Writer Luke G Williams and Earl George Percy at the unveiling of the plaque
A permanent memorial to pioneering black boxer Bill Richmond has been unveiled at the Tom Cribb pub, in London.
Born into slavery in America, Richmond travelled to England in the 1770s thanks to the kindly intervention of Earl Hugh Percy, a British soldier renowned for his humanitarianism. Although he only became a professional boxer in his 40s, Richmond assembled an impressive record of 17 wins from 19 contests, while he was also a highly sought-after trainer and gymnastic instructor.
Richmond was one of the most recognisable celebrities in Georgian Britain, mixing with the likes of William Hazlitt and Lord Byron. A measure of the high regard in which he was held was the fact that he was present at the coronation celebrations of King George IV in 1821.
Dozens of guests gathered at the Shepherd Neame pub to join the celebrations as Earl George Percy, a direct descendant of Hugh Percy, unveiled a portrait of Richmond and a plaque. The unveiling coincided with the launch of author Luke G Williams’ new book, Richmond Unchained: The Biography of the World’s First Black Sporting Superstar.
Luke said: “The Tom Cribb pub is a perfect location for a permanent memorial to Bill Richmond. Cribb was a champion boxer and contemporary of Richmond who was once landlord of these premises. The two men were initially rivals, but eventually became firm friends and spent many evenings conversing and socialising at the pub. In fact, Richmond spent the last evening of his life with Cribb in the pub.
“I am delighted that Shepherd Neame agreed that Bill’s amazing journey from slavery to sporting superstardom should be recognised with a permanent memorial. For it to be officially unveiled by George Percy, a direct descendent of the man whose kindness transformed Bill’s life, was incredibly exciting.”