Born: February 20, 1885
Died: May 8th, 1969
George Barton, regarded by historians as one of the most influential boxing figures of the 20th Century, has always been regarded with an even higher standing in his home state, being labeled, quite simply, “Mr. Boxing”. The title is fitting, as 66 of his 84 years of life were devoted to the sport, and in that time, there was not a thing George had not done; not a role in boxing he had not played. For in those almost seven decades of service to the sport, Barton had been a: professional boxer, manager, trainer, referee, judge, journalist, and Boxing Commissioner. Quite simply, he had done it all.
George Arthur Barton was born on February 20, 1885 in Northfield, Minnesota. He embarked on a professional boxing career and claimed a record of 58 wins and just 3 losses, fighting during the time in our state’s history where boxing was highly illegal, and as a result, nearly all of his fights went unrecorded. The one that didn’t was the most important. In 1904, he beat one of the greatest Featherweights in boxing history when he whipped “Terrible” Terry McGovern over six rounds in St. Paul. Shortly after, he hung up his gloves, and immediately began a career in journalism for the Minneapolis Daily News and later the Minneapolis Tribune as the Executive Sports Editor. While reporting on the world of boxing for the Daily News, he also was the head boxing instructor at the St. Paul Y.M.C.A. where he discovered Young Jack Redmond and the immortal, Mike Gibbons. He later became Gibbons’ first manager and helped perfect the defensive skills that “The Saint Paul Phantom” became so known for.
When boxing was re-legalized in Minnesota, George served as one of the State Athletic Commission’s first licensed referees, a role that would make him famous throughout the globe, as his mark of having refereed more than 12,000 amateur and professional boxing fights still stands as a world record. Among the world champions that he refereed bouts for include: Jack Dempsey, Johnny Ertle, Pete Herman, Kid Williams, Tiger Flowers, Harry Greb, Gene Tunney, Jack Britton, Benny Leonard, Johnny Dundee, Mike O’Dowd, Mickey Walker, Battling Siki, Primo Carnera, Tommy Loughran, Maxie Rosenbloom, and James J. Braddock. Other all-time great fighters that George refereed bouts for include: Sam Langford, Jimmy Delaney, Billy Miske, Jock Malone, Fred Fulton, King Tut, Jack Dillon, Art Lasky, Billy Petrolle, Mike & Tommy Gibbons, and many others.
In 1942, Barton retired from refereeing and judging bouts, and was appointed by Governor Harold Stassen to be the Chairman of the State Athletic Commission, overseeing all amateur and professional boxing cards in the state, a role he excelled at for 27 years until his death in 1969. While serving as the Executive Chairman, Barton also headed the National Boxing Association (NBA) from 1952 to 1953 and took a vocal and very public stance against organized crime inside the sport. His brave actions and outspoken words helped to clean up the sport and he was recognized with the highest honor in boxing; the James J. Walker Award, an honor in which he was bestowed upon in 1952.
Yes, George Barton did it all, and he did it all very well. He now claims his long overdue reward, as we enshrine the accomplishments, the memories, and the man, known to us in Minnesota as, “Mr. Boxing”.