On Janaury 18, 1895, two of boxing’s great legend’s of the early gloved era fought to a draw at Coney Island in Brooklyn, as George Dixon and Young Griffo went 25 three-minute rounds. At the time, Dixon was the reigning featherweight champion of the world, though this battle with Griffo was fought above the division limit.
In this early gloved era, the legal status of boxing was hazy at best in most jurisdiction. “Gloved Exhibitions” were allowed, but if neither man stopped the other inside of the prescribed distance, the fight was officially a draw, as scoring a winner would have meant admitting that an illegal prize fighting exhibition had taken place, as opposed to a harmless “exhibition.”
“Newspaper decisions” were common, but these were no more official than a Boxrec entry listing how those of us in the media scored a certain bout. Indeed, in that free-wheeling era, they were often less honest than an unofficial score tweeted by a current writer. Different boxing power-brokers often controlled competing newspapers.
Dixon and Griffo fought in an era that largely preceded film. Available footage of either in action is scant. For this reason, it is always hard for the historian to rate them alongside stars from even a generation or two later. Both are among the greatest pound-for-pound fighters of all time, although they are names lost to all but the hardcore fan or historian.
It is impossible to know what either man’s true record might be. Dixon began fighting for money at age 16, when he weight less than 100 pounds. He became the world featherweight champion in 1890, when the division limit was 114 pounds. Aside from briefly losing it in 1896 and 1897, he remained the recognized champion for a decade, until 1900, when he lost to another immortal in Terry McGovern, brutal, young whirlwind of a fighter.
Griffo is one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighers to ever come out of Australia. In 1893, he came to the United States, already established as when of the major stars of the English Commonwealth. He fought the best fighters in the United States, from featherweight to welterweight, before retiring in 1904.