Bill Richmond Frieze

Inspirational Camdeners: Bill Richmond

Famous bare-knuckle prizefighter Bill Richmond was the ‘world’s first Black sports superstar’.

Image: St. Bill Richmond — The Black Terror, a 2010 painting by Godfried Donkor (c) Frieze

Bill Richmond, 1763 – 1829 

Born into slavery in New York, the teenaged Richmond was spotted fighting with soldiers by the Earl Percy, a General with the British Forces in the American War of Independence. Seeing an opportunity for entertainment, Percy arranged fights between Richmond and British soldiers. Percy also arranged for Richmond’s freedom from slavery, brought him to England and had him apprenticed as a carpenter.  

Richmond married a local girl in Yorkshire in 1791, moved to London and became a famous bare-knuckle prize fighter. He became a champion fighter, winning 17 out of 19 bouts as well as training other boxers such as former slave Thomas Molineaux, poet Lord Byron and American activist John Neal. Richmond was also selected to be present at the coronation of King George IV as an usher.   

Known as the ‘world’s first Black sports superstar’, he was famous throughout the country. He died in 1829 at the age of 66 and was buried in St James’ Burial Ground, Camden (near Euston station) which was recently closed and removed as part of the expansion of the station for HS2.  

More information can be found:  

https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/article/section/sporting-heroes/bill-richmond-the-pioneering-pugilist/