Dixon is considered by many to be the greatest
fighter of the 19th century. The newspapers of his day hailed him as
"The greatest of them all." In the Jun 27, 1900 Police Gazette there is
a photograph stating, “Characteristic fighting pose of the Greatest
Pugilist the World ever saw.” Sam Austin, editor of the Gazette once
called him “a fighter without a flaw.”
“Little Chocolate” was a superb boxer, who
founded the “black school” of pugilism of which Joe Walcott, Jack
Johnson, and Joe Gans belonged. Dixon and Walcott shared the same
manager in Tom O’Rourke. Gans was a good friend of Dixon and studied
under him, while Johnson served as a sparring partner for Walcott in his
Dixon was a fast puncher with an excellent left
jab, his best punch being a strong right cross to the chin. He also had
a strong left hook. His favorite combination was a left jab to the face,
followed by a right to the body and a jab back to the face. His famous
fighting method included jabbing, feinting and rushing an opponent to
the ropes where he would work the body. He was also known for his
defensive ability to dodge, evade, and block his opponent’s blows.
Nat Fleischer, founder of Ring magazine,
described him as “a marvel of cleverness, yet he could hit and slug with
the best of them. He was fast, tricky, combative, canny, courageous, a
master in every respect of the art of self-defense, a great ring
general. His left hand was one of the best in the business. His double
left to the body has never been equaled. His right was equally good” (B.D.
Tom O'Rourke described Dixon thusly, "Of all
the fighters I have seen none can compare to Dixon in all around
fighting ability. What a wonderful left hand! What a double corking
punch to the head and body! What a fighting heart and fighting head!
What a superb, all around mastery of the manly art he possessed!" (Oct.
1936 Ring Magazine.)
That fighters of this period were already
fighting in combination is evident by reading newspaper accounts of
Dixon’s battles with the clever Young Griffo. Their June 29, 1894 draw
was heralded as “The best battle ever seen at Boston” and featured “very
fast in-fighting.” The Police Gazette reported that another of their
draws “was a continuous succession of clever feints, rapid exchanges,
leads and uppercuts.” “Fast fighting” and “continuous rapid exchanges”
sounds remarkably like “sustained combination punching.”
Herbert Goldman noted that, Dixon was an fine
boxer who “fought on the balls of his feet.” He had excellent footwork
and his agility and fleetness of foot was able to help him in avoiding
blows. He could also “spring” into an opponent and had perfect balance.
McCallum wrote that Dixon was “long armed and
skinny legged, swift of hand and foot, Little Chocolate boxed like a
phantom, slugged like a diminutive longshoreman. He possessed the ideal
fighting temperament. Distance meant nothing. He could pick up speed and
last all the way” (pp 264-265).
Historian Tracy Callis stated, “Dixon was one
of the all-time ring greats; He had fast hands and was quick on his feet
like a cat; On offense, he hit with both hands but mostly utilized a
long, straight left accompanied by a stiff right; On defense, he guarded
himself well; His quickness and ducking ability made him a difficult
target to strike.”
Callis also wrote, “Dixon won nearly 90 percent
of the draws and losses on his record but due to various reasons he did
not get credit for a win; e.g. racial attitude of the times judged him
as loser instead of winner (in some bouts), he had to carry opponents in
order to get fights, as well as specific rules for a given fight - i.e.
the verdict would be draw if no knockout was scored.”
This fact is supported even by the white press
of the period. The Sept. 30, 1893 Police Gazette reported “Nearly every
time Dixon has been pitted against a champion, no matter whether foreign
or native, the majority has named Dixon the loser, probably through
prejudice, owing to his color, yet he has won.”
The newspaper record proves that Dixon was
robbed of a good number of wins. For example in a bout with a young Abe
Attell reported in the Sep. 14, 1901 Police Gazette, the bout was ruled
a draw by the Referee. Reading the account however, it is clear that
Dixon deserved the decision. Dixon floored Attell in the first round
with a right to the chin. In the third round, “They got in a fierce mix,
raining in face and body blows one after the other. Dixon seemed to have
the better of the going.” Dixon staggered Abe in the eighth. Dixon also
finished strongly but the Ref refused to declare Dixon the winner.
In a Featherweight championship match against
Cal McCarthy on Mar. 31, 1891 Dixon had to knock out his opponent twice!
In the third round little George knocked McCarthy out cold. But the
referee, as in a London Prize Ring Rules, allowed McCarthy’s managers to
drag him to his corner and revive him. This is strictly against the
rules of the Marquis of Queensbury that governed this bout. Dixon’s
manager protested but to no avail. Dixon eventually won by knockout in
the 22nd round “with a flurry of offensive fighting.” McCarthy couldn’t
continue and Dixon won by knockout.
Dixon, because of the color of his skin, often
had to fight under unfair and even dangerous circumstances. There were
no boxing commissions in those days and the gamblers controlled the
Dixon fought and defeated a lot of great
warriors in the ring. He went 70 rounds in his first fight with Cal
McCarthy and never hit the canvas once, in fact, in nearly a decade as
champion, he never hit the canvas in a regulation match until he lost
the title to Terry McGovern. He defeated or drew with such ring legends
as Nunc Wallace, Johnny Murphy, Young Griffo, Solly Smith, Pedlar
Palmer, Dal Hawkins, future lightweight champion Franke Erne, Abe Attell,
and Jem Driscoll.
Perhaps Fleischer described him best saying, “I
doubt ever in the history of pugilism has there ever been a fighter of
his weight who engaged in so many thrilling battles, most of them finish
fights, and yet he was able to remain at the height of his power for so
long” (B.D. p 78).
Dixon reigned as a champion for nearly 10
years. He finally lost the title for good to Terry McGovern who stopped
him in the eighth round. It was the first time he had been off his feet
in a regulation contest. Dixon fought McGovern in a no decision
non-title rematch and never again contended for the title. He died
penniless in 1909 at the age of 38.
George Dixon was rated as the # 1 all time
Bantamweight by both Nat Fleischer and Charley Rose. Cox’s Corner
considers him to be the # 2 Bantamweight of all time.
Callis, Tracy. Cyberboxingzone Records. http://www.cyberboxingzone.com/boxing/dixon-g.htm
Callis, Tracy. E-mail correspondance.
Fleischer, Nat. 1938. Black Dynamite
Vol. 3. The Three Colored Aces. George Dixon: Little Chocolate
Ring Athletic Library Book No. 16. C.J. O’Brien Inc. NYC.
Goldman, Herbert. 2001. Cyberboxingzone Journal
April 2001. www.cyberboxingzone.com/boxing/w42x-kd.htm
O'Rourke, Tom. 1936 Oct. Ring Magazine.
Ring Inc. NY. George Dixon Greatest Says O'Rourke
Roberts, James B. and Alexander G. Skutt. 1999.
The Boxing Register. McBooks Press, Ithaca, NY.
McCallum, John D. 1975. Encyclopedia of
World Boxing Champions. Chilton Book Co. Radnor, Pa.
University of Illinois NEX Newspaper Library.