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Sunday, 7 April 2013


Stone representations from the fifth millennium BC were excavated in the Middle East, near Baghdad, unmistakably depicting pugilist tactics, men joined in battle with their fists. And at that early stage, in this first portrayal of the sport, it can be clearly recognised that the fighter's hands were swathed in wrappings.

In the games which follow the funeral of Patroclus, in the Iliad a boxing match was followed by a bout of wrestling. Both were described in some detail by Homer. The prizes in the boxing match were a sturdy mule for the winner and a two-handled mug for the runner-up. In this particular fight in the Iliad the loser is knocked out. His supporters even have to collect his mug for him.

There were no rounds when boxing was first introduced at the 23rd ancient Olympiad in 776 BC. 

Boxing contests in Ancient Greek games were a test of strength and stamina rather than skill. There were categories for different ages (boys, adolescents, men) but no allowance was made for weight, so the larger contestant was likely to win. The bout consisted mainly of trading blows to the head, and went on until one fighter either gave up or was unable to continue.

Until 400 BC, fighters usually wound soft strips of leather around their hands and arms. These shielded the knuckles and added to the force of their blows. Then gloves replaced thongs. They were made of hard pieces of leather with cutting edges and resembled a knuckle-duster.

Blows could be delivered anywhere on the body, including the groin, and the contestants were allowed to hit their opponent when they are down. There were no rounds or breaks of any kind and no point scoring; the boxing continued until one of the boxers conceded. was knocked out or died.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle sponsored a boxer at the Olympics at Olympia.

By 300BC Pugilistic bouts were being arranged at burial services. It was believed that the spirit of the departed would be so interested in and absorbed by the contest that he would forget all about haunting the living.

Boxing was one of the brutal attractions in the Roman circuses. Gladiatorial boxing matches were a fight to the death.

Just before the Christian Era a Roman emperor banned all types of fighting with the fists. Boxing, as a sport, then disappeared from history until it was revived in England in the 1700s.

The most likely explanation for the word “boxing” is that Bernardino, a thirteenth-century Italian priest, later raised to sainthood first applied it. In an age of frequent combats, the injuries and fatalities that resulted from use of weapons horrified him. Eventually he persuaded fighters to use their bare fists only and this merely for the purpose of defence. Describing the method, he referred to it as "the art of boxing up an opponent.

The first known boxing match in Britain was on January 6,  1681, when Christopher Monck, the 2nd Duke of Albemarle organised a bout between his butler and his butcher at his home in New Hall, Essex. The butcher won the fight.

The first man to popularize boxing with bare knuckles was James Figg of England, a renowned swordsman and cudgel fighter, opened his school of arms in Oxford Road, London. Between 1719 and 1730 he defeated all challengers and was acclaimed the first boxing champion. The contestants battled without rest until one had definitely won.

Jack Broughton's London amphitheatre, situated near Tottenham Court Road, became the centre of boxing. He devised an accepted set of rules in 1743 - the London Prize Ring Rules. Each round was to continue until a man went down; once down he could rest for thirty seconds and must then fight again or be declared the loser; no man was to be hit when he was down, or grabbed below the waist.
Broughton invented the modern boxing glove - but this was then worn only for sparring and not for serious contests. He also introduced a chalked square-yard at the center of the ring. Each of the fighters had to toe the line on opposite sides of the square before beginning a bout.

The first boxing matches in the United States were bareknuckle bouts fought under the London Prize Ring rules. Such bouts were illegal, and the battles usually took place in isolated spots away from the police. The matches drew only small crowds, however, for the rough-and-tumble tactics of the bareknuckle fighters found little favor with the public. 

A relic from early boxing bouts is the phrase "to come up to scratch." An actual such "scratch" existed as a mark at the center of the "ring" in early prize fights. A boxer who had been knocked down was permitted a breathing spell of half a minute in his corner. Then, within eight seconds - counted out aloud - he had to make his way to the line. Should he be unable to "come up to [the] scratch," he had lost the fight.

Under the London Prize Fighting Rules introduced in 1839, a fight ended when one of the participants was knocked down. He had a chance to stay in the fight, however if he could crawl to a mark scratched in the centre of the ring. If he couldn’t get up to scratch he was the loser. From this comes the phrase up to scratch.

Tom Cribb vs Tom Molineaux in a re-match for the heavyweight championship of England, 1811

In the first international boxing match, at Farnborough, Hants, British champion Tom Sayers forced a draw after 42 rounds from 3-stone heavier American, John C Heenan.

Americans at first did not welcome pugilist contests. In fact, they were frowned upon by the authorities and even outlawed. Early fights, therefore, were arranged clandestinely and naturally could not draw large crowds. The sport was truly popularised only in the 1850s and 1860s by English fighters visiting America.

Most of the regulations that govern boxing today are based on rules drawn up in about 1866 under the sponsorship of the eighth marquess of Queensberry, an English patron of the sport. It legislated for fighting with gloves, stipulated the length of each round at three minutes, and laid the foundation of the modern sport.

In 1870, British boxing champ Jim Mace and American boxer Joe Coburn fought for three hours and 48 minutes without landing one punch.

On March 16, 1876, Nell Saunders defeated Rose Harland in the first United States women's boxing match held in a real boxing ring. Saunders received a silver butter dish as a prize.

Officially recognized boxing world championship contests started in 1884.

The last bare knuckle heavyweight title boxing bout on July 8, 1899 between John L. Sullivan and Jake Kilrain. It took place at a secret location, which turned out to be Richburg, a town just south of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The fight lasted for 75 rounds — or two hours, 16 minutes and 25 seconds — before Kilrain’s manager threw in the towel, fearing for the boxer’s life.

The Sullivan-Kilrain fight

Boxing kangaroos were first shown by Prof. Landermann at the London Aquarium in 1892.

The longest recorded gloved boxing match took place on April 6, 1893. Andy Bowen and Jack Burke fought for more than 7 hours. After 110 rounds, the fight was declared a draw because both Bowen and Burke were too exhausted to continue.

Thomas Edison was responsible for the first film of a sporting event, a six round boxing match between Mike Leonard and Jack Cushing on June 14, 1894 (see below). Before this the American inventor had persuaded the world boxing champion James Corbett to act a boxing fight for his camera. 

Wyatt Earp was also a boxing referee. His reputation suffered irreparably when he refereed the Fitzsimmons-Sharkey boxing match in 1896 and called a foul that led everyone to believe he fixed the fight.

“Judge” Roy Bean gained national attention in 1898 for staging a boxing match on a sandbar in the middle of the Rio Grande (to avoid the ban on boxing in Texas), featuring the heavyweight champion, Bob Fitzsimmons.

In boxing, a championship belt awarded to a fighter who wins a British title fight. If he wins three fights in one weight division, he is allowed to keep the belt permanently. The wins do not necessarily have to be in succession. It is named after the 5th Earl of Lonsdale, who presented the first belt to the National Sporting Club in 1909.

1921 Jack Dempsey defeated Georges Carpentier of France in four rounds. The Dempsey-Carpentier bout was the first in ring history with a million-dollar gate.

The 1927 boxing match between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney was known as "the long count." Dempsey knocked Tunney down for 14 to 18 deconds in the 7th round, but the referee did not start his count immediately, so Tunney got the extra time, then got up at 9 and went on to win the fight.

South Korean boxer Kim Duk-koo suffered fatal brain injuries during a world championship boxing match with American Ray Mancini near Las Vegas' Caesars Palace on November 13, 1982. His death five days later led to significant rule changes in the sport aimed to better protect the health of fighters, including reducing the number of rounds in championship bouts from 15 to 12.

Add caption

The heavyweight boxing fight between Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe on November 6, 1993 was interrupted for 21 minutes when James Miller, aka Fan Man, para-glided into the ring at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Kenny Bayless, the third man in the ring during the 2015 Pacquiao v Mayweather fight earned $25,000 for the fight, a record for a referee.

Sources Europress Encyclopedia, History World,  Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc

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