George Godfrey (boxer, born 1853)

Last updated
George Godfrey
Old chocolate george godfrey.jpg
Statistics
Real nameGeorge Godfrey
Nickname(s)Old Chocolate
Weight(s) Heavyweight
Height5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Nationality Canadian
Born(1853-03-20)20 March 1853
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Died17 October 1901(1901-10-17) (aged 48)
Revere, Massachusetts
Boxing record
Total fights46
Wins23
Wins by KO18
Losses6
Draws14
No contests3

George Godfrey (20 March 1853 – 17 October 1901), nicknamed Old Chocolate by the press of the day in the last stage of his long career, was a Black Canadian heavyweight boxer who held the distinction of being World 'Colored' Heavyweight Champion during his career. [1] Godfrey was inducted into the Prince Edward Island Sports Hall of Fame in 1990. [2]

Contents

Biography

Early life

Godfrey was born to William Godfrey and Sarah Byers in an area of Charlottetown known as the Bog, a poor part of the west end. The year after Godfrey was born, his father was convicted for petty larceny and served two weeks in jail for stealing a cow. [3]

He first received boxing instructions while still residing in Charlottetown, from Dick Cronin. Godfrey then left Canada to find employment as a porter in Boston's silk importing offices. After winning in the heavyweight class at a local boxing competition in 1879, he began boxing professionally. [3] At a fighting weight of 175 pounds on a 5 ft 10 in (178 cm) frame, he would be considered a light-heavyweight by modern standards. However, despite being undersized and rather old at 27 years of age to begin prizefighting, Godfrey would go on to achieve tremendous success inside the boxing ring. [4]

Professional career

Godfrey went 4-0-4 in his first eight fights, which included a draw with famed pugilist Jake Kilrain. In just his ninth pro bout, he won the World 'Colored' Heavyweight Champion by beating Charles Hadley via sixth-round knockout on February 23, 1883. On August 24, 1888, at age 36, Godfrey faced off against world renowned Australian boxer Peter Jackson in San Francisco, California. He would end up losing the bout by technical knockout in the nineteenth round, subsequently losing the World 'Colored' Title. [5] Godfrey had two more bouts with the much heavier Kilrain after their initial draw, losing both of them via knockout. He also faced Ireland's Peter Maher and California Joe Choynski towards the latter part of his career, almost 40 years old, also losing those matchups. [6] It was during the last stages of his career, as the years took their toll and his ring skills visibly faded, that the unenlightened press of the day took to calling him by the deprecatory sobriquet of "Old Chocolate".

Godfrey spent nearly his entire career chasing eventual World Heavyweight Champion John L. Sullivan, who repeatedly refused to fight black contenders. However, in 1881 a story surfaced that a bare-knuckle fight against Sullivan had been scheduled but was stopped by the Boston police due to boxing being illegal in the state. [3] This enhanced Godfrey's notoriety and earned him some high-profile matchups with some of the top pugilists of his time period, including the likes of Kilrain, Maher, Jackson and Choynski. [5]

Among the notable fighters that Godfrey beat were Charles Hadley, C.C. Smith, England's "Denver Ed" Smith, McHenry Johnson ("Minneapolis Star"), Irish Joe Lannon, Canada's Patsy Cardiff, Steve O'Donnell of Australia and Joe Doherty. [6]

Death

Godfrey died of Tuberculosis on October 19, 1901 at his house in Revere, Massachusetts. He had reportedly accumulated considerable real estate in both the Chelsea and Revere areas at the time of his death. He was survived by his wife Clara J. Godfrey, and his son George Godfrey Jr. [7] [8]

American boxer Feab S. Williams would later use the ring name "George Godfrey" and claimed the same Championship 42 years after his Canadian namesake.

Legacy & Honors

In 2020 award-winning author Mark Allen Baker published the first comprehensive account of The World Colored Heavyweight Championship, 1876-1937, with McFarland & Company, a leading independent publisher of academic & nonfiction books. This history traces the advent and demise of the Championship, the stories of the talented professional athletes who won it, and the demarcation of the color line both in and out of the ring.

For decades the World Colored Heavyweight Championship was a useful tool to combat racial oppression-the existence of the title a leverage mechanism, or tool, used as a technique to counter a social element, “drawing the color line.”

Notable bouts

ResultOpponentTypeRd., TimeDateLocationNotes [6]
Draw Flag of the United States.svg Nick Burley PTS151896-03-05 Flag of the United States.svg Music Hall, Boston, Massachusetts
Loss Flag of Ireland.svg Peter Maher KO61894-05-28 Flag of the United States.svg Boston Casino, Boston, Massachusetts
Draw Flag of the United States.svg Joe Butler PTS41893-12-15 Flag of the United States.svg Boston, Massachusetts
NC Flag of Australia (converted).svg Jim Hall NC31893-11-11 Flag of the United States.svg Music Hall, Boston, Massachusetts
Loss Flag of the United States.svg Joe Choynski KO151892-10-31 Flag of the United States.svg Coney Island A.C., Coney Island, New York
Win Flag of the United States.svg C.C. Smith KO41892-08-15 Flag of the United States.svg New York, New York
Loss Flag of the United States.svg Jake Kilrain KO441891-03-13 Flag of the United States.svg California A.C., San Francisco, California
Loss Flag of Australia (converted).svg Peter Jackson TKO191888-08-24 Flag of the United States.svg California A.C., San Francisco, California Lost World "Colored" Heavyweight Title.
Draw Flag of the United States.svg C.C. Smith PTS61885-01-15 Flag of the United States.svg Boston, Massachusetts
Loss Flag of the United States.svg Jake Kilrain TKO31883-05-16 Flag of the United States.svg Boston, Massachusetts
Win Flag of the United States.svg Charles Hadley KO6 (6)1883-02-23 Flag of the United States.svg Cribb Hall, Boston, Massachusetts Won World "Colored" Heavyweight Title.
Draw Flag of the United States.svg Charles Hadley PTS61883-01-18 Flag of the United States.svg New York, New York
Draw Flag of the United States.svg Charles Hadley PTS41882-01-26 Flag of the United States.svg Harry Hill's, New York, New York
Draw Flag of the United States.svg Jake Kilrain PTS31882-01-15 Flag of the United States.svg Boston, Massachusetts
Draw Flag of the United States.svg Charles Hadley PTS61879-01-01 Flag of the United States.svg New York, New York

See also

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References

  1. Cyber Boxing Encyclopedia - George (Old Chocolate) Godfrey CyberBoxingZone.com Retrieved on 2014-04-30
  2. "George Godfrey | Prince Edward Island Sports Hall of Fame | PEI Sports Hall of Fame". Peisportshalloffame.ca. Retrieved 2014-05-06.
  3. 1 2 3 Hornby, Jim (1994). "GODFREY, GEORGE". Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13. University of Toronto/Université Laval. Retrieved 2014-05-06.
  4. "George Godfrey was a boxing pioneer | African American Registry". Aaregistry.org. Retrieved 2014-05-06.
  5. 1 2 Colleen Aycock; Mark Scott (31 January 2011). The First Black Boxing Champions: Essays on Fighters of the 1800s to the 1920s. McFarland. pp. 30–. ISBN   978-0-7864-4991-0.
  6. 1 2 3 George Godfrey's Professional Boxing Record. BoxRec.com. Retrieved on 2014-05-18.
  7. Boston Herald (Boston, Massachusetts), October 19, 1901.
  8. "George Byers "Old Chocolate" Godfrey (1853 - 1901) - Find A Grave Memorial". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 2014-05-06.
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Charles Hadley
World Colored Heavyweight Champion
February 23, 1883 - August 24, 1888
Succeeded by
Peter Jackson