BORN A SLAVE in Cuckhold, Staten Island, NY, Bill Richmond became one of boxing's most accomplished and respected fighters of the late-18th and early 19th centuries. While in his early teens, Richmond came to the attention of British general Earl Percy, who was then the commanding general of British forces in New York during America's War of Independence.
Percy took Richmond in after the lad, weighing less than 160 pounds, had acquitted himself nicely in a tavern brawl with several Redcoats. Richmond's success continued in contests, arranged by Percy as entertainment for his guests, against New York-based British soldiers.
In 1777, Percy sent Richmond to England to apprentice as a carpenter. It was in England that Richmond earned his ring laurels. He created and honed a style of side stepping and/or dodging the bull rushes of opponents. Three of his more noteworthy wins during the late-1700s were against George Moore, Paddy Green, and Frank Mayers.
Organized fights were few, but Richmond's success continued into the 19th century, although he did suffer a third-round kayo loss to George Maddox (KO 3) at Wimbledon Commons in 1803. After a pair of victories in 1805, he squared off with contender Tom Cribb on Oct. 8, in Hailsham in Sussex.
Although the 42-year-old Richmond, known now as the Black Terror, gave away 18 years and more than 20 pounds, he gave the Englishman all he could handle. Cribb won the 90-minute contest and within two years beat Jem Belcher for the world title. But it only took Cribb 35 minutes to beat Belcher.
Although he entered the ring infrequently after that, Richmond fought several more times before retiring in 1818 after a third-round kayo win over Jack Carter. He was 55.
Richmond also developed a friendship with Thomas Molineaux, a freed American slave who came to England to pursue boxing. Richmond trained Molineaux for his memorable bouts with Cribb.
In his later years Richmond ran a boxing academy in London and died there on December 29, 1829, at age 66.