Tom Molineaux

Last updated
Tom Molineaux
Tom Molineaux ('Molineaux') by and published by Robert Dighton.jpg
Tom Molineaux by Robert Dighton.
Weight(s) Heavyweight
Height5 ft 8 in (173 cm)
Nationality American
Born23 March 1784
Virginia, United States
Died4 August 1818 (aged 34)
Galway, Ireland [1]

Thomas Molineaux (23 March 1784 4 August 1818), sometimes spelled Molyneaux or Molyneux, was an American bare-knuckle boxer and possibly a former slave. He spent much of his career in Great Britain and Ireland, where he had some notable successes. He arrived in England in 1809 and started his fighting career there in 1810. His two fights against Tom Cribb, widely viewed as the Champion of England, brought Molineaux fame even though he lost both contests. The result of the first encounter was hotly contested, with accusations of a fix. The second, losing contest with Cribb, however, was undisputed. His prizefighting career ended in 1815. After a tour that took him to Scotland and Ireland, he died in Galway, Ireland in 1818, aged 34.


Early life

According to some of the chroniclers of 19th-century boxing, Molineaux was born into slavery in the State of Virginia, USA in 1784. [2] [3] The most detailed account claims that he was born on a plantation and that he took his surname from the owners' name. [2] An earlier writer just states that he came from the United States of America. [4] In one account he boxed with other slaves to entertain plantation owners and was granted his freedom and $500 after winning a fight on which the son of the plantation owner had staked $100,000. [2] Another source claims he was in the service of the one time American ambassador to London, William Pinkney. [3] One of his biographers points out that while some of these accounts may be based on truth, they cannot be substantiated and may have been romanticised to some extent. [5] After obtaining his freedom, Molineaux was reported to have moved to New York, [2] where he was said to have been involved in "several battles" and had claimed the title "Champion of America". [2] He subsequently emigrated to England where he expected to be able to earn money as a prize fighter. [2]

Career in Europe

Molineaux (left) vs Tom Cribb. Cribb vs Molineaux 1811.jpg
Molineaux (left) vs Tom Cribb.

Molineaux found his way to London in 1809 where he made contact with Bill Richmond, another ex-slave-turned-boxer who ran the pub the Horse and Dolphin in Leicester Square, London. [2] Molineaux's first fight in England took place at Tothill Fields, Westminster on 24 July 1810. According to one report, the match was preceded by bull baiting. [6] Molineaux won the fight, beating Jack Burrows of Bristol in front of a small crowd in 65 minutes. [2] Bill Richmond seconded Molineaux for the fight [7] and Tom Cribb seconded Burrows. [6]

Molineaux's second fight in England was against Tom Blake whose nickname was "Tom Tough". [2] The fight took place at Epple Bay near Margate on August 21, 1810, the American ending up victorious after 8 rounds [4] when Blake was knocked out by Molineaux. [6] In this fight, the American was reported to have shown "great improvement in the science of pugilism". [6]

Staffordshire figure, c. 1815 Tom Molyneux c1815 VA23Oct10.jpg
Staffordshire figure, c. 1815

On 3 December 1810, having been trained by Bill Richmond, Molineaux fought Tom Cribb at Shenington Hollow in Oxfordshire [8] for the English title. According to the writer Pierce Egan, who was present, Molineaux stood at five foot eight and a quarter inches tall, and for this fight weighed "fourteen stone two" (198 pounds (90 kg)). [4] Egan wrote that few people, including Cribb, expected the fight to last very long; there was betting that Cribb would win in the first ten rounds. [4] However, Molineaux proved a powerful and intelligent fighter and the two battered each other heavily. There was a disturbance in the 19th round as Molineaux and Cribb were locked in a wrestler's hold (legal under the rules of the time) so that neither could hit the other nor escape. The referee stood by, uncertain as to whether he should break the two apart, and the dissatisfied crowd pushed into the ring. In the confusion Molineaux hurt his left hand; Egan could not tell if it had been broken. [4] There was also dispute over whether Cribb had managed to return to the line before the allowed 30 seconds had passed. If he had not, Molineaux would have won, but in the confusion the referee could not tell and the fight went on. After the 34th round Molineaux said he could not continue [4] but his second persuaded him to return to the ring, where he was defeated in the 35th round.

Two days after the fight, Richmond took Molineaux to the Stock Exchange in London where the boxer received an ovation and was presented with 45 guineas. [3]

On 21 May 1811, Molineaux took on William Rimmer, a 22 year old fighter from Lancashire. [4] [9] The bout took place at Moulsey Hurst and Molineaux won after 21 rounds.

A return fight with Tom Cribb took place on 28 September 1811 at Thistleton Gap in Rutland and was watched by 15,000 people. Egan, who was present, said that both fighters "weighed less by more than a stone", [4] which means Molineaux weighed at most 185 pounds (84 kg) for this fight. As preparation for the bout, Cribb had undertaken extensive training under the guidance of Captain Barclay. [9] Molineaux, though still hitting Cribb with great power, was out-fought; Cribb broke his jaw and finally knocked him out in the 11th round. [4] After the fight Richmond and Molineaux parted.

Molineaux fought 4 subsequent bouts, winning three and losing one. [3] On 2 April 1813, Molineaux fought Jack Carter at Remington, Gloucestershire, the American winning after 25 rounds. [7] [10] After the fight, Molineaux went on tour, where he sparred in exhibition bouts. In 1813, he fought Abraham Denton at Derby, his opponent being described as a "country pugilist" with the stature of a giant. Molineaux won the contest. The tour took him to Scotland and on 27 May 1814, he took on a boxer named William Fuller at Bishopstorff, Paisley, Ayrshire. [7] [11] After 4 rounds of fighting the match was interrupted when the "sheriff of Renfrewshire, attended by constables, entered the ring, and put a stop to it". [7] A rematch was staged at Auchineux, 12 miles from Glasgow on 31 May 1814. 2 rounds were fought there, lasting 68 minutes, Molineaux being awarded the contest. On 11 March 1815, Molineaux fought and lost to George Cooper at Corset Hill, Lanarkshire. [7]

Molineaux also entered Cornish wrestling tournaments in England when touring in the early 1800s. [12]

Post-boxing life

Molineaux's prizefighting career ended in 1815. However he continued to show his talents in sparring exhibitions. After his visit to Scotland, he toured Ireland where in 1817 he was reported to be in the northern part of the island. [7] He suffered from tuberculosis. [13] After a stint in a debtors' prison he became increasingly dependent on alcohol.

He died penniless in the bandroom of the 77th Regiment in Galway, Ireland, on 4 August 1818. [1] He was 34 years old.

In 2018, Galway City Museum held an exhibition on the life of Molineaux to mark the 200th anniversary of his death. [14] Also in 2018 a plaque was erected in Galway at the site of his death. [15]

In 2019, Katie Taylor unveiled a headstone over his previously unmarked grave in St James' graveyard in Galway. [16]

Career record

5 Wins, 3 Losses, 1 Draw
WinJack Burrows24 July 1810Tothill Fields, Westminster65 minutes
WinTom Blake21 August 1810Epple Bay near Margate8 rounds
Loss Tom Cribb 18 December 1810Copthorne Gap, Surrey 35 rounds
WinWilliam Rimmer21 May 1811 Moulsey Hurst 21 rounds
Loss Tom Cribb 28 September 1811 Thistleton Gap 11 rounds
WinJack Carter2 April 1813Remington, Gloucestershire25 rounds
DrawWilliam Fuller27 May 1814Bishopstorff, Paisley4 rounds
WinWilliam Fuller31 May 1814Auchineux2 rounds
LossGeorge Cooper11 March 1815Corset Hill, Lanarkshire14 rounds


See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bill Richmond</span> British boxer

Bill Richmond was a British boxer, born into slavery in Richmondtown, New York. Although born in Colonial America, he lived for the majority of his life in England, where all his boxing contests took place. Richmond went to England in 1777, where he had his education paid for. He then apprenticed as a cabinetmaker in York.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tom Cribb</span>

Tom Cribb was an English bare-knuckle boxer of the 19th century. He was All England Champion from 1808-1822.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bare-knuckle boxing</span> Boxing without use of boxing gloves

Bare-knuckle boxing is a full-contact combat sport based on punching without any form of padding on the hands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Gully</span> British boxer and politician (1783–1863)

John Gully was an English champion prizefighter who became a racehorse owner and, from 1832 to 1837, a Member of Parliament.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Daniel Mendoza</span> English boxer

Daniel Mendoza was English prizefighting champion from 1792–1795. He was of Sephardic or Portuguese Jewish descent.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Jackson (English boxer)</span> English boxer

John Jackson was a celebrated English pugilist of the late 18th century. He became the bare-knuckle boxing champion of England in 1795, when he defeated Daniel Mendoza.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jack Broughton</span> English bare-knuckle boxer (c. 1703–1789)

John "Jack" Broughton was an English bare-knuckle boxer. He was the first person to codify a set of rules to be used in such contests; prior to this the "rules" that existed were very loosely defined and tended to vary from contest to contest. His seven rules of how boxing would be conducted at his amphitheatre were widely used in boxing for nearly century, until they were replaced by the London Prize Ring rules in 1838.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jack Randall (boxer)</span> English boxer

Jack Randall, nicknamed "The Nonpareil", was an exceptional English bare-knuckle boxer, dominant at his weight class, who fought from 1815 to 1822, and retired undefeated..Colonel Barton was his most frequent patron.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tom Spring</span> English bare-knuckle fighter

Tom Spring was an English bare-knuckle fighter. He was champion of England from 1822 until his retirement in 1824. After his retirement he became landlord of the Castle Inn at Holborn in London, where he arranged the patronage and contracts of many of the major boxing events of the period while overseeing fair play in the ring.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jem Smith</span> British bare-knuckle boxer

Jem Smith was a bare-knuckle prize fighter and Heavyweight Champion of England in the late 19th century and into the early 20th century. In 2010 he was inducted into the Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dutch Sam</span> English boxer

Samuel Elias, better known as Dutch Sam, was a professional boxing pioneer and was active between the years 1801 and 1814. Known as the hardest hitter of his era, he earned the nickname "The Man with the Iron Hand". He was also known as "The Terrible Jew" referencing his Jewish ancestry.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Young Dutch Sam</span> English boxer

Young Dutch Sam was an English professional bare-knuckle boxer. He was considered a lightweight during his career, but his fighting weight would be comparable to a welterweight in modern parlance. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2002.

Tom Johnson was a bare-knuckle fighter who was referred to as the Champion of England between 1784 and 1791. His involvement in pugilistic prizefighting is generally seen to have coincided with a renewed interest in the sport. Although a strong man, his success was largely attributed to his technical abilities and his calm, analytical approach to despatching his opponents. But Johnson was less prudent outside the ring; he was a gambler and considered by many of his acquaintances to be an easy mark. He is thought to have earned more money from the sport than any other fighter until nearly a century later, but much of it was squandered.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dan Donnelly (boxer)</span> Irish boxer

Daniel Donnelly was a professional boxing pioneer and the first Irish-born heavyweight champion. He was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Pioneers Category in 2008.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hen Pearce</span> English bare-knuckle boxer

Henry "Hen" Pearce was an English bare-knuckle prizefighter who fought under the London Prize Ring rules and was the recognised English Champion from 1804 until his retirement due to ill health in 1807.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Paddington Tom Jones</span> British boxer

Paddington Jones was a British bare-knuckle boxer from 1785 to 1805 who also worked extensively as a second.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">James Belcher</span> English bare-knuckle fighter

James Belcher, also known as Jem Belcher, was an English bare-knuckle prize-fighter and Champion of All England 1800–1805.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ned Painter</span>

Edward Painter, better known as Ned Painter, was an English bare-knuckle prize fighter. He was born in Stretford, then in Lancashire, and was possibly the son of John and Mary Painter baptised at Stretford Old Chapel(now St Matthews) Stretford on 15 February 1784.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thomas Owen (boxer)</span> English boxer

Tom Owen was English bare-knuckle boxer. He was born at Portsea, Portsmouth, Hampshire.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Abey Belasco</span> Bare-knuckle boxer

Abraham Belasco, usually Aby or Abey, was an English bare-knuckle boxer who fought between 1817-24, and was considered one of the top rated Jewish boxers of the post-Mendoza era, along with Isaac Bitton, Young Dutch Sam and Barney Aaron. In his prime in 1817-18, Belasco may have been considered among the five highest rated London area boxers in any weight class.


  1. 1 2 "Molyneux, the pugilist, died at Galway, Ireland, on the 4th inst., in a room occupied by the band of the 77th regiment, where he had been maintained the last two months, and very humanely attended by three people of his colour": The Times (London, England), 18 August 1818, p. 3.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Henning, Fred W.J. (1902). Fights for the Championship: the men and their times. London: Licensed victuallers' gazette. pp.  16–45. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Thormanby (1900). Boxers and their Battles. London: R.A. Everett & Co. pp.  39–58. Retrieved 28 March 2018.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Egan, Pierce (1830). Boxiana. Vol. 1. London: George Virtue. pp. 360–423.
  5. Kevin, Smith (2003). Black Genesis: The History of the Black Prizefighter 1760-1870. iUniverse. pp. 27–60. ISBN   9780595288847.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Pancratia, Or, A History of Pugilism. London: W. Oxberry. 1812. pp. 341–371. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Miles, Henry Downes (1906). Pugilistica Volume 1. Edinburgh: J. Grant. pp.  278–288. Retrieved 12 April 2018.
  8. Mary Lobel, with Alan Crossley: Bloxham Hundred. A History of the County of Oxford. Vol. 9. Victoria County History. 1969. p. 205.; pages 139-150 (Parishes: Shenington). And can be viewed on the BHO website
  9. 1 2 Famous Fights, Past and Present. Vol. 2. London. 1901. pp. 226–233. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  10. Egan, Pierce (1830). Boxiana. Vol. 1. London: George Virtue. pp. 457–466.
  11. Famous Fights, Past and Present. Vol. 1. London. 1901. p. 5. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  12. Exeter Annual wrestling match, Staffordshire Advertiser, 8 August 1812, p4.
  13. Atisu, Etsey (September 9, 2019). "The sad end of Tom Molineaux, the 1700s bare-knuckles slave fighter who was America's first boxing star". Face2Face Africa. Retrieved December 18, 2019.
  14. "New photographic exhibition opens Galway City Museum". Galway City Museum.
  15. "Old Master Remembered". Boxing News. 9 August 2018.
  16. Mannion, Teresa (18 December 2019). "Galway event honours African-American heavyweight boxer Tom Molineaux".
  17. "LL Cool J | New Found Relatives". PBS. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  18. A hand-coloured etching of Molineaux
  19. "Bare Knuckle Boxer" on YouTube.
  20. "The Prize Fighter (2010)" at IMDb.
  21. Pamela Parkes (22 June 2014). "Boxing: When a freed slave fought a sporting star". BBC News. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
  22. Molineux on the IBHF Website
  23. "Listing on the website". Archived from the original on 2017-04-28. Retrieved 2017-11-15.
  24. "Ag Trasnú an Atlantaigh Dhuibh/Crossing the Black Atlantic screening on TG4". 18 October 2017.

Further reading