This Week in History


One of Boxing's Best is Born!

For the week of Monday July 24, 2006

On July 29, 1870, George Dixon was born in the northern end of Halifax in a community known as Africville. His family was one of eight prominent families in the community of former African-American slaves from the United States that received their freedom in Nova Scotia after aiding the British in the War of 1812.

George Dixon
© UPI-Corbis-Bettman
Dixon’s family, like many others, faced the harsh reality of unemployment and racial prejudice, and sought jobs as labourers or artisans on the docks of Halifax. These families settled in the northern part of the city on the Bedford Basin where land was cheap and provided privacy from the congested areas, and yet was close enough to allow access to their jobs. It wasn’t until the turn of the century, however, that the settlement was called Africville.

As a teenager, Dixon apprenticed as a photographer. His interest in boxing increased after being hired by several boxers to take publicity photos. He knocked out his first opponent at the age of sixteen and a year later, “Little Chocolate,” as he was dubbed, moved to Boston. There he soon became one of the best amateurs in his weight category. Standing only five foot three inches tall and seldom weighing more than 120 pounds, Dixon’s speed, agility and vicious left-handed punches stunned opponents. Additionally, Dixon is credited with revolutionizing training for boxers by creating a method of preparation known as shadow boxing.

Africville prior to demolition
© Bob Brooks / Public Archives of Nova Scotia

More importantly, however, Dixon was the first black boxer to win a world title! He accomplished this on June 27, 1890 when he defeated Britain’s Nunc Wallace in the 18th round to claim the world bantamweight championship. Later on, Dixon would also claim two more world titles in the paperweight and featherweight classes. Although it is hard to determine exactly how many matches Dixon fought in his career Tom O’Rourke, his manager, claimed Dixon had over 800 fights. After being admitted to hospital, Dixon died in New York City on January 6th, 1909.

George “Little Chocolate” Dixon, was remembered as the first black boxer to win a world title and was a remarkable athlete. He was inducted into the Canada Sports Hall of Fame in 1955 and the following year he was nominated for membership into the American Ring Hall of Fame. In his hometown of Halifax, a recreation centre was named after him in 1968.

The northern Halifax community of Africville was named a National Historic Site in 1996 as a symbol to all those who lived there and the struggles they endured.

To learn more about African-Canadian athletes, please read Sam Langford.

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