Boxing fans might be aware that fighter Joe Gans was the first African-American to win a world boxing championship in 1902, years before Jack Johnson became the first African-American heavyweight champion. However, a Canadian fighter named George Dixon was actually the first Black world boxing champion and reportedly the first Black champion in any major sport.
Dixon was born on this day in 1870 and was a native of Africville in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Africville, which is no longer in existence, was an early settlement for freed blacks and escaped slaves in Canada. Standing at just 5-foot-3 and weighing 87 pounds, Dixon’s small stature earned him the nickname “Little Chocolate.”
Dixon first claimed the Bantamweight world title in 1888 but officially won the title in 1890 after his defeat of English fighter Nunc Wallace in an 18-round battle. The following year, Dixon won the featherweight title in a fight with Australian Abe Willis and held the title for six years. During this period, Dixon created a vaudeville troupe that toured Canada and the United States.
Dixon lost the title in 1897, but regained it in 1898. He lost the title for good in 1900 after he was knocked out by Terry McGovern. Dixon retired from fighting in 1906, amassing a 63-29-48 record. Some fights, according to “The Encyclopedia of World Boxing Champions,” might not have been recorded thus more fights numbering into the dozens could have been added to Dixon’s record.
Dixon eventually moved to the States, settling in Boston as many other former citizens of Africville did. Dixon died young at the age of 37 in 1908, the same year Johnson achieved his historic feat. Dixon was named the #1 Featherweight of all time by Ring Magazine founder, Nat Fleischer.
Along with a number of connections to fighters like Gans and Johnson, Dixon reportedly created the practice of shadowboxing as well.
Dixon was posthumously inducted in the Canada’s Sports Hall Of Fame in 1955. He was entered into the Ring Magazine Hall Of Fame the following year.
(Photo: Public Domain)