Earl George Percy unveils tribute to black boxer

Author Luke G Williams and Earl George Percy.
Author Luke G Williams and Earl George Percy.

A permanent memorial to a pioneering black boxer has been unveiled in London by the Duke of Northumberland’s oldest son.

Earl George Percy’s family has ties to Bill Richmond (1763-1829), which is why he was at the Tom Cribb pub in the capital for the ceremony.

A plaque consisting of a portrait of Richmond and a summary of his life and career now adorns the wall of the historic pub in recognition of his position in history as the first black sportsman to achieve international fame and significance.

The unveiling took place at a launch event for Luke G Williams’ new book, Richmond Unchained: The Biography of the World’s First Black Sporting Superstar, which was published last month by Amberley Books.

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, who ensured that Richmond received an education and was apprenticed to a cabinetmaker.

It was therefore fitting that Hugh Percy’s direct descendant, Earl George Percy, unveiled this memorial to one of sporting history’s leading pioneers.

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.

Earl George said: “The relationship between my ancestor and Bill was remarkable.

“They began life at opposite ends of the social spectrum and yet this relationship was created between them.

“Bill went from life as a slave to become a sporting celebrity and an usher at the coronation of George IV.

“It’s an amazing story and he really does deserve this recognition.”