Government of Canada commemorates George Dixon, widely regarded as one of the top boxers of the late 19th century and the first Black athlete and first Canadian to win a world title
June 12, 2023 Halifax, Nova Scotia Parks Canada
Today, Andy Fillmore, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry and Member of Parliament for Halifax, commemorated the national historic significance of George Dixon with a plaque unveiling ceremony at the Africville Museum in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The announcement was made on behalf of the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, in partnership with the Africville Museum.
George Dixon was a prominent African Canadian boxer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born in Africville, Halifax, Nova Scotia, he overcame racial prejudice and discrimination to become the first fighter to win world titles in multiple weight classes and the first to have multiple reigns with a world title. He was the first Black boxer and first Canadian to win a world title. Dixon shattered racial barriers and defied odds carving out a successful career that spanned three decades, several weight classes, and saw him fight in North America and in Europe.
Dixon’s innovative training style included using hand weights, a speed bag attached to the floor to improve footwork and hitting a heavy bag. Most notably, he developed shadowboxing – a technique involving punching and dodging an imaginary opponent. Shadowboxing represented a significant innovation to the training regimen of boxers and is used widely in the sport today.
George Dixon’s legacy extends beyond the ring. Dixon used his popularity to expand the rights of not only other athletes, but also audiences. He regularly got promoters of his fights to reserve seats for Black fans, a practice which was unheard of at the time.
The Government of Canada, through the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, recognizes nationally significant persons, places, and events as one way of helping Canadians connect with their past. By sharing these stories with Canadians, we hope to foster understanding and awareness of Canada’s rich and complex heritage. The commemoration process is largely driven by public nominations. To date, more than 2,200 designations have been made. To nominate a person, place or historic event in your community, please visit the Parks Canada website for more information: https://parks.canada.ca/culture/designation/proposer-nominate.
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I am honoured to commemorate the national historic significance of George Dixon. As the first Black athlete and first Canadian to win a world boxing title, he helped shape our country and his legacy is as important today as it has ever been, as we continue the work to combat racism. I encourage everyone to learn more about George Dixon’s significant role in Canadian and world history.”
Mr. Andy Fillmore,
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry and Member of Parliament for Halifax
Created in 1919, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada advises the Minister of Environment and Climate Change regarding the national historic significance of places, persons, and events that have marked Canada’s history. Together with Parks Canada, the Board ensures that subjects of national historic significance are recognized under Parks Canada’s National Program of Historical Commemoration and these important stories are shared with Canadians.
Parks Canada is committed to working with Canadians in our efforts to tell broader, more inclusive stories in the places that it manages. In support of this goal, the Framework for History and Commemoration outlines a comprehensive, and engaging approach to sharing Canada’s history through diverse perspectives, including shedding light on tragic and difficult periods of Canada’s past.
Born in Africville, Halifax, and competing primarily out of the boxing hub of Boston as a bantamweight and featherweight, George Dixon became the first fighter to win world titles in multiple weight classes and the first to have multiple reigns with a world title. His innovative training techniques, including shadowboxing, improved in-ring performance. Dixon’s technical approach was widely adopted among boxers of his era and remains central to training regimens of modern boxers.
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