George Dixon also known as “Little Chocolate,” was a Black Canadian professional boxer. He was the first black world boxing champion in any weight class, the first champion of more than one weight class, and also the first ever Canadian-born boxing champion. Dixon is credited for developing Shadowboxing. At the peak of his career, Dixon was easily the most famous or one of the most famous athletes of the time and one of the most famous Black athletes.
Dixon was inducted posthumously into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1955. He was also inducted into the Ring Magazine Hall of Fame in 1956 and into the International Boxing Hall of Fame as a first-class inductee in 1990.
Dixon was born in Africville, Halifax, Nova Scotia on on July 29, 1870. By the time he was a teenager, it was obvious he possessed a special gift. Dixon was tough. He could fight and beat any opponent. Known as “Little Chocolate,” he stood 5 feet 3 ½ inches (1.613 m) tall and weighed only 87 pounds (39 kg) when he began his professional boxing career, weighing no more than 118 pounds over the bulk of his career. Dixon was was described as long armed and skinny legged, swift of hand and foot, and possessing an ideal fighting temperament and great stamina. Ring magazine founder and editor, Nat Fleischer, described him as a marvel of cleverness, yet indicated that he could slug with the best of them. Fleischer rated him as the # 1 bantamweight of all time.
Dixon became the first black man to win a world championship when he captured the World Bantamweight Championship title just shy of his 20th birthday by defeating Nunc Wallace of England in 18 rounds on June 27, 1890. He held that title for the next six years, finally losing it by decision to Solly Smith on October 4, 1897. He regained it on November 11, 1898 by defeating Dave Sullivan, but then lost it for good when Terry McGovern knocked him out on January 9, 1900.
While Dixon held the featherweight title, he established a vaudeville troupe he called the “George Dixon Specialty Co.,” which toured Canada and the United States. It appeared at the Naylor Opera House in Terre Haute, Indiana on November 8, 1894.
By that time, he had moved to Boston, where he had family; it was a destination for other immigrants from Africville, but he never forgot his roots. “On his deathbed he identifies himself as Canadian
George Dixon retired from boxing in 1906 with an overall record of 63 wins, 29 losses, and 48 draws. Many claim that hundreds of his fights that took place in dance halls and theatres throughout the country were never recorded. Dixon may have fought 800 bouts in his 20-year career. Some credit Dixon with founding the so-called “black school” of pugilism which included such greats as Joe Walcott, Joe Gans, Sam Langford, and Jack Johnson.
Dixon died young and penniless in 1909 from excessive drinking, at the age of 38. He is interred in the Mount Hope Cemetery in Boston, Massachusetts. His manager, Tom O’Rourke, had a tombstone made up with the words “Here rests the gamest pugilist who ever lived.” A recreation centre in downtown Halifax is named after him.