George Dixon (1870-1908) was the finest boxer of his generation and arguably among the finest boxers ever. His accomplishments in the ring were extraordinary: the first Black boxing champion, the first champion of multiple weight classes, and the first champion to lose and regain the title. He defended his title more than any other champion and fought in an unprecedented 800 bouts. Making these achievements even more astonishing, George Dixon publicly fought and beat hundreds of white boxers in an age when Black men were murdered for simply being Black.
Sam Austin, the larger-than-life sports editor at America’s first tabloid newspaper, the Police Gazette, described George Dixon as “The Fighter Without a Flaw.” Said Austin, “The fact cannot be disputed that the greatest fistic fighter, big or little, that the world has ever known is George Dixon.”
Yet, despite these extraordinary accomplishments and this effusive adulation, George Dixon died a beggar, in the alcoholic ward of New York’s Bellevue Hospital, alone and forgotten.
So who was George Dixon? What motivated this genuinely modest man, born in Africville, Nova Scotia, to achieve what no other Black man had achieved before him? What strength of character earned him true greatness? And what made him lose it all?
Before Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis, before Sugar Ray Robinson and Jack Johnson, before Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard, before all the great Black boxing champions of every age and every weight class, there was George Dixon. He was the first. He was the greatest. And this is his story.