During the early 19th century, when bare-knuckle boxing was a national obsession, Cribb was one of the most famous men in the country. His likeness appeared in popular prints and pottery, while his name was referred to in poems, songs and works of literature. With England anxious about potential defeat at the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte, Cribb was seen as a patriotic exemplar of the virtues of strength, courage and fortitude. The words of the poem A Boxing We Will Go even imagined what would happen if Napoleon dared to take on England’s premier boxer, concluding that Cribb would “beat him like a drum / And make his carcase [sic.] sound.”
At the beginning of their careers, the pair collaborated closely; Richmond worked in Cribb’s corner for the latter’s debut in 1805 against George Maddox, with his skill in treating an eye injury Cribb sustained proving instrumental in securing a hard-earned victory.
Thereafter, though, the men became rivals, meeting in the ring in October 1805 - a bitter contest which Cribb won after 90 minutes.
By 1810, Cribb was champion and Richmond was convinced his talented protégé Tom Molineaux could dethrone him. Molineaux came close, losing a controversial bout to Cribb in December 1810, before being soundly beaten in a rematch.
Richmond shrugged off this disappointment and his relationship with Cribb mellowed. By the 1820s, both men were retired and frequently socialised together - Richmond even ended up in court in 1825 after defending Cribb’s dog from an attack by a passer-by.
On 27 December 1829, the two men spent a convivial evening at Cribb’s pub, then known as the Union Arms. After returning home, Richmond died suddenly. A heartbroken Cribb penned a eulogy for his old friend but, sadly, was prevented from delivering it at the funeral after a severe bout of gout.
The words Cribb wrote have survived, though, and act as a moving epitaph to the friendship between the pair. “He was my friend,” Cribb declared proudly. “Always a trump to me.”
(Luke G. Williams, author, Richmond Unchained, 2015, Amberley Publishing)
There’s more to the Tom Cribb than meets the eye. Why not pop in and enjoy a few rounds of your own next time you’re on the hunt for a great pub in London? With delicious food and drinks, you’re bound to feel like a winner at the Tom Cribb.