Tom Cribb

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Tom Cribb
Tom Cribb etching.jpg
Weight(s)189–199 lb (86–90 kg)
Height5 ft 9 in (175 cm)
Born(1781-07-08)8 July 1781
Died11 May 1848(1848-05-11) (aged 66)[1]: 276 
Boxing record
No contests1

Tom Cribb (8 July 1781 – 11 May 1848) was a world champion English bare-knuckle boxer of the 19th century.[2]

Cribb was born near Bristol but moved to London before starting professional fighting. He undertook a series of fights between 1805 and 1812 when he retired, becoming a coal merchant and then publican. His career has been commemorated with the name of a pub and in literature.

Early life[edit]

Tom Cribb vs Tom Molineaux, 1811

Born in Wick near the Hanham area of Bristol, Cribb moved to London at the age of 13 and after working as a bell-hanger he sought work as a coal porter in Wapping.

Boxing career[edit]

His first fight was with George Maddox on 7 January 1805 at Wood Green in Middlesex, now part of north London.[1] Victory here, over Maddox, followed by another a month later, over Tom Blake[3] persuaded him to become a professional pugilist, under the supervision of Captain Robert Barclay.

George Nicholls was the only fighter to defeat Cribb, on 20 July 1805. Later, the foremost prizefighting reporter, Pierce Egan, stated that he was aware that some "friends of the CHAMPION" had encouraged the myth that Cribb enjoyed an unbeaten career by "withholding the name of his vanquisher" (Boxiana, vol. 1).[4]

In 1807 Cribb beat Jem Belcher. In October 1808 he defeated Bob Gregson in 23 rounds at Moulsey Hurst to win the English championship following John Gully's retirement.[5] In 1810 Cribb was awarded the British title. On 18 December 1810 he fought an American, former slave Tom Molineaux, at Copthorne Common in Sussex.[6] Cribb beat Molineaux in 35 rounds and became World champion. The fight was controversial for two reasons: Molineaux was injured when the crowd invaded the ring, and Cribb at one point seemed to have taken longer than the specified time to return to the centre of the ring.[3] Cribb retained his title in 1811 by beating Molineaux at Thistleton Gap in Rutland in 11 rounds before a large crowd. Cribb had also beaten Molineaux's trainer Bill Richmond.

After retirement[edit]

In 1812, aged 31, he retired to become a coal merchant (and part-time boxing trainer). Later he became a publican, running the Union Arms, Panton Street, close to Haymarket in central London.

In 1839 he retired to Woolwich in south-east London where he died in 1848, aged 66. He was buried in the churchyard of St Mary Magadalen's, Woolwich – where a monument to his memory was erected.


Tom Cribb's tomb in Woolwich
The Tom Cribb pub, London

Cribb's tomb, in the shape of a lion resting his paw on an urn, still stands in St Mary's Gardens in Woolwich. Also in Woolwich, a road in the Royal Arsenal area has been named in his honour.

The Tom Cribb pub is located at 36 Panton Street, St James, London. This is the same address as the Union Arms, which was originally 26 Panton Street, but later renumbered.

There is a popular local legend in the Bristol area that Cribbs Causeway, a road not far from Hanham that has given its name to a major out-of-town shopping mall, retail park and entertainment complex, was named after Tom Cribb. Despite being proved to be false, this has not stopped the legend from continuing.

An English footwear brand named after Thomas Cribb existed between 2003 and 2007. The brand name "Thomas Cribb" is currently registered to the creators of the brand.

Dramatic and literary references[edit]

Tom Hyer, the first recognised American heavyweight champion, portrayed the character "Tom Cribb" in a scene from Pierce Egan's Tom and Jerry, or Life in London during a single performance at the National Theatre (Boston, Massachusetts) on 9 March 1849.

Cribb features prominently in George MacDonald Fraser’s novel Black Ajax, a fictionalised account of Tom Molineaux's life. In Charles Dickens' comic novel Martin Chuzzlewit (ch.9), Cribb is humorously cited as the inventor of a defensive stance used by the boy Bailey, as the landlady Mrs Todgers aims a smack at his head.

He is mentioned in one episode ("The Detective Wore Silk Drawers" - largely centred on prize-fighting) of the first series of Granada Television's Victorian crime drama Cribb, in which one of Cribb's men speculates whether he is descended from the famous boxer.

Cribb's fights with Molineaux, was turned into a 2014 play by Ed Viney called Prize Fighters.[7]

Cribb is also mentioned in the novel Mauler by Shawn Williamson. He appears to introduce the exotic Tasmanian Tiger (thylacine), the hero of the story, also known as Mauler and Cu´chulain.[8]

Cribb is memorialised in The Letter of Marque, 12th in the Aubrey-Maturin series of novels by Patrick O'Brian. In the novel, one of the captain's favorite personal long cannons is named "Tom Cribb".

References and sources[edit]

  1. ^ a b Miles, Henry Downes (1906). Pugilistica: the history of British boxing containing lives of the most celebrated pugilists. Vol. 1. Edinburgh: J.Grant. pp. 242–277. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  2. ^ "The blue plaque names you may not know". BBC News. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  3. ^ a b Egan, Boxiana, Volume I, 1813.
  4. ^ Snowdon, David (2013). Writing the Prizefight: Pierce Egan's Boxiana World.
  5. ^ Cyber Boxing Zone Encyclopaedia. Retrieved on 24 October 2009.
  6. ^ [1] Boxing History: Cribb vs. Molineaux
  7. ^ Pamela Parkes (22 June 2014). "Boxing: When a freed slave fought a sporting star". BBC News. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
  8. ^ Williamson, Shawn (2005). Mauler. Hayloft Publishing, Cumbria. England.

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Tom Cribb at Wikimedia Commons