge them. Some say that one or more of the black's fingers were broken, others that they were at least injured. But all the time Molineux was resting and getting his wind, his head down on Cribb's chest, his weight thrown forward upon his body. At last, what with his own efforts and the people plucking at his opponent's hands, Cribb got free and retreated towards the nearest corner. A less courageous man would have contrived to slip down. As it was, Molineux caught him, and, avoiding a hard left with which Cribb lunged at his body, seized the champion's head under his arm and proceeded to punish him with short, jolting blows, from which presently Cribb fell exhausted to the ground. He brought Cribb down again the next round as well. The twenty-second round, Egan tells us, was "of no importance," and he leaves it at that, whilst we sadly reflect how many rounds of nowadays, tediously described in detail, deserve the same fate.
It was at the end of the next round that Molineux should have won, though Pierce Egan entirely omits the incident from his full account, merely observing, in another volume of Boxiana(where he makes a note upon the negro's death in Ireland):
" His first contest with Cribb will long be remembered by the Sporting World. It will also not be forgotten, if Justice holds the scales, that his colour alone prevented him from becoming the hero of that fight."
The following is Egan's exact account of the twenty-third and twenty-fourth rounds:
" TWENTY-THIRD. The wind of both the combatants appearing somewhat damaged, they sparred some time to recruit it, when Cribb put in a blow on the left eye of Molineux, which hitherto had escaped milling. The Moor ran in, gave Cribb a severe hit on the body, and threw him heavily. “
“TWENTY-FOURTH. Molineux began this round with considerable spirit, and some hits were exchanged, when Cribb was thrown. The betting tolerably even."
Now at the end of the twenty-second round Molineux was doing better than the champion, and the betting was 4-1 on him. The crowd at the ring side shouted: “Now, Tom, now! Don't be beat by the nigger." But all the same Cribb went down at the end of the twenty-third round utterly done. What followed throws no shadow upon the character of Tom Cribb himself. From all we can gather he was a perfectly straight and honest bruiser. But he had been badly knocked about, and Joe Ward, one of his seconds, was desperately afraid that he would never get him up to the scratch by the call of time. There seems to be, indeed, no doubt that Cribb was, but for the squeezing against the ropes, fairly beaten. Ward was a clever rascal, and he ran across the ring to Molineux's corner and accused Bill Richmond of putting bullets into his principal's hands. He must have known perfectly well that this was false, just as he must have known, incidentally, that such foul play would do far more harm to the striker than to his opponent. But the altercation achieved its purpose, and Cribb got a good deal more than his due thirty seconds in which to recover.
Immediately after this the black got a fit of shivering, as by now, despite the pace at which they had been fighting, the chill of the December day had got into his bones, fresh as he was from a warm climate. Molineux weakened rapidly, though, urged by his seconds, he fought on till the fortieth round. Of the end of this battle Egan says:
" This (the 34th) was the last round of what might be termed fighting, in which Molineux had materially the worst of it; but the battle was continued to the 39th, when Cribb evidently appeared the best man, and at its conclusion, the Moor for the first time complained, that ' he could fight no more ! ' but his seconds, who viewed the nicety of the point, persuaded him to try the chance of another round, to which request he acquiesced, when he fell from weakness, reflecting additional credit on the manhood of his brave conqueror, Tom Cribb."
What additional credit is reflected by knocking down an exhausted man, I find it a little difficult to perceive. Whether we like the fact or not, Molineux should have been Champion of England that day, a day which is indeed black for the fair name of good sport. No possible good can come of trying, as Pierce Egan did, to disguise it. The referee was grossly unfair in not stopping Joe Ward's trick, which he can hardly have failed to see. It should also be added that the crowd hooted and jeered at Molineux throughout the fight but then, crowds are like that. Crowds are seldom genuinely sporting in the finest sense. It should be said, however, that the Stock Exchange gave the black a warm reception after the fight, and sent him away with a present of £45.
We may be sure, however, that Tom Cribb himself treated his antagonist with chivalry. This is manifest in the fact that Molineux in after years did his utmost in support of the champion, sparring at his benefit performance, and, unasked, selling tickets for it.
At the time the black man was anxious for another trial ; and the following letter appeared in The Times for Christmas Day, 1810:
ST. MARTIN'S STREET,
" To MR. THOMAS CRIBB.
" LEICESTER SQUARE, "
Dec. list, 1810."
" SIR, My friends think, that had the weather on last Tuesday, the day upon which I contended with you, not been so unfavourable, I should have won the battle: I, therefore, challenge you to a second meeting, at any time within two months, for such sum as those gentlemen who place confidence in me may be pleased to arrange.
"As it is possible this letter may meet the public eye, I cannot omit the opportunity of expressing a confident hope, that the circumstance of my being of a different colour to that of a people amongst whom I have sought protection will not in any way operate to my prejudice.
I am, sir,
“Your most obedient, humble servant, "
Witness, J. Scholfield."
The announcement of Cribb's acceptance of the challenge was given in The Times for December 29th, and the match was made for a purse of 600 guineas.
It took place at Thistleton Gap, in the county of Rutland, on September 28th, 1811, and though a much shorter affair, the second battle is hardly less famous than the other. The final blow of this encounter is depicted in a print published less than a week afterwards, a reproduction of which will be found in
This time Captain Barclay trained Cribb to a hair, so that all his beef was gone. His system was a savage one and must have killed some men, would certainly kill many boxers of the present day. But it agreed with Cribb, much though he is said to have disliked the process at the time. Cribb's preparation lasted for eleven weeks, and his weight was brought down from 16 stone to 13 stone 6 Ib. He was probably the first really trained man that ever stepped into a ring.
If the truth is to be known, Barclay had a special reason for making a good job of the champion's training. He was a good amateur boxer himself, and was used to put the gloves on with the pros at Jackson's rooms in Bond Street. But, "Thormanby" informs us, he kept a special pair of gloves there for his own use. Whether they were harder than the ordinary we do not know, but they were probably much lighter! The day on which he had arranged to spar with Molineux he arrived after the black, who was already wearing his special mufflers. He could not very well say: " Here, those are my particular gloves," and so had to be content with the regulation puddings. The result was that Molineux broke one of his ribs ; and now he wanted to be even with him, though by proxy.
Molineux did not train. As already suggested, he was a self-indulgent fellow and a spoiled child. He went on a sparring tour round the country with Tom Belcher (Jem's brother), and Bill Richmond. They were not strong-minded guardians, and only just before the fight the black ate a whole chicken, and an apple pie, washing them down with a prodigious draught of porter.
When the men met before a huge crowd of about 20,000 people, the black was so amazed at Cribb's appearance that at first he could hardly recognise him. The simple blackamoor had not believed in the virtue of getting fit: his strength, skill, and undoubted courage were enough for him. And here, snaking him by the hand, was a hard-faced fellow without an ounce of tallow on him, all bone and long, rippling muscles a very different Cribb to the well-larded customer he had fought on Copthall Common. And none of the champion's strength or stamina was gone rather the contrary. Cribb had Gulley and Ward in his corner again, while Bill Gibbons and Richmond looked after Molineux. There is little to be said of the battle itself. It was fought on a stage this time, twenty-five feet square. Cribb scored the first knock-down. Captain Barclay recommended his man to let the black beat himself and to hold back. In the third round Molineux by an overhand blow closed Tom's right eye, the fist hitting him on the cheek bone, immediately under the eye, so that the swelling took an upward direction. On his side Cribb was perfectly confident, but too old a hand not to be extremely careful, and wisely he gave most of his attention to Molineux's body always a good policy with a black man, especially when he is out of training. He nearly doubled up the Moor with one terrific right, and yet the plucky fellow pulled himself together immediately afterwards and threw Cribb heavily to the boards.
In a short while Cribb showed severe signs of punishment about the head and face, but he kept smiling amiably, which drove his adversary to madness, so that in the sixth round he was literally capering about in sheer frenzy, hitting the air wildly.Cribb came up to him and knocked him down. Again and again this happened, though at intervals Molineux regained his composure and fought well. In the ninth round, with a tremendous right-hander, the champion broke his jaw, after which he failed by half a minute to come up to time. But this was overlooked, and at the end of the eleventh round, when the battle had only lasted nineteen minutes and ten seconds, he sent home a left which knocked Molineux clean out of time: and the black was carried senseless from the ring.
Cribb made about £400 out of this fight directly, though no doubt this sum was largely increased by perquisites later on .Captain Barclay, by judicious betting, made about £10,000. And " through the kind interference of Mr. Jackson," as Egan puts it, a collection realised £50 extra for the black, whose share of the purse would be £200.
It was on the occasion of this battle that the editor of the Edinburgh Star wrote :
" When the amount of money collected for the relief of British prisoners in France, now suffering for the cause of their country, scarcely amounts to £49,000, there is Blush, O Britain ! there is £50,000 depending upon a boxing match . The Champion Cribb's arrival, and on a Sunday, too! On a visit to a gentleman of Aberdeen (we should be glad to know what kind of gentleman he is) as if he, the meritorious Cribb, did honour to the City of Aberdeen by his presence!
(The gentleman of Aberdeen was Captain Barclay, who had property in that county and brought Cribb up there to train.) There are two sorts of amusement to be derived from this quotation, and one of them, having regard to recent memories, is a very bitter sort.
After this, Tom Cribb retired from the Ring, and became, like the majority of successful bruisers of his own and of later times, a publican: and thenceforward the Union Arms in Panton Street, Haymarket, became a very popular house of call with all members of the Fancy.