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Tom Molineaux

Tom Molineaux
Tom Molineaux by Robert Dighton.
Rated at Heavyweight
Height 5 ft 8 in (173 cm)
Nationality American
Born 1784
Virginia, United States
Died 1818
Dublin, Ireland

Tom "The Moor" Molineaux (1784 – 1818) was an African-American bare-knuckle boxer. He spent much of his career in Great Britain and Ireland, where he had some notable successes.


  • Early life 1
  • Career in Europe 2
  • Post-boxing life 3
  • Legacy 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Born into slavery in Virginia, Molineaux was trained by his father, also a fighter, as was Molineaux's twin brother.[1] He boxed with other slaves to entertain plantation owners. Molineaux earned his owner a large sum of money in winnings on bets, was granted his freedom, and moved to England where he expected to be able to earn money as a professional boxer.

Career in Europe

Molineaux (left) vs Tom Cribb.

Molineaux's first fight in England was on 24 July 1810, beating Jack Burrows in 65 minutes. On 3 December 1810, having been trained by Bill Richmond, another ex-slave turned boxer, Molineaux fought Tom Cribb at Shenington Hollow in Oxfordshire[2] for the English title. According to the writer Pierce Egan, who was present, Molineaux stood five foot eight and a quarter inches tall, and for this fight weighed "fourteen stone two" (198 pounds (90 kg)).[1] 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.[1] 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.[1] 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[1] but his second persuaded him to return to the ring, where he was defeated in the 35th round.

The return fight on 28 September 1811 at Thistleton Gap in Rutland was watched by 15,000 people. Egan, who was present, said that both fighters "weighed less by more than a stone",[1] which means Molineaux weighed at most 185 pounds (84 kg) for this fight. Molineaux, though still hitting Cribb with great power, was out-fought; Cribb broke his jaw and finally knocked him out in the 11th round.[1] After the fight Richmond and Molineaux parted.

Post-boxing life

Molineaux's boxing career ended in 1815. After a stint in a debtors' prison he became increasingly dependent on alcohol, and died penniless in the regimental bandroom in Galway in Ireland [3] three years later from liver failure. He was 34 years old.


A hand-coloured etching of Molineaux by George MacDonald Fraser.

Thomas Molineaux is featured in the short animation The Prize Fighter,[4] directed by Jason Young.

Tom Molyneaux is featured, as a ghost, in the short story "Apparition in the Prize Ring" by Robert E. Howard, who was a boxing fan.

Molineaux's fight with Cribb was turned into a 2014 play called Prize Fighters, by Ed Viney.[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Egan, Boxiana, Volume I, 1813.
  2. ^ Lobel & Crosley, 1969, pages 171-188
  3. ^ "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.
  4. ^ The Prize Fighter
  5. ^ Pamela Parkes (22 June 2014). "Boxing: When a freed slave fought a sporting star". BBC News. Retrieved 22 June 2014. 

Further reading

  • Lobel, Mary D.; Crossley, Alan, eds. (1969),  
  • Fraser, George MacDonald (1997), Black Ajax, London: HarperCollins,  

External links

  • National Portrait Gallery
  • Staffordshire pottery boxer, Thomas Molineaux from Compton Verney
  • Tom Molineaux at the International Boxing Hall of Fame
  • Tom Molineaux at the Virginia Historical Society
  • Account of Tom Cribb vs Tom Molineaux fight at
  • Tom Molineaux at The Cyber Boxing Zone
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