George Godfrey (boxer born 1853)

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This article is about the Canadian boxer born 1853. For the America boxer born 1897, see George Godfrey (boxer born 1897).
George Godfrey
Old chocolate george godfrey.jpg
Real name George Godfrey
Nickname(s) Old Chocolate
Rated at Heavyweight
Height 5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Nationality Canadian
Born (1853-03-20)20 March 1853
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Died 17 October 1901(1901-10-17) (aged 48)
Revere, Massachusetts
Boxing record
Total fights 46
Wins 23
Wins by KO 18
Losses 6
Draws 14
No contests 3

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] He is not to be confused with the American heavyweight George Godfrey who claimed the same Championship 42 years after his Canadian namesake. Godfrey was inducted into the PEI Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.[2]


Early life[edit]

George 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[edit]

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]


Godrey 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]

Notable bouts[edit]

Result Opponent Type Rd., Time Date Location Notes[6]
Draw United States Nick Burley PTS 15 1896-03-05 United States Music Hall, Boston, Massachusetts
Loss Republic of Ireland Peter Maher KO 6 1894-05-28 United States Boston Casino, Boston, Massachusetts
Draw United States Joe Butler PTS 4 1893-12-15 United States Boston, Massachusetts
NC Australia Jim Hall NC 3 1893-11-11 United States Music Hall, Boston, Massachusetts
Loss United States Joe Choynski KO 15 1892-10-31 United States Coney Island A.C., Coney Island, New York
Win United States C.C. Smith KO 4 1892-08-15 United States New York, New York
Loss United States Jake Kilrain KO 44 1891-03-13 United States California A.C., San Francisco, California
Loss Australia Peter Jackson TKO 19 1888-08-24 United States California A.C., San Francisco, California Lost World "Colored" Heavyweight Title.
Draw United States C.C. Smith PTS 6 1885-01-15 United States Boston, Massachusetts
Loss United States Jake Kilrain TKO 3 1883-05-16 United States Boston, Massachusetts
Win United States Charles Hadley KO 6 (6) 1883-02-23 United States Cribb Hall, Boston, Massachusetts Won World "Colored" Heavyweight Title.
Draw United States Charles Hadley PTS 6 1883-01-18 United States New York, New York
Draw United States Charles Hadley PTS 4 1882-01-26 United States Harry Hill's, New York, New York
Draw United States Jake Kilrain PTS 3 1882-01-15 United States Boston, Massachusetts
Draw United States Charles Hadley PTS 6 1879-01-01 United States New York, New York

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cyber Boxing Encyclopedia - George (Old Chocolate) Godfrey Retrieved on 2014-04-30
  2. ^ "George Godfrey | Prince Edward Island Sports Hall of Fame | PEI Sports Hall of Fame". Retrieved 2014-05-06. 
  3. ^ a b c 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". Retrieved 2014-05-06. 
  5. ^ a b 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. ^ a b c George Godfrey's Professional Boxing Record. 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". Retrieved 2014-05-06. 

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Charles Hadley
World Colored Heavyweight Champion
February 23, 1883 - August 24, 1888
Succeeded by
Peter Jackson