Throwing clenched fists at another human being’s face is a time-honored tradition dating back thousands of years, though seeing a balled hunk of gnarled flesh and bone flying towards ones face would make most people try to move out of the way. Back in the mid-18th century days of boxing, standing defiantly in the way of a punch and taking that sucker right on the chin was the only way to prove how much a man you were. Bill Richmond was one of the first men to show that administering punches was way cooler.
Born a slave in 1763 in State Island, Bill spent most of his youth as a servant for one Lord Percy. Eventually, Bill decided to punch life square in its face for serving him a huge turd sandwich. Lord Percy took notice when he saw Bill beat the living piss out of a bunch of Redcoats, since punching the British in the face was a national sport at the time.
Percy took Richmond back home to Blighty, and lined up waves of jobber opponents for the slave to punch for the entertainment of his dinner parties–since back in those days, nothing got rich, white, British people more riled up than seeing a black man uppercut the souls out of local tough guys. We should note (if it wasn’t already massively clear) that Lord Percy was British, so just to clarify Bill, a black slave who was held lower on the social rung than the people who clean the toilets in an STI clinic, managed to impress a British Lord by beating the crap out of British soldiers, during wartime.
If that wasn’t already impressive enough, Bill was also a hangman in his time, just on the off-chance that after reading this you weren’t totally convinced that Bill’s hands were capable of killing a man. He was the executioner who hanged Nathan Hale, so…yeah. Percy also sent Richmond to school and to become an apprentice cabinet-maker. All of which would be great…if you weren’t keeping a human being as a slave.
Richmond was entirely self-taught, perhaps because he was well-known for not taking a single piece of racial abuse that was thrown his way. It’s noted that once, while escorting a young lady round London, our hero was on the receiving end of a torrent of abuse from a nearby drunk. Before the drunk could even pray to his various deities, Richmond had already counted to 40 with his fists using the drunk’s nose.
This blistering display of hand speed was what made him famous, as noted above, boxing in those days was mostly about who could both dole out and sustain the most punishment. This coupled with the fact there were no weight-classes to speak of meant that invariably only the heaviest boxers made it to the big leagues. For comparison’s sake, Richmond was the equivalent of a welter-weight in today’s terms and was consistently paired with boxers dozens of pounds heavier and in some cases, well over a foot taller.
In order to…well, survive fights with such opponents, he was one of the first boxers to utilize the bob-and-weave. Though in those days moving out-of-the-way of 200 pounds of drunken Englishman’s was considered a cowardly tactic, he won over crowds by being really good at it. Long before Muhammad Ali was punching racism in the neck and tantalizing crowds with the rope-a-dope, Bill Richmond was doing that in a time when the ring name “The Black Terror” was considered a compliment.
Bill “The Black Terror” Richmond’s finest bout, though, was against legendary British pugilist Tom Cribb, a veritable man monster of bare-knuckle boxing who was considered virtually unbeatable. A title he damn well-earned when he knocked Richmond right the hell out…in the 60th round, after being unable to land a single hit on Richmond for a dozen rounds. It’s noted that the only reason Cribb won is because his sheer size afforded him the ability to weather Richmond’s repeated blows to the face long enough to land his own sluggish haymakers. The fact that Richmond was even able to go the distance with Cribb made him a superstar of ye olde boxing world.
Understandably keen to capitalize on his fame, Richmond set up a boxing school where he literally taught people the value of moving the hell out-of-the-way of punches to the dome.
So the next time you feel sad, just remember that at one point in history, a black slave managed to convince white people to pay him to teach them the value of not being punched in the face, by punching a heap of white people in the face. Sometimes history is awesome like that.
Karl Smallwood is a freelance comedy writer you can hire! His work has been featured on Cracked, Toptenz and Gunaxin. You should probably click those links to make sure he isn’t lying. He also runs his own website where he responds to the various pieces of hate-mail he’s gotten over the years, in fact, he got so much hate-mail that he wrote a book about it that you can buy on Amazon. When he isn’t writing, Karl also Tweets and uploads pictures of himself drinking on Facebook.