Born in Africville, Halifax Nova Scotia in 1870, George Dixon holds quite a few first to his name. Not only is he the first Canadian-Born Boxing Champion (as of his win bantamweight in 1892), but he is also the first black athlete to win a world championship in any sport!
Understandably, this has lead Dixon to be fairly decorated, earning himself a spot in the Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame (1955), Ring Magazine Hall of Fame (1956) and the International Boxing Hall of Fame as a first-class inductee in 1990. In fact, founder of Ring Magazine, Nat Fleischer ranked Dixon as the #1 featherweight of all time, and in 2018 he was named number 6 on a list of Nova Scotia’s 15 greatest athletes.
Dixon is widely credited with the development of “Shadowboxing”, which is a warm up or training exercise that one performs before strenuous activity (most often, as the name suggests boxing); shadowboxing requires only one person, who proceeds to throw punches at no one in particular. Aside from the obvious – i.e. warming up the body and the muscles – this practice also helps the boxer of fighter get into a rhythm.
Despite the great achievements that Dixon made in his sporting career, and the recognition that he received after his death, Dixon’s life took a tragic end, dying in 1909 at the age of 38 in Bellevue Hospital; in the time leading up to his death, Dixon was living on the streets of New York, reportedly telling the doctors that he had no friends aside from former world heavyweight champion, John L. Sullivan.