The History of Boxing

The History of Boxing
by Scotty L of

Boxing is one of the only sports that can be done with little or no equipment. So naturally, it was one of the first sports to surface. Boxing history suggests that men have been fighting with fists since the beginning of time. It comes naturally. So when did the sport begin?

Early Beginnings

Minoans, Sumerians, and Egyptians had prints dating back to about 700 BC that show evidence of boxing. However, the ancient Greeks, who included boxing in the Olympics, were the first to establish rules and stage professional fights. This occurred in 688 BC. There are, however, carvings and other depictions found in ancient lands that suggest boxing may be upwards of 7000 years old.

Greek and Roman Boxing

In the Iliad, by Homer, there are detailed descriptions of boxing matches. The book was written in 675 BC. They would box first to honor fallen warriors in battle. Boxers back then actually sat and punched each other until one opponent was finished. After a combatant died, they began to stand when they fought.

Legend has it that the ancient Greeks would box as a way to prepare for sword fights in war. Boxers fought practically nude with rudimentary wraps, which often contained spikes in them. Around this time, boxers began practicing using punching bags.


Roman civilization, known for its gladiator battles, naturally found the sport of boxing interesting. The incarnation of the sport in ancient Rome was boxing in its most brutal form. While also done for athletic purpose, the more noteworthy boxing matches occurred between condemned people. Women and the bourgeoisie also participated.

Fighting for freedom, the more gladiatorial boxing matches often had horrific conclusions. The Boxer of Quirinal is a bronze statue depicting a boxer from the time and offers evidence to the brutality of the sport of the time. The figure bears the scars typical of a fighter who has been exposed to extended brutality.

The powers-that-be banned boxing around the 4th century on the grounds that it was too brutal and disfigured the face, which was made in the image of God. Therefore, it was deemed that boxing was an insult to God. For many centuries, there was no boxing on the continent of Europe.

Modern Boxing

In the early-18th century, fighting returned to England, where it would begin to take on the form that is now used today.

Broughtons Rules

Jack Broughton was a champion during this period and tried to civilize boxing, which was practically without rules at the time. Death was common and the sports brutality was off the charts. These rules made some allowances. If a downed fighter could not rise within 30 seconds, the fight was declared over. Fighters were also disallowed to hit fallen fighters or do damage to the groin. Padded gloves, known as mufflers, were also introduced around this time.

London Prize Ring Rules

In 1838, a new set of rules was accepted for the sport. The London Prize Ring Rules declared that fights occur in 24-foot ring with ropes, while disallowing low blows, biting, gouging, and butting. The added rules did not endear the sport to those in power, as boxing was highly illegal at the time. The sport flourished on an underground level, away from authorities. The events were unruly, with brawls in the crowd, and overly brutal action in the ring.

Marquis of Queensberry Rules

The rules that currently govern the sport were first created in 1867 and completely revolutionized the sport. The ten-count was introduced to determine the end of a bout. Illegal tactics were given a more discerning eye. 3-minute rounds with a one-minute rest period were established.

The use of bigger, more padded gloves changed the entire dynamic of the sport. Fighters no longer were forced to use their body to defend against blows, now able to use gloves to bat away their opponents offerings. Greater importance was placed on defensive prowess, as the sport moved away from its rock em sock em robot approach.

With the new developments in equipment, boxers developed a new stance. Gone were the days of fighters boxing leaning back defensively with their arms outstretched and palms up, moving their hands in a circular motion. Boxers began to hold their hands closer to their faces while no longer leaning back. The first heavyweight title bout using the Marquis of Queensberry rules was the Jim Corbett-John L. Sullivan fight of 1892.

The Rise of Boxing

Despite the new rules, boxing struggled to gain a foothold. Still considered a marginalized sport, it began to enjoy some popularity in the late 19th/early-20th century. In the teens, Jack Dempsey captured the imagination of the public, becoming the biggest superstar in the United States. Boxing was on the map. For the first half of the twentieth century, boxing may have been the biggest sport in the world, with superstars like Dempsey and Joe Louis becoming the most famous men in the world.

Several modifications to the original Marquis of Queensberry rules have been made over the years. The overall brutality has waned, as fighters who are too hurt or too badly cut to continue are not permitted to. The number of rounds has been decreased drastically, and now is 12 rounds for championship fights. Fights used to be 45 or more rounds. The advent of judges and how they are supposed to score fights has evolved. Technical knockouts, when a fighter need not be ten-counted to be declared unfit to continue, have been added. Eight counts, fighters going to a neutral corner after a knockdown, and advances in corner work have also enhanced the game.