Twelve rounds of action between two athletes who are putting their all into knocking the opponent down onto the canvas. Yes, boxing is now a sport that can generate hundreds of millions of dollars for a single fight. However, it wasn’t always this way. Let’s take a look at the rise of boxing and how it all started!
Early Days of Boxing
If we go right back to Ancient Greece, we actually come across the early life of boxing. In both Ancient Greece and Rome, stories survive today of fights between two members of society but the oldest piece of evidence we have to support ‘ancient boxing’ is from the 3rd millennium BCE. In what’s called a ‘relief sculpture’, the image shows two boxers as well as spectators.
According to historians, the Ancient Greek form of the sport was certainly more brutal than the controlled one we see today. First seen at the 23rd Olympiad (688 BCE), the fights didn’t have any rounds to measure time. Instead, the two boxers would keep fighting until one was either unable to fight on or until they conceded defeat. One could only speculate that the mental preparation for those fights was pretty significant.
Despite the many differences between boxing back then and boxing now, there are also some similarities to be noted. For example, the fights would become a huge spectacle for the communities nearby. Held in outdoor venues, fighters (and spectators) of all social classes would come together. This being said, the fighters performing in athletic festivals were normally from a wealthy background.
As we moved into the Common Era, stories can be found from a wide variety of countries regarding the sport of boxing (or general fist-fighting sports). For example, Italy was a hub for such sports between the 12th and 17th centuries. Across a number of provinces, documents exist showing records of fights and fighters.
In terms of the less organized aspect of boxing, bare-knuckle boxing became more and more common as the use of swords decreased. In particular, London was thriving with what were called ‘prizefights’. In 1719, the world had its first recognized Heavyweight Champion in the shape of James Figg. In the mid 18th century, John Broughton played an important role in introducing a standardized set of rules. Suddenly, hair-pulling was considered illegal as well as hitting opponents while they were already down. Can you imagine what those MMA classes would have been like back then?
From Broughton’s Rules, we came to the Original London Prize Ring Rules a century later. By the end of the 19th century, the sport was near-enough a replica of the game we see today. However, one of the most important introductions was just about to occur; Queensbury Rules.
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Still applicable today, Queensbury Rules ended the perception that that strongest boxer would always win; and even that it was a savage sport. With these rule changes, people started to realize that skill was more important than brute strength, as is the case with other combat sports like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. With Queensbury Rules, we had three-minute rounds with a short break between and a match was lost if a downed opponent couldn’t stand after ten seconds.
In the 20th and 21st centuries, we’ve seen even more improvements to the game with a particular emphasis on safety. Queensbury Rules ensured that boxers wore gloves, for example; the last sanctioned bare-knuckle fight came in 1889.
Despite boxing being a more commercial affair than in years gone by, the sport still has the same core when the music stops and the bell rings. With icons such as Floyd Mayweather, Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson, George Foreman, and Manny Pacquiao, the modern-day boxers are global superstars and heroes for fans all over the world! If you’re just getting started, here are 5 tips for new boxers.