“Bill Richmond was born into slavery under the enslaver Reverend Richard Charlton in Richmondtown on Staten Island, New York on August 5, 1763. General of the British forces in New York during the American Revolutionary War, Earl Percy, witnessed teenage Richmond in a tavern brawl involving British soldiers. Percy subsequently arranged fights with other British soldiers for the entertainment of his guests. In 1777 Percy arranged for Richmond’s freedom from Charlton, transportation to northern England, literacy education, and an apprenticeship with a cabinet maker in Yorkshire. He met his wife, Mary, while a cabinet-maker in Yorkshire.
By 1795, Richmond and his family had moved to London. He became an employee and household member of Thomas Pitt, 2nd Baron Camelford, a British peer and naval officer. A boxing enthusiast, Pitt may have received boxing and gymnastic instruction from Richmond. Pitt and Richmond visited several prize fights together.
On January 23, 1804, Pitt and Richmond attended a boxing match featuring experienced boxer George Maddox. After Maddox won the bout, Richmond spontaneously challenged Maddox to a fight, which Maddox accepted. When the fight took place, Maddox defeated Richmond in nine rounds.
After Pitt’s death in a duel on March 11, 1804, Richmond left the household and returned to boxing. He began training and seconding other fighters and was soon a regular attendee at the Fives Court, London’s leading pugilistic exhibition venue on St Martin’s Street in Westminster.
By 1805 Richmond had defeated the Jewish boxer Youssop and Jack Holmes. These wins gave Richmond the opportunity to challenge the famous Tom Cribb to a fight. During the ensuing bout, Cribb and Richmond’s counter-punching styles resulted in what observers considered a “dull bout”. Cribb won, leaving Richmond in tears. The contest solidified a grudge between the two men that would last years.
Richmond’s winnings allowed him to buy the Horse and Dolphin pub near Leicester Square in London. It was at the pub that Richmond probably met Tom Molineaux, another former American slave. Richmond immediately saw Molineaux’s potential as a boxer, and decided to put aside his own boxing career and to train Molineaux.
…Richmond had to sell the Horse and Dolphin and rebuild his fortune. He became a member of the Pugilistic Society, the sport’s first governing body in the United Kingdom…Richmond opted for retirement instead. His position among England’s leading pugilists was assured; he twice exhibited his skills for visiting European royalty and was among the most respected and admired of pugilistic trainers and instructors. Even more remarkably, Richmond was one of the pugilists selected to act as an usher at the coronation of George IV in 1821, earning a letter of thanks from Lord Gwydyr and the Home Secretary Lord Sidmouth.
In the 1820s Richmond ran a boxing academy, in which he trained many amateur boxers, including literary figures like William Hazlitt, Lord Byron, and American John Neal.
In his later years, Richmond became close friends with Cribb. The two men often conversed late into the night at Cribb’s pub, the Union Arms on Panton Street in Westminster. It was here that Richmond spent his last evening, before he died at age 66 in December 1829.
His body was interred in the burial ground of St James’s Church, Piccadilly, which was located some way from the church, beside Hampstead Road, Camden, London.”