Tom Cribb vs. Tom Molineaux (1st meeting)

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Molineaux, and especially his fight with Tom Cribb, has been the subject of much controversy. Such as Molineaux claiming the Championship of America, or Cribb receiving extra time to recover after the 29th round, which cannot be found in contemporary accounts. While Molineaux was said to have been a freed slave, Shelton concluded it more likely he was one of the free blacks in America at the time. A copy of his writing, including criticizing a previous version of this can be found here [1].

From London Courier - Monday 24 December 1810

The following account of the battle between Molineux the black and Crib, on Tuesday last, is written by an amateur:− Molineux is a man of robust stature, weighing 14 stone 8Ib, and therefore deemed competent in point of strength to face any man in the united kingdom. From the specimen he gave of his powers and bottom in the combat with Tom Blake, some time ago, he was deemed the best match for Crib of the present day (it having been understood that Jack Gully had declined all contests as a prize fighter). It was accordingly agreed they should fight for 200 guineas aside.

A more unfavorable day for the sport could not possibly have been selected, as it rained in torrents the whole day, and notwithstanding the great distance from town at which the battle took place, the spectators were numerous: and those who were not provided with covered carriages, were literally drenched. The last three miles of the road were almost knee-deep with clay; so that it can excite no surprise to learn that many horses were knocked up, and the riders, as well as a number of pedestrians, never reached the scene of action. At twelve o'clock Mr. Jackson, who did, and does, on all occasions of the kind, officiate as Master of Ceremonies, had the outer circle formed of the various vehicles, which had served to transport from the metropolis several thousand amateurs, who had arrived on the ground in spite of difficulties and bad weather.

The ring in the centre of the large one was strongly constructed of stakes and ropes; and, according to the terms of the fight, measured twenty-four feet every way. The spot was situated nearly at the foot of a hill, which protected the combatant from the chilling wind and rain from the eastward.

Now the champions appear, "armed cap-a-pee, and eager for the fray:" no more sniveling; every spectator felt himself a hero; and the lads of the fancy seemed by their countenances to say, "What a glorious thing's a battle?"

Molineux, the Moor, was the first so enter the ring: he made a graceful congee to the amateurs, hurled up his cap, in defiance of his adversary, then retired to strip for the battle. Crib followed so bright an example, except the gracefulness of the bow, and in that Molineux had the art of his side.

Gully, the second of Crib, and Richman, that of Molineux, entered the ring with their champions.

The awful moment is arrived for setting to, and the heroes threw off their upper Benjamins as the signal. They shake hands, retire two steps, put themselves in attitude, then eye each other with the most penetrating looks, at the same time each attentive to his guard.

A solemn pause for the moment ensued, and then commenced the

First Round.−Molineux commenced hostilities, by placing a right hand blow on the left side of Crib's body; but which was attended with trivial effect. The native champion smartly returned the hit, with a right and left at the head, and one for luck in the body; the Black then closed, and was thrown by his adversary. Thus terminated the first round without bloodshed or injury.

Second Round.−The combatants set to very sharp, and seemed to verify the opinion which had gone abroad, that they were both fully determined on a manly stand-up fight, to the exclusion altogether of sparring or shifting. A furious rally took place, several hard blows were exchanged on both sides. Crib's did the most execution; his blows having been directed straight forward, whilst those of Molineux were hand over head, given with miraculous power and resolution, but without judgment, insomuch that Crib was enabled to parry them or spoil their effect, by planting the first hit. Crib, on the whole, had the advantage of this round, although he exhibited the first blood.

Third Round.−Molineux, not the least dismayed at the taste he had had, faced his antagonist courageously this round, who met him with corresponding resolution, and coming in contact with the Black's head, at arm's length with his left hand, made him oy the blow measure his full length on the ground; the lusty Moor was on his legs in a second, and it was "Mungo here, Mungo there, and Mungo everywhere," who anxiously looked round for his customer, who he was prevented meeting until the

Fourth Round.−In which, after an ineffectual attempt to rally down Crib, the Black received a knockdown blow.

Fifth Round.−Consisted of straight forward fighting: they both rallied in good style. Molineux persevering in the system of boring down his opponent by main strength, whilst Crib evinced a determination-to prevent him by repeated blows on the head, which failed to have that effect. Towards the finish of this round the Black closed, when it was discerned he was the strongest man, and was as expert in the art of fibbing as Dutch Sam, who was the first that rendered that practice cognizable as part of the science. The Black, by this new maneuver, obtained the best of this round.

Sixth Round.−Was begun by a furious onset, but Crib being over anxious to compliment the Black for a hit he had received, fell, partly from a slip and a blow.

Seventh Round.−Crib had his revenge this round; the Black rushed on his adversary, according to custom, when he caught a violent blow on the forehead, by which he picked up a handsome rainbow. His countenance, however, was not the more clouded on the occasion, and he was the first to come to his time.

Eight Round.−If it were not invidious to single out any particular round, I would say, that this was the best contested round in the battle; the combatants were still in possession of their full vigor, and had been taught discrimination; they had discovered, also, the weak and strong parts in each other. Crib found out that, if the resolute Moor got him into so reduced a state as make his sledge hammer blows tell, that he should not like his head to be the anvil, and from the determined conduct of his tawny antagonist, things were fast approximating that way.

It was here, that it would seem, then, the grand push was to be made, in order to give a decided turn to the battle. Crib brought into the struggle his courage, strength, and science, which were not more than sufficient to cope with the persevering and invulnerable Moor. The rally was desperate; success was alternately on the one side and the other; the Black at length fell; but the extraordinary efforts of Crib rendered him more feeble at the end of the round than his adversary.

Ninth Round.−Was gallantly contested, but Crib was compelled to make play, by the Black following him up, and giving him no quarter; neither would he take any, for his head was always at the service of his adversary. He never shrunk from a blow, and his great anxiety was always to return it. Crib evinced weakness, and fell from a hit. The knowing ones exchanged look with each other round the ring, as much as to say, "things look a little *****, master."

Molineaux-Crib 1910 Art.jpg

Tenth Round.−By this time the conceit was pretty well taken out of both the heroes,, and it was not to be wondered at, considering how hard they had fought, and how severely they had been punished. The head of Molineux was prodigiously swollen; and if the Moor had been an artist he could not have laid on the black and red with a more regular hand on Crib's face, although Crib might think it might have been down with a more delicate touch. In this, as well as the seven successive rounds, Molineux appeared much the strongest man; he went into Crib, pell well, without standing for repairs, and rallied him at every part of the rin; and when he got him against the ropes, he either threw him, or encircled his neck with his left arm while he fibbed him with his right hand. If this could not be called murder, it was something like manslaughter; for Crib seemed all the same as in a blacksmith's vice. It was here where there was shown a little national prejudice against the Black; but being of a passive nature, he could derive no injury from it; and, to speak impartially, and for the honour of pugilism, the strictest fair-play was shown to both parties throughout.

At the termination of the seventeenth round Crib was so completely exhausted as to be termed dead beat; but it must not be forgotten, that in reducing Crib to this state, Molineux himself was in a tottering condition, but appeared more animated, more gay, and was the first to appear to his time.

From the seventeenth to the twentieth rounds, Crib appearing to be convinced that he over-shot his mark in supposing that he could beat Molineux off hand, as he had endeavored to do, had therefore recourse to his favorite mode of retreating or fighting shy, without which, it appears to me, he must have been compelled to have given in the battle. The Black, naturally presuming this was Crib's forlorn hope, followed him up, and never quitted him until the

Twenty-third Round−When seeing a falling off in the Black, and feeling himself somewhat recovered, he made play and knocked his man down for the first time for several rounds.

From the twenty-fourth to the 28th round, bets were considerably reduced; they had been about 4 to 1 on the Black, and now the bets were even.

Twenty-ninth round was ominous for the Black; he made an effort to get Crib against the ropes, but without effect; neither could he throw him as he had done; after a short rally, he was knocked down by Crib, who seemed more alive and full of confidence than he had been for many rounds before.

Thirtieth Round.− Crib had not certainly the lead, and finding his antagonist could not keep his legs well, stuck to him until he invariably rallied him down.

Thirty-first Round, after a short rally, was finished by the Black throwing Crib, but he fell over him in the struggle, by which means he pitched upon his head; and I have heard it from a friend of his, that the hurt he received on this occasion affected him with a giddiness, that he could not stand, and induced him to communicate to his second (Richman), that he could not longer continue the contest. Richman, however, finding that Crib was also so much exhausted that he could scarcely support himself, encouraged Molineux to try a round of two more; he did so, and, on the termination of the 33d round he fell by an effort to keep his legs; which being termed by Crib's party falling without a blow, the victory claimed in favour of Crib, which would have originated a dispute, had not Molineux again repeated, "I can fight no more."

Crib, no doubt, was delighted at the declaration, but did not treat the spectators with a Somerset, according to custom. No, indeed, all the strength he had left, was insufficient to support him off the ground without assistance.

Thus terminated a battle which has not been excelled, in point of hitting and execution, for many years; and while the courage and resolution of the lusty Moor have been extolled to the utmost, the merits of Crib, as a bruiser, will not fail to be duly appreciated by the victory he has gained over so invulnerable an opponent. In this last contest, the struggle, I conceive to have been between science and strength. The advantage that Crib had, by his excelling in the former, the Black had, by superiority in the latter. With respect to coolness and bottom, it is but justice to place them on par. Before I saw the Black set to in this last rencontre, I thought him too irritable and hot; but I am convinced that his impetuosity is only a part of that principle upon which he fights, and which, no doubt, would have proved successful against most men. To be a finished boxer, a man must be possessed of a large portion of natural muscular powers, besides other acquirements, the chief of which is, to learn to hit straight, and with a jerk from the shoulder, without which, as Liston would say, "It is all my eye and Betty Martin." The Black is only deficient in this accomplishment. His style of fighting comes near to that of Bully Hooper of Ruffian memory. That battle lasted 55 minutes.