Robert Silva’s fifth greatest featherweight of all-time is George Dixon.
A few months ago, I wrote about the first great African-American boxing and sports star, Joe Gans. The first such boxer of African descent preceded Gans by a decade; Canadian-born George Dixon. At the tender age of 19, Dixon traveled to London and won the World Bantamweight Title in 1890. Exactly two years later on the same exact day, Dixon would win the World Featherweight Title and begin an eight-year run as the single best fighter in the world. It would result in Dixon being the first legendary 126-pound fighter and the fifth greatest fighter in the history of the division.
On June 27, 1892 in New York’s famed Coney Island, Dixon knocked out Fred Johnson in the 14th round to become the Featherweight Champion of the World. For the rest of the 90s, Dixon would dominate the division, defeating every top fighter in the division. The Nova Scotia native was a very aggressive, short fighter (5’3”) who relied on superior speed and stamina. He would outwork his opponents and wear them down with his constant pressure and punch output. It was his overwhelming assault of his opponents that made it next to impossible for racist judges to rob him of a decision. He was that dominating.
In the eight years that Dixon dominated the 126-pound decision, Dixon would regain the title thrice after losing very questionable decisions. On November 27, 1896 Dixon first lost his title by decision in 20 rounds to Frank Erne. Four months later, Dixon regained his title by thoroughly overwhelming Erne to win a convincing 25-round decision. Then, on October 4, 1897 Dixon lost his crown on another questionable 20-round decision to Solly Smith. Smith lost the title right away to Eddie Santry, who in turn lost his title to Dixon on June 6, 1898 as he did everything he could to last the entire scheduled 20 rounds. In his very next bout, on July 1, 1898, Dixon lost his title via 25-round decision to Ben Jordan, who like Smith, immediately lost the title. Dixon would win the 126-pound title for the fourth and final time by stopping Jordan’s conqueror, Dave Sullivan in the 10th round on November 11, 1898
Dixon’s inhuman stamina was incredulous considering he was a noted alcoholic. Dixon ravaged his body with late night partying and drinking. Still, despite his battle with alcohol, Dixon successfully defended his World Featherweight Title until finally losing the title on January 9, 1900 to Terry McGovern. Dixon’s extracurricular activities caught up to him that night as he was battered by McGovern before finally succumbing in the eighth round. At the age of 29, Dixon’s aggressive style both in and out of the ring led to him being finished as a competitive fighter.
Dixon fought for another seven years despite his skills being shot. Years of womanizing and alcohol left him completely broke. After being forced to retire in 1906, Dixon found himself homeless and panhandling in New York City. Less than two years after his final bout, Dixon died in a New York hospital on January 6, 1908 due to complications from alcohol consumption. He was only 37 years old at the time. Despite the tragic ending to both his career and life, Dixon’s career as being the first Black world champion boxer and his eight year dominance as the greatest fighter of that era makes him the fifth greatest 126-pound fighter of all time.