Legendary Fights Detailed on Tough Pre-War Boxing Issue
A 1930 tobacco card set details one of the most notable early boxing matches of all time
The 1930 Mitchell and Sons Old Sporting Prints set is a unique issue. While most pre-war cards documented athletes and events of the then present day, that issue actually focused on things that happened in the years and decades before. The set was produced for the Mitchell and Sons tobacco brand and is one of many of their sets.
While it’s technically a sports set, many collectors would have a difficult time classifying some of the events as athletic contests. Among the events covered are things like fishing, cock fighting, boating, and hunting. However, two cards feature a particularly interesting boxing match.
As a slave in the late 1700s, Tom Molineaux eventually took up the sport of boxing. Accounts on his life are a bit murky but he was ultimately freed and, after finding success fighting in America, traveled to England. After winning a few fights, he impressed and earned a fight against Tom Cribb, an English champion.
Accounts state that Molineaux was not expected to put up much of a fight. Cribb was a strong champion and most records indicate he suffered only one defeat. But Molineaux put on a much stronger competition than most imagined would happen. In fact, he lasted 35 rounds before being unable to continue. The pair fought again in a second fight later but Molineaux was beaten handily that time.
While some accounts like this one indicate that Molineaux actually may have defeated Cribb in the first fight, Cribb was ultimately declared as the victor. The fight is a popular one in early boxing history and the set includes two cards dedicated to it as shown here.
One card features the pair of fighters squaring off and is titled, ‘The Battle Between Cribb and Molineaux.’ A second one is called ‘The Close of the Battle’ and shows Cribb landing a blow against Molineaux.
Both cards are considered the keys to the set and are generally the most desirable. Other cards featuring cricket and early distance runner J. Goodman are sought, too. But neither of the two boxing cards carry large values.
Interestingly, while the pair fought on two occasions, the two cards are both from the second, less competitive fight. Both backs mention that it was the second time the pair had fought. The first battle seems like it would have been the better one to chronicle as that was a closer more hotly contested fight. But as this was a UK issue and one likely eager to display Cribb’s dominance, it is somewhat easy to see why the second fight would have been chosen as the showcase.
You rarely see the cards offered individually but complete 25-card sets are available on eBay for varying amounts. On their own, each of the boxing cards would probably be in the $5-$10 range, though a motivated buyer could pay more as they aren’t seen too often outside of the internet.
While these cards were printed long after their death, they are certainly notable. That is because the two have few pre-war cards to begin with. They are found in some sets like the 1938 Cartledge boxing set, but are not seen elsewhere very much. It is possible that these might even be rookie cards, though I’d have to do more digging on that. To date, however, I am not aware of earlier card issues for them.
Even though they aren’t extremely valuable, these two cards feature some classic depictions of one of the most famous early fights of all time.