Updated: Oct 29, 2018
Sport shows up quite a bit in the diamondanddoranmysteries. From early on baseball was a favourite pastime for some of the characters to watch, but there is one sport and one real person who has had a recurring role to play in the diamondanddoranmysteries who is also historically important to his sport.
George Dixon was born in Africville, just outside Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada on July 29 1870 and died aged just 37 years old in New York in 1908. For all his life was brief it was eventful, and his exploits as a professional boxer had him ranked as number one featherweight of his day by the boxing writer Nat Fleischer. During his professional career Dixon acquired the nickname Little Chocolate because of his African heritage and his small frame. Standing barely 5 foot three and a half inches tall and weighing in at his heaviest 87 pounds or 39 kgs, Dixon’s nickname was well earned.
He may have been small in stature but Little Chocolate packed a big punch, and in over 800 bouts saw most of his opponents defeated. One notable exception was against Charles “Cal” McCarthy. On February 7, 1890, Dixon fought a bruising 70-round fight against McCarthy only to have the match declared a draw. When they met a year later on May 31, 1891, Dixon took 22 rounds to beat McCarthy and claim the Featherweight title. In many of the 73 wins he was credited with Dixon was beating white boxers like the American Tommy “Spider”
Kelly who he fought earlier in his career for the bantamweight title in 1888. While many applauded him for his skill, many more were openly hostile to a black boxer beating white opponents, and boos and jeers vied with the applause at many of the venues. Alongside his boxing career Dixon also ran his own gym developing the technique now called shadow boxing. But he had other irons in the fire too. He ran a vaudeville troupe he called the George Dixon Specialty Company. There seem to be few records of what kind of an act the Speciality Company did, but minstrel shows were very popular in the 1890’s when Dixon and his company toured Canada and the U.S. On November 11, 1898 Dixon took down the World Featherweight title holder of 46 days, Dave Sullivan, at New York City's Lenox Club in a tenth round disqualification caused by Sullivan’s brother twice querying the time keeping of the referee, Jimmy Coville, during the final round by entering the ring. Colville called an end to the bout declaring Dixon the winner and relieving Sullivan of a title he’d held for barely a month and a half. The newspapers at the time declared that regardless of the controversy Sullivan had been outmatched by Dixon who was a worthy winner. He held onto the title until he was beaten in a 15-round match against Abe Attell on October 28, 1901. Attell found himself caught up in the 1919 Black Sox match fixing scandal that rocked Chicago and the world.
The diamondanddoranmysteries are set in Chicago, but Chicago wasn’t kind to Dixon who lost his bout to Terry McGovern there in June 1900. McGovern beat him twice that year, first in January in New York by a knock out, and then in Chicago, where Dixon lost the decision on points. McGovern was 10 years younger than Dixon who was slowly sinking down the career ladder by now, having fallen into gambling and drinking addictions that not only took their toll on his finances, but also on his health and fitness. By the time of the loss to Attell Dixon’s career was all but over. He lived for a while with his family in Boston, but the drinking and gambling finally took everything he had and George Little Chocolate Dixon, the first black world champion boxer, a man who gave so much to the sport, died penniless in New York on January 6, 1908. On January 23 a charity boxing match was organized. Held at Bower's Minery Theatre in New York, the proceeds paid for Dixon’s last hospital bills. He is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Boston, Massachusetts.