7" figurines of Tom Molineaux and Tom Cribb (repros of Straffordshire -- 3 sets). Born 1784, Tom Molineaux was the first unofficial American Boxing Champion. Tom Molineaux was born a slave but fought his way to freedom and ultimately a shot at the heavyweight title. He began boxing other slaves while plantation owners wagered on the bouts. Finally after defeating a slave from a rival plantation, he was given his freedom and $500. He traveled to New York and then, in 1809, he left for England and began boxing. Molineaux was trained by Bill Richmond, another freed American slave who became a notable prize fighter in England. Molineaux won two bouts in England and the ease with which he won quickly lined him up for a title shot against British heavyweight champion Tom Cribb.
In December 18th, 1810, Molineaux challenged Crib in a classic encounter. After some 39 rounds of give and take, Molineaux finally collapsed from exhaustion. The great Pierce Egan, who described the American as "The Tremendous Man of Colour," wrote of the contest: "Molineaux proved himself as courageous a man as ever an adversary contended with ... [Molineaux] astonished everyone, not only by his extraordinary power of hitting and his gigantic strength, but also by his acquaintance with the science, which was far greater than any had given him credit for." The two Cribb fights made Molineaux a celebrity in England. But he fought only sporadically, opting to engage in numerous sparring exhibitions. In 1818, he died in Dublin, Ireland.
-- October 13, 1818 edition of the New-York Spectator reporting the death of Tom Molineaux, the celebrated pugilist at Galway, Ireland. Tom was the first American boxer to fight for the London Prize Ring championship. A former slave, Molineaux reportedly got his freedom after winning a boxing match on which his owner (Algernon Molineaux) had placed a large bet.
- Boxing champions of this era were England’s very first sport stars; hitherto only exceptional animals had been household names in the sporting world. Boxing (or milling, as it was commonly called) was patronized at the highest level of society, but it appealed to all classes because fights indulged the national propensity to gamble.
- Boxing matches were illegal in the early 19th century. The ideal site was a remote outdoor location that accommodated thousands of spectators and eluded magisterial detection.
- The boxing ring was a roped-off area, usually from twenty to forty feet square, and it was surrounded by an outer ring accessible only to umpires, officials, select friends, and those charged with keeping the crowd at bay. A sea of standing spectators surrounded the outer ring, and carriages and wagons circled the field to form a grandstand of sorts. Sometimes crowd control necessitated constructing an elevated wooden stage for the ring.
- Boxers did not wear gloves. Each boxer, stripped to the waist, was assisted by only his bottle-holder and his second. The latter lent his knee as a seat, offered advice, administered ringside surgery, and generally did whatever it took—biting ears was common—to keep his man conscious.
- Unlike today’s fights, matches were unlimited in length, and rounds ended only when a boxer went down. A downed boxer had a thirty-second count, and then he had to be at the scratch, the name given a square chalked in the ring center. If he could not make it, he was defeated. Fights were protracted slugfests in which men pummeled away at each other interminably. Blood flowed freely as bare fists shredded faces, swelled eyes shut, and reduced hands and knuckles to painful pulp, despite careful pre-fight “pickling” in astringent. Matches could last very many rounds, very many hours. Boxers fought relatively few times in their lives because the human body can only take so much.