Tom Molineaux

Tom Molineaux

Tom Molineaux was born a slave in Virginia in 1784. Trained by his father, Zachary Molineaux, he boxed with other slaves in order to entertain plantation owners. His owner won $100,000 by betting on Molineaux and as a result was granted his freedom and a payment of $500.

Molineaux moved to New York but after discovering he could make more money fighting in England he decided to get a job as a deckhand on a boat sailing for Liverpool. In his first fight in England took place against Tom Blake on 21st August, 1810. Molineaux won by knocking out Blake in the 8th round.

In December, 1810, Molineaux fought Tom Cribb at Copthorne, near East Grinstead, for the heavyweight championship of England. After 19 rounds Molineaux had Cribb in trouble on the ropes. Cribb's supporters now entered the ring and during the scrimmage Molineaux had one of his fingers broken. Molineaux continued to fight and in the 28th round appeared to knock out Cribb. However, his seconds complained that Molineaux had been hiding lead bullets in his fists. While this accusation was being disproved, Cribb recovered and was able to continue. Molineaux still remained favourite to win but unluckily he slipped and hit his head on one of the ring posts. He fought on but by the 39th round he was unable to defend himself and Cribb was declared the winner.

Tom Molineaux
Tom Molineaux

The return fight took place at Thistleton Gap in Leicestershire on 28th September, 1811. A record 15,000 people watched the fight. In the sixth round Cribb hit Molineaux with a low blow. He never fully recovered from this punch and in the ninth round Cribb broke his jaw. Two rounds later Cribb knocked out Molineaux.

Tom Molineaux fighting Tom Cribb for the heavyweight championship of England
Tom Molineaux fighting Tom Cribb for the heavyweight championship of England

After making a full recovery Molineaux fought and defeated Jack Carter in 1813. This was followed by a victory over Bill Fuller. However, his boxing career came to an end in 1815 when he lost to George Cooper, a fighter trained by the former black boxer, Bill Richmond.

Tom Molineaux died penniless in Dublin, Ireland, in 1818.

Primary Sources

(1) Pierce Egan described Tom Molineaux's victory over Tom Blake in his book, Sketches of Pugilism (1823)

F irst round: The fame of Molineaux having got rather spread abroad, considerable anxiety was manifested upon the combatants setting-to - good sparring was exhibited for a short period on both sides, when Blake showed himself completely scientific in hitting right and left, and stopping the return of Molineaux; they closed, but Blake, in slipping from his antagonist, received a terrible hit upon the back part of his neck, which was repeated by the Black so severely, as to send Blake down. Even betting.

Second: Blake soon discovered that his opponent was not to be disposed of easily, and that his blows, however well directed, were not strong enough to knock his adversary down. Molineaux seemed to disregard the attempts of Blake, and showed himself tolerably conversant in the science, by beating down his adversary's guard with his left hand, and by a tremendous blow with his right levelled Blake.

Third: Blake appeared rather exhausted, which Molineaux perceiving, went in, to improve upon the circumstance; but Blake hit him on the jaw; when they rallied and fell, Blake undermost.

Fourth: A truly obstinate round; but evidently in favour of Molineaux, who broke down Blake's guard and punished him severely in the face; notwithstanding, Blake put in several body-blows, but they were not effective, and was ultimately knocked down. Five to two

on Molineaux.

Fifth: Blake covered with blood; but with great resolution rallied, when Molineaux held him round the neck with his left arm, and fibbed him so tremendously, that Blake fell, completely exhausted.

Sixth: Molineaux had it all his own way this round, and, without ceremony, went in and knocked down Blake's guard with his left hand, and with a terrible blow put in with his right levelled his adversary. All betters, but no takers, in favour of Molineaux.

Seventh: Blake's game was not yet extinct, and he rallied with considerable spirit, and some good blows were exchanged; but who fell from weakness.

Eighth: Molineaux, determined to finish the contest, went in with uncommon fury; Blake endeavoured to retreat from the violent efforts of his opponent; but was compelled to rally, and who put in a good blow upon the cheek of his opponent, when Molineaux returned with a tremendous hit upon Blake's head, that completely took all recollection out of him; the effects of which he did not recover from so as to be ready to time, when Molineaux was proclaimed the conqueror.

(2) Pierce Egan described Tom Cribb's victory over Tom Molineaux in his book, Sketches of Pugilism (1823)

Nineteenth: To distinguish the combatants by their features would have been utterly impossible, so dreadfully were both their faces beaten - but their difference of colour supplied this sort of defect. It was really astonishing to view the determined manner in which these heroes met - Cribb, acting upon the defensive, and retreating from the blows of his antagonist, though endeavouring to put in a hit, was got by Molineaux against the ropes, which were in height about five feet, and in three rows. Molineaux with both his hands caught hold of the ropes, and held Cribb in such a singular way, that he could neither make a hit or fall down: and while the seconds were discussing the propriety of separating the combatants, which the umpires thought could not be done till one of the men were down, about two hundred persons rushed from the outer to the exterior ring, and it is asserted, that if one of the Moor's fingers was not broken, it was much injured by some of them attempting to remove his hand from the ropes: all this time Molineaux was gaining his wind by laying his head on Cribb's breast, and refusing to release his victim; when the Champion by a desperate effort to extricate himself from the rude grasp of the Moor, was at length run down to one corner of the ring, and Molineaux having got his head under his arm, fibbed away most unmercifully, but his strength not being able to the intent, it otherwise must have proved fatal to Cribb, who fell from exhaustion and the severe punishment he had received. The bets were now decided that Molineaux did not fight half an hour; that time having expired during this round.

Twentieth: Molineaux made the most of himself, and brought his opponent down by boring and hitting.

Twenty-first: Cribb planted two blows upon the head and body of his opponent, which Molineaux returned by a desperate blow in Cribb's face; when they closed, and the Champion was thrown. The well-known bottom of Cribb induced his friends to back him six to four.

Twenty-second: Of no importance.

Twenty-third: The wind of both combatants appearing somewhat damaged, they sparred some time to recruit it, when Cribb put in a blow on the left eye of Molineaux, which hitherto had escaped milling. The Moor ran in, gave Cribb a severe hit on the body, and threw him heavily.

Twenty-fourth: Molineaux began this round with considerable spirit, and some hits were exchanged, when Cribb was thrown. The betting was tolerably even.

Twenty-fifth: The effects of the last fall operated in some degree upon the feelings of Cribb, from its severity; yet the Champion endeavoured to remove this impression by making play, and striving (as in the former round) to put in a hit on Molineaux's left eye, but the Moor aware of the intent, warded it off, and in return, knocked down Cribb.

Twenty-sixth: Both the combatants trying to recruit their wind and strength by scientific efforts. The Champion now endeavoured to hit the right eye of Molineaux, the left having been darkened for some time: but the Moor warded off the blows of Crib with agility and neatness, although he went down from a trifling hit.

Twenty-seventh: Weakness conspicuous on both sides, and after some pulling and hauling, both fell.

Twenty-eighth: Cribb received a leveller in consequence of his distance being incorrect.

Twenty-ninth: The Moor was running in with spirit, but the Champion stopped his career, by planting a hit upon his right eye, and from the severe effects of which he went down and his peeper materially damaged. The fate of the battle might be said to be decided by this round.

Thirtieth: If any thing could reflect credit upon the skill and bottom of Cribb, it was never more manifested than in this contest, in viewing what a resolute and determined hero he had to vanquish. Molineaux, in spite of every disadvantage, with a courage and ferocity unequalled, rising superior to exhaustion and fatigue, rallied his adversary with as much resolution as at the commencement of the fight, his nob defying all the milling it had received, that punishment appeared to have no decisive effect upon it, and contending nobly with Cribb right and left, knocking him away by his hits, and gallantly concluded the round by closing and throwing the Champion. The Moor was now convinced that if he did win, he must do it off by hand, as his sight was much impaired.

Thirty-first: The exertion of this last round operated most forcibly upon Molineaux, and he appeared much distressed on quitting his second, and was soon levelled by a blow in the throat, which Cribb very neatly put in.

Thirty-second: Strength was fast leaving both the combatants - they staggered against each other like inebriated men, and fell without exchanging a blow.

Thirty-third: To the astonishment of every spectator, Molineaux rallied with strength enough to bore his man down; but both their hits were of more show than effect.

Thirty-fourth: This was the last round that might be termed fighting, in which Molineaux had materially the worst of it; but the battle was continued to the 39th, when Crib evidently appeared the best man, and at its conclusion, the Moor the first time complained, that 'he could not 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.

(3) Ballard, Cribb and the Black (1810)

Tom Cribb is a British man, he's cast in British mould,

With a heart like a lion, of courage, stout and bold,

A brave black man is Molineaux, from America he came,

And boldly tried to enter with Cribb the lists of fame.

The Black stripped, and appeared of a giant-like strength,

Large in bone, large in muscle, and with arms a cruel length,

With his skin as black as ebony - Cribb's as white as snow,

They shook hands like good fellows, then to it they did go.