Boxing history dates back to the Egyptian era. Carvings and paintings depict men standing with fists aggressively clenched and raised.
ANCIENT OLYMPICS & THE ROMANS
Boxing became an Olympic sport in Ancient Greece in the 23rd Olympiad in 688 BC. Participants wore leather straps over their hands and wrists during bouts.
Moving forward in time, the Romans used boxing both as a training tool for hand-to-hand combat for the soldiers and as spectator entertainment in the gladiatorial arenas. Gladiator boxers fought to the death.
The fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Christianity were a combination knockout to boxing; remaining down and out for centuries.
17th Century England experienced a pugilistic a re-emergence. A mix of wrestling and bare-knuckle combat, the hybrid contests were entertainingly savage. Entrepreneurs often partnered with bar owners, greedily staged bouts with scant disregard for combatants health and safety. The sport quickly became known as prize fighting. Fighters received a competition purse with money wagered by circle-viewing spectators.
In 1719, James Figg became the first English bare-knuckle champion. Around this time, the sport changed name from pugilism to boxing; and the arena, no longer a circle, eventually became an enclosed or roped-in square. Somewhere along the way, fighters become known as boxers.
At the time of bare-knuckle rebirth, fights were commonly chaotic. There were no rules, referee or weight divisions. So bigger men had an obvious advantage. Furthering the chaos, fighters often reported to wrestling and opponents often fell on a foe after throwing him to the ground. It was brutal, the last man standing stuff. There was little or no fighter welfare. This changed in 1743. Heavyweight champion, Jack Broughton, known as the ‘father’ of boxing penned the first rules. This included eliminating acts such as eye-gouging, hair pulling and hitting an opponent when he was down. Furthering the cause of boxer welfare, the governors introduced a match-over rule if a knocked-down fighter couldn’t return to standing within 30 seconds. In 1838, additional modifications saw the rules become known as the London Prize Ring rules.
MARQUESS of QUEENSBERRY
The London Prize Ring rules did much to modify the wrestling aspect but thuggery was still a overwhelming part of the sport. So, further attempts to clean up boxing and attract a better class of patron were pursued.
The London Prize Ring rules underwent significant revision in 1860s with the support and assistance of the Marquess of Queensberry and became known as the Marquess of Queensberry rules. The new rules helped remove the image of thuggish bare-knuckle brutality. Addressing the uncovered hands, gloves become mandatory. Skintight gloves, not padded, weighing only two ounces were used. Over time the weight has increased and today pro boxing glove weight varies between 8 and 10 ounces.
Other pertinent changes were three minute rounds with one minute rest period. Fighters were also given a ten-second count if knocked down. Any form of wrestling or grappling was prohibited and weight divisions were introduced. Consequently, bouts became more strategic, defensive moves were increasingly added and modern boxing was born.
The Queensberry rules have remained the blueprint for boxing’s code of conduct.
England provided a home for the rebirth of boxing but it’s the USA that’s been responsible for the astronomical growth into a truly global sport. And with global recognition, boxers have become superstars with celebrity status. Names such as Muhammed Ali, Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather Jnr etc have been or are sporting idols for millions
Boxing is now ultra competitive and massively lucrative for the super talented few capable of punching their way to fame and fortune. A far cry from its ancient and impoverished beginnings.
Train hard. Train smart.
Yours in Boxing,