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Camberwell teacher’s book on famous Georgian boxer up for Cross Sports Book award

A Camberwell school teacher’s debut novel was recently shortlisted for a prestigious sports writing prize and could be made into a film, writes Callum Burroughs

The book, Richmond Unchained, by former sports journalist Luke Williams, 39,  is nominated for best biography at the Cross Sports Book awards.

It tells the story of former slave Bill Richmond who travelled to England at the turn of the 18th Century and became a boxing celebrity in Georgian Britain.

Mr William’s work is up against biographies of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and boxer Emile Griffiths, written by Donald McRae, one of his literary heroes.

He said: “It came as a bit of a surprise, it’s really gratifying.

“I’ve lived with it for twelve years and it’s been a very long road, but I’m very passionate about getting his history to more people.

“He [Bill Richmond] is an unsung hero in history.”

The book traces Richmond’s journey from Staten Island to his boxing career, detailing his education at the bequest of English lieutenant general Hugh Percy. Richmond fought and won well into his 50s and was also on hand at the coronation of George the Fourth in 1821.

The Sacred Heart Catholic school teacher’s story has attracted the attention of a British film producer, who has optioned the rights for the adaptation of the work.

The book’s title is a deliberate nod to 2013 film Django Unchained and continues the renewed interest in the hidden history of Britain and of diversity in film-making.

He said: “I’m confident we’ll see him [Richmond] on the big screen.”

The awards ceremony takes place at Lord’s Cricket Ground on June 1, with Mr Williams suggesting his outsider status is like that of fictional movie boxer Rocky Balboa.

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