Amateur boxing is both an Olympic and Commonwealth Games sport and is a common fixture in most international games—it also has its own World Championships. Boxing is supervised by a referee over a series of one- to three-minute intervals called rounds. The result is decided when an opponent is deemed incapable to continue by a referee, is disqualified for breaking a rule, resigns by throwing in a towel, or is pronounced the winner or loser based on the judges' scorecards at the end of the contest. In the event that both fighters gain equal scores from the judges, the fight is considered a draw (professional boxing). In Olympic boxing, due to the fact that a winner must be declared, in the case of a draw - the judges use technical criteria to choose the most deserving winner of the bout.
While humans have fought in hand-to-hand combat since before the dawn of history, boxing as an organized sport may have its origin in the ancient Greeks as an Olympic game in 688 BC. Boxing evolved from 16th- and 18th-century prizefights, largely in Great Britain, to the forerunner of modern boxing in the mid-19th century with the 1867 introduction of the Marquess of Queensberry Rules.
History of Boxing:
The earliest known depiction of boxing comes from a Sumerian relief in Iraq from the 3rd millennium BCE. Later depictions from the 2nd millennium BC are found in reliefs from the Mesopotamian nations of Assyria and Babylonia, and in Hittite art from Asia Minor. The earliest evidence for fist fighting with any kind of gloves can be found on Minoan Crete (c.1650–1400 BCE), and on Sardinia, if we consider the boxing staues of Prama mountains (c. 2000–1000 BC).
In Ancient Greece boxing was a well developed sport and enjoyed consistent popularity. In Olympic terms, it was first introduced in the 23rd Olympiad, 688 BC. The boxers would wind leather thongs around their hands in order to protect them. There were no rounds and boxers fought until one of them acknowledged defeat or could not continue. Weight categories were not used, which meant heavyweights had a tendency to dominate. The style of boxing practiced typically featured an advanced left leg stance, with the left arm semi-extended as a guard, in addition to being used for striking, and with the right arm drawn back ready to strike. It was the head of the opponent which was primarily targeted, and there is little evidence to suggest that targeting the body was common.
Boxing was a popular spectator sport in Ancient Rome. In order for the fighters to protect themselves against their opponents they wrapped leatherthongs around their fists. Eventually harder leather was used and the thong soon became a weapon. The Romans even introduced metal studs to the thongs to make the cestus which then led to a more sinister weapon called the myrmex ('limb piercer'). Fighting events were held at Roman Amphitheatres. The Roman form of boxing was often a fight until death to please the spectators who gathered at such events. However, especially in later times, purchased slaves and trained combat performers were valuable commodities, and their lives were not given up without due consideration. Often slaves were used against one another in a circle marked on the floor. This is where the term ring came from. In AD 393, during the Roman gladiator period, boxing was abolished due to excessive brutality. It was not until the late 16th century that boxing re-surfaced in London.
Early London prize ring rules
A straight right demonstrated in Edmund Price's The Science of Defense: A Treatise on Sparring and Wrestling, 1867
Records of Classical boxing activity disappeared after the fall of the Western Roman Empire when the wearing of weapons became common once again and interest in fighting with the fists waned. However, there are detailed records of various fist-fighting sports that were maintained in different cities and provinces of Italy between the 12th and 17th centuries. There was also a sport in ancient Rus called Kulachniy Boy or "Fist Fighting".
As the wearing of swords became less common, there was renewed interest in fencing with the fists. The sport would later resurface in England during the early 16th century in the form of bare-knuckle boxing sometimes referred to as prizefighting. The first documented account of a bare-knuckle fight in England appeared in 1681 in the London Protestant Mercury, and the first English bare-knuckle champion was James Figg in 1719. This is also the time when the word "boxing" first came to be used. It should be noted, that this earliest form of modern boxing was very different. Contests in Mr. Figg's time, in addition to fist fighting, also contained fencing and cudgeling. On 6 January 1681, the first recorded boxing match took place in Britain when Christopher Monck, 2nd Duke of Albemarle (and later Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica) engineered a bout between his butler and his butcher with the latter winning the prize.
Early fighting had no written rules. There were no weight divisions or round limits, and no referee. In general, it was extremely chaotic. An early article on boxing was published in Nottingham, 1713, by Sir Thomas Parkyns, a successful Wrestler from Bunny, Nottinghamshire, who had practised the techniques he described. The article, a single page in his manual of wrestling and fencing, Progymnasmata: The inn-play, or Cornish-hugg wrestler, described a system of headbutting, punching, eye-gouging, chokes, and hard throws, not recognized in boxing today.
The first boxing rules, called the Broughton's rules, were introduced by champion Jack Broughton in 1743 to protect fighters in the ring where deaths sometimes occurred. Under these rules, if a man went down and could not continue after a count of 30 seconds, the fight was over. Hitting a downed fighter and grasping below the waist were prohibited. Broughton encouraged the use of 'mufflers', a form of padded bandage or mitten, to be used in 'jousting' or sparring sessions in training, and in exhibition matches.
These rules did allow the fighters an advantage not enjoyed by today's boxers; they permitted the fighter to drop to one knee to end the round and begin the 30-second count at any time. Thus a fighter realizing he was in trouble had an opportunity to recover. However, this was considered "unmanly" and was frequently disallowed by additional rules negotiated by the Seconds of the Boxers. In modern boxing, there is a three-minute limit to rounds (unlike the downed fighter ends the round rule). Intentionally going down in modern boxing will cause the recovering fighter to lose points in the scoring system. Furthermore, as the contestants did not have heavy leather gloves and wristwraps to protect their hands, they used different punching technique to preserve their hands because the head was a common target to hit full out. Almost all period manuals have powerful straight punches with the whole body behind them to the face (including forehead) as the basic blows.
The London Prize Ring Rules introduced measures that remain in effect for professional boxing to this day, such as outlawing butting, gouging, scratching, kicking, hitting a man while down, holding the ropes, and using resin, stones or hard objects in the hands, and biting.
Marquess of Queensberry rules (1867)
In 1867, the Marquess of Queensberry rules were drafted by John Chambers for amateur championships held at Lillie Bridge in London for Lightweights, Middleweights and Heavyweights. The rules were published under the patronage of the Marquess of Queensberry, whose name has always been associated with them.
The June 1894 Leonard–Cushing bout. Each of the six one-minute rounds recorded by the Kinetographwas made available to exhibitors for $22.50. Customers who watched the final round saw Leonard score a knockdown.
There were twelve rules in all, and they specified that fights should be "a fair stand-up boxing match" in a 24-foot-square or similar ring. Rounds were three minutes with one-minute rest intervals between rounds. Each fighter was given a ten-second count if he was knocked down, and wrestling was banned. The introduction of gloves of "fair-size" also changed the nature of the bouts. An average pair of boxing gloves resembles a bloated pair of mittens and are laced up around the wrists. The gloves can be used to block an opponent's blows. As a result of their introduction, bouts became longer and more strategic with greater importance attached to defensive maneuvers such as slipping, bobbing, countering and angling. Because less defensive emphasis was placed on the use of the forearms and more on the gloves, the classical forearms outwards, torso leaning back stance of the bare knuckle boxer was modified to a more modern stance in which the torso is tilted forward and the hands are held closer to the face.
Late 19th and early 20th centuries
Through the late nineteenth century, the martial art of boxing or prizefighting was primarily a sport of dubious legitimacy. Outlawed in England and much of the United States, prizefights were often held at gambling venues and broken up by police. Brawling and wrestling tactics continued, and riots at prizefights were common occurrences. Still, throughout this period, there arose some notable bare knuckle champions who developed fairly sophisticated fighting tactics.
Amateur Boxing Club, Wales 1963
The English case of R v. Coney in 1882 found that a bare-knuckle fight was an assault occasioning actual bodily harm, despite the consent of the participants. This marked the end of widespread public bare-knuckle contests in England.
The first instance of film censorship in the United States occurred in 1897 when several states banned the showing of prize fighting films from the state of Nevada, where it was legal at the time.
Throughout the early twentieth century, boxers struggled to achieve legitimacy. They were aided by the influence of promoters like Tex Rickard and the popularity of great champions such as John L. Sullivan.
The Marquess of Queensberry rules have been the general rules governing modern boxing since their publication in 1867.
A boxing match typically consists of a determined number of three-minute rounds, a total of up to 9 to 12 rounds. A minute is typically spent between each round with the fighters in their assigned corners receiving advice and attention from their coach and staff. The fight is controlled by a referee who works within the ring to judge and control the conduct of the fighters, rule on their ability to fight safely, count knocked-down fighters, and rule on fouls.
Up to three judges are typically present at ringside to score the bout and assign points to the boxers, based on punches and elbows that connect, defense, knockdowns, hugging and other, more subjective, measures. Because of the open-ended style of boxing judging, many fights have controversial results, in which one or both fighters believe they have been "robbed" or unfairly denied a victory. Each fighter has an assigned corner of the ring, where his or her coach, as well as one or more "seconds" may administer to the fighter at the beginning of the fight and between rounds. Each boxer enters into the ring from their assigned corners at the beginning of each round and must cease fighting and return to their corner at the signalled end of each round.
A bout in which the predetermined number of rounds passes is decided by the judges, and is said to "go the distance". The fighter with the higher score at the end of the fight is ruled the winner. With three judges, unanimous and split decisions are possible, as are draws. A boxer may win the bout before a decision is reached through a knock-out; such bouts are said to have ended "inside the distance". If a fighter is knocked down during the fight, determined by whether the boxer touches the canvas floor of the ring with any part of their body other than the feet as a result of the opponent's punch and not a slip, as determined by the referee, the referee begins counting until the fighter returns to his or her feet and can continue. Some jurisdictions require the referee to count to eight regardless of if the fighter gets up before.
Should the referee count to ten, then the knocked-down boxer is ruled "knocked out" (whether unconscious or not) and the other boxer is ruled the winner by knockout (KO). A "technical knock-out" (TKO) is possible as well, and is ruled by the referee, fight doctor, or a fighter's corner if a fighter is unable to safely continue to fight, based upon injuries or being judged unable to effectively defend themselves. Many jurisdictions and sanctioning agencies also have a "three-knockdown rule", in which three knockdowns in a given round result in a TKO. A TKO is considered a knockout in a fighter's record. A "standing eight" count rule may also be in effect. This gives the referee the right to step in and administer a count of eight to a fighter that he or she feels may be in danger, even if no knockdown has taken place. After counting the referee will observe the fighter, and decide if he or she is fit to continue. For scoring purposes, a standing eight count is treated as a knockdown.
In general, boxers are prohibited from hitting below the belt, holding, tripping, pushing, biting, or spitting. The boxer's shorts are raised so the opponent is not allowed to hit to the groin area with intent to cause pain or injury. Failure to abide by the former may result in a foul. They also are prohibited from kicking, head-butting, or hitting with any part of the arm other than the knuckles of a closed fist (including hitting with the elbow, shoulder or forearm, as well as with open gloves, the wrist, the inside, back or side of the hand). They are prohibited as well from hitting the back, back of the head or neck (called a "rabbit-punch") or the kidneys. They are prohibited from holding the ropes for support when punching, holding an opponent while punching, or ducking below the belt of their opponent (dropping below the waist of your opponent, no matter the distance between).
If a "clinch" – a defensive move in which a boxer wraps his or her opponents arms and holds on to create a pause – is broken by the referee, each fighter must take a full step back before punching again (alternatively, the referee may direct the fighters to "punch out" of the clinch). When a boxer is knocked down, the other boxer must immediately cease fighting and move to the furthest neutral corner of the ring until the referee has either ruled a knockout or called for the fight to continue.
Violations of these rules may be ruled "fouls" by the referee, who may issue warnings, deduct points, or disqualify an offending boxer, causing an automatic loss, depending on the seriousness and intentionality of the foul. An intentional foul that causes injury that prevents a fight from continuing usually causes the boxer who committed it to be disqualified. A fighter who suffers an accidental low-blow may be given up to five minutes to recover, after which they may be ruled knocked out if they are unable to continue. Accidental fouls that cause injury ending about may lead to a "no contest" result, or else cause the fight to go to a decision if enough rounds (typically four or more, or at least three in a four-round fight) have passed.
Unheard of in the modern era, but common during the early 20th Century in North America, a "newspaper decision (NWS)" might be made after a no decision bout had ended. A "no decision" bout occurred when, by law or by pre-arrangement of the fighters, if both boxers were still standing at the fight's conclusion and there was no knockout, no official decision was rendered and neither boxer was declared the winner. But this did not prevent the pool of ringside newspaper reporters from declaring a consensus result among themselves and printing a newspaper decision in their publications. Officially, however, a "no decision" bout resulted in neither boxer winning or losing. Boxing historians sometimes use these unofficial newspaper decisions in compiling fight records for illustrative purposes only. Often, media outlets covering a match will personally score the match, and post their scores as an independent sentence in their report.