Boxing is one of the most popular games, especially in Europe and the Americas. Legends like Muhammad Ali, Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Benny Leonard, Mickey Walker, Mike Tyson and Sugar Ray Robinson along with many stars have brought worldwide fame and recognition to the sport. Boxing was earlier known by the name Pugilism, meaning “Sweet Science”.
Nowadays, people of nearly every country in the world practice the sweet science of boxing. Some athletes use boxing as a means to get in better shape, while others train in order to compete at the amateur or professional levels. Boxing has long been one the world’s most popular combat sports, both in terms of viewership and practice. Here’s a look at how the sport developed into what it is today.
Historical evidence lead to the fact that boxing was prevalent in North Africa in 4000 BC. It was also popularly played in Greek and Rome. The rules were crude then and boxers often indulged in lethal boxing rounds with leather taped on their bare hands. It is believed that In Ancient Rome, the boxing fighters were usually offenders and slaves. They played the game to win and gain independence. However, facts also point to free men fighting for competition and the spirit of sport. Eventually, Augustus is known to have banned fighting. It is also said that in 500 A.D. Theodoric banned the sport, owing to its popularity and growing distraction caused in public life.
The first signs of documented records take you to the year 1681 in Britain. It is a popular belief that the Duke of Albemarle held a boxing competition between his butcher and butler. The common reason for such matches is believed to be amusement and fun.
Prior to 1866, Jack Boughtonis is credited with establishing a set of rules for boxing. It is said Jack decided to publish the rules in 1743 after a grisly match with one of his opponents who died during the match. The legend was popularly known as the ‘Father of Boxing’.
However, the more recognizable development occurred during a time known as modern era in boxing. In the year 1866, the Marquess of Queensberry consented to a new set of boxing rules. The rules were titled with his name. The new rules introduced limited number of 3-minute rounds. It also banned gouging and wrestling during the match and made gloves compulsory. It took a while for bare-knuckled fights to completely go out of fashion, but there was considerable decrease after the rule was passed. In 1892, James Corbett set this rule straight by defeating the bare-fisted boxer John Sullivan with the new established rules.
Another radical change in the sport can be traced to Douglass. It was John Douglass who gave birth to the modern day boxing rules way back in 1865. Famous as the ‘Patron Saint’, Douglass has contributed to systematic game of boxing. He made 12 prominent rules, the most significant ones being three-minute rounds and approved standards for boxing gloves.
There was no looking back for the sport during early 1900s. Boxing was on list in the St. Louis games in 1904. Throughout the 20th century, the world witnessed gifted fighters who fought for titles and bestowed the game with world known recognition and popularity. Boxing was heading straight into the 21st century with grace and aplomb.
In 1902, a London dentist by the name Jack Marles invented the first mouth guard for boxers. The mouth guards were basically designed for training sessions. In 1913, Welterweight fighter Ted “Kid” Lewis became the first boxer to use a protective mouthpiece in the prize ring. The mouthpiece soon became popular and gained acclaim in the sport of boxing.
The establishment of National Boxing Association (NBA) in 1927 ensured a fair governing body that looked into the game and its success. The main aim of the NBA was to arrange championships between the best talents and look after boxing ethics and popularity of the game. We have four world-acclaimed boxing organizations today—the WBA, WBO, WBC and the IBF. The International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) was formed in 1946 and it is the first international body for amateur boxing.
Some other glorious names in the history of boxing include Gene Tunney, Corbett and Sullivan for heavy weight category, as also lightweight champions Barney Ross and Henry Armstrong. The boxing history offers insight into many stalwart moments of the game.
Boxing in the 21st Century
Boxing now has two recognized halls of fame: The International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame. The fact that there are two of these halls is a sign of the sport’s growth since its ancient inception. Boxers no longer fight for hours trying to beat their opponent without much direction. Instead, they display unparalleled skill in using footwork, head movement, and angles to avoid punches and ultimately set themselves up to land clean punches in return. The sport has a worldwide following with millions of fans and participants representing all skill levels.
Professional boxing generates millions of dollars a year in revenue. And while the likes of Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis did their part to keep the sport popular in the 1990s and into the early part of this century, boxing has certainly taken a hit in popularity. The Klitschko brothers (Wladimir and Vitali) of Ukraine, will continue to generate wins in the heavyweight division, which long was the division that put the most fans in the seats. However, due to their unflashy style, lack of exposure to American audiences, and lack of talent in opponents, the brothers haven’t been able to solely keep their division as exciting as it once was.
This lack of heavyweight talent in recent years, along with the rising popularity of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, has taken some of the spotlight off of the sport of boxing. Without a doubt, though, boxing will continue to be a sport practiced in all corners of the world. Fighters such as Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Sergey Kovalev, Gennady Golovkin, Roman Gonzalez, Terence Crawford, Canelo Alvarez, Amir Khan, Donnie Nietes and Vijender Singh will continue to produce exciting fights in an effort to revive attention to one of the oldest and most exciting sports in history.
Boxing in the United States of America
The history of boxing travels through different parts of the world, starting with North Africa in 4000 BC. Greeks and Romans played and immensely enjoyed the sport of pugilism. History takes us back to festivals and games where combatants fought until one of the fighters died. There is mention of use of spikes and studs made of metal during prizefights. These shadows eventually warded off as the game took a developed form with well-defined and fair rules protecting fighters. The United States has played a major role in building up the image of boxing in the world, especially during the 20th century. In so far as the nation became the focus for professional boxing in the world.
With the establishment of the NBA (National Boxing Association), the first such body governing the game, boxing achieved renewed status in new world of sports. Ring magazine was founded in the mid 1900s, and it began a systematic listing of championships and winners. The NBA gained its new name in 1962 and became the World Boxing Association (WBA). The new role brought about increased responsibility. It was in late 19th and early 20th century that Olympic boxing was encouraged in schools, universities, and also in the armed forces.
In 1963, an adversary sprung to power under the name of the World Boxing Council (WBC). Another body by the name IBF (International Boxing Federation) came to power in 1983. It is remarkable that to be titled a world champion, a boxer had to acquire recognition from three separate bodies. There are different regional sanctioning bodies like the North American Boxing Federation and the United States Boxing Association who also granted championships. Ring magazine listed each weight division champion, and its rankings are still applauded by boxing fans worldwide.
An international body for amateur boxing was formed in 1946 known as the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA). The development phase of boxing has seen the United States as a world leader, promoting and generating opportunities at all levels. The US played a major role in building a reputable status for the sport and also popularising and making professional and amateur level boxing more safe for fighters.
For the game of boxing, there are some things that haven’t changed. The boxers play hand-to-hand and in a one-to-one combat, against a boxer of similar size and strength. The pugilistic nature of the game has been preserved, making boxing a sport with its unique identity. Players win points for clean and solid blows to the allowed body parts, like on the front of the opponent’s body above the waistline. Correct hits to the head and torso score points and are considered important in the game. A punch scores points only when the boxers connect with the white portion of the gloves.
The game of boxing has seen its peak times in the US. The nation passionately supported boxing events and continues to promote boxing championships under different divisions all over the world.