Fist Blow Power Wrestling

History of Boxing

If you’re just starting our boxing classes, knowing the history of the sport can give you a real perspective of what legacy you can build in boxing. Boxing is a sport of fighting with fists, also called pugilism (literally fist fight) and prizefighting (in other words, the fight for prizes/money). Boxing has been included in the Olympic Games program since 1904. For centuries people used their fists to resolve disputes before someone thought of organizing such fights as entertainment.

BC Period

There is clear evidence that boxing existed as early as 1500 BC, on the Crete Island. The modern researchers insist that such duels had been known even earlier than that, in Africa, specifically in the region of modern Ethiopia.

The hieroglyphic scriptures dated back to the year 4000 BC revealed the popularity of this sport throughout the Nile Plateau and all over the Egypt after the latter had conquered Ethiopia. The enhancement of Egyptian civilization through the Mediterranean region and the Middle East caused boxing to spread its influence. In the year 686 BC, boxing became an essential part of the Olympics.

However, ancient boxing barely resembles the sport we admire today. All fights were carried out on open plots, where the spectators formed a living arena. The fight typically lasted until one of the opponents was seriously injured. Although the first boxers primarily fought for glory, the winner was also granted the gold, livestock or other trophies.

To protect wrists and hands, the fighters braided their fists and sometimes two-thirds of their forearms with thin, soft leather straps. By the 4th century BC, the straps were made of more hardened leather and used not just as an arm protection gadget but also turned the fists into the kind of assault weapon. Later, in the Roman Empire, the leather straps were armoured with unique copper and iron brackets used in gladiators’ fights, which usually ended with one of the fighters’ death.

Common Era

With the spread of Christianity and the collapse of the Roman Empire, fist-fights ceased to exist as entertainment and were forgotten for several centuries. The first official bout was registered in England in 1681. And since 1698 regularly scheduled boxing matches were conducted in the Royal Theater in London.

Gradually London became the centre for provincial boxing champions seeking fame, glory and money. That very reason was an incentive for boxing development in London in particular. In those bouts, each boxer’s remuneration and the percentage of stakes gambled by spectators were settled. The fighters did not use gloves and did not follow standard rules. Weight classification was not determined, which resulted in only one Champion announcement. The lightweight boxers were often beaten. Though rounds were determined, a fight usually lasted until one of the opponents was unable to continue the fight. It was not prohibited to attack an opponent even after he fell to the ground. These conditions existed until mid-XVI century.

Black And White Sport Fight Boxer

Despite the fact that boxing was outlawed, it was gaining more and more popularity. In 1719, James Figg, the public’s favourite and the winner of many boxing matches, was proclaimed the Champion of England and held the title for fifteen years. Jack Brownton, one of James Figg’s followers, attempted to turn fist-fighting matches of the time into a real athletic competition.

In 1743 Jack Brownton wrote the first Code of Rules, and those rules, with minor modifications, were used until 1838, when they were replaced by the updated ‘London Prize Ring Rules’.

Broughton abolished the fighting methods widely used by his predecessors (mostly the tactics of drunkard’s boozy brawls in pubs), giving the preference to hands fight only. The boxers were forbidden to punch beneath the waist. Under Brownton’s rules, the fight lasted until one of the fighters was knocked down. If he then was unable to enter the ring and take his stand within a one-yard range from his opponent, he was considered a loser.

It was forbidden to punch the opponent after he was beaten, his handlers had 30 seconds to get him into position on one side of the square, facing his opponent. Jack Brownton was recognized as the ‘Father of Boxing’. He opened a training gym to coach his followers. He also invented ‘mufflers’, the first boxing gloves, to protect boxers’ hands and faces.

When Jack Slack had beaten Brownton, the fights for the title of champion became more regular. The boxing lost its appeal as something extraordinary, and the public’s interest in this sport decreased slightly. However, such fighters as Daniel Mendoza and John ‘Gentleman’ Jackson were still extremely popular.

Daniel Mendoza weighed 160 pounds (76 kg) and had a strong and quick left punch. After his victory over Mendoza, Jackson contributed to the prizing financial qualification model that gave boxing more respectability. In 1814, in London, The Boxing Society was founded. The London Prize Ring Rules, which were widely used both in England and America, were adopted by that society in 1838. These rules were used for the first time in 1838 when James ‘Deaf’ Zamnet lost his title of The Champion of England in his fight versus William’ Bendigo’ Thompson.

The fight was conducted on the 24 square feet ring, bounded by two ropes from each side. When one of the fighters fell on the ring floor, the round was ended. At that time, the injured boxer was attended to in the ring’s corner during a 30-second break. After a 30-second break, the opponents were to take their stands in the ring centre, and the next round would begin. If one of the opponents did not enter the ring centre within eight seconds, the other one was proclaimed a winner. It was forbidden to curse, quarrel, hit with heads and legs, and hit beneath the ring’s waist. All those actions were claimed inappropriate during the ring fighting.

Queensberry Code of Rules:

Though the ‘London Prize Ring Rules’ Code of Rules turned boxing into a more civilized sport, quarrels and cursing, not uncommon among the old-fashioned pugilists from the lower social classes, shocked the upper-class audience of the English society. It became obvious that existing bo had to be modified. In 1867 John Gram from the Chamber of Amateur Sports Club proposed the new Code of Rules, where boxing methods and rules were described. Those rules were called after John Sholto Douglas, the Queensberry marquis. The new ‘Queensberry’ Rules differed from those of ‘London Prize Ring Rules’ in four key areas:

  • Opponents had to wear padded gloves
  • The round lasted for three minutes of fighting, with a one minute break required
  • Any other kind of fighting except for using hands was forbidden
  • Any of the boxers who touched the ring floor had to stand up within 10 seconds, otherwise, he was claimed to be beaten, and the fight proclaimed ended.

Those rules also contained the classification based on the sportsman’s weight category (group). At first, the newly adopted rules were neglected and disregarded by professionals, who proclaimed them to be too “unmanly” and continued boxing in accordance with the “London Prize Ring Rules”. However, a great deal of young boxers gave their preference to the “Queensberry” Rules. James “Jam” Mace was the first sportsman who won the Champion of England title among heavyweight boxers in 1861. James “Jem” Mace, who was the first boxer to use the padded gloves in such competition, significantly contributed to the “Queensberry” Rules’ popularity.

John L. Sullivan, a famous American boxer of the time, expressed his discontent with the fact that the World Championship was arranged in accordance with the “Queensberry” Rules. In 1889 in a small London suburb where the World Championship among heavyweight boxers was conducted, Sullivan insisted on knuckle-bared boxing, without using gloves.

In 1889 Sullivan defended the champion’s title among heavyweight boxers against Jake Karline, boxing knuckle-bared, for the last time. Because in England this rule was proclaimed unlawful the bout was conducted in the United States.

After that fight, several legal issues forced Sullivan to defend his Champion title against James J. Corbet using the padded gloves and in accordance with “Queensberry” rules.

Economic Incentive

At the beginning of the 20th century, boxing became probably one of the shortest ways to glory and wealth. The centre for professional boxing promotion gradually moved to the USA. This was primarily caused by the growing US economy, as well as by a significant number of immigrants arriving there from all over the world. The extreme poverty and hunger forced thousands of Irish people to seek sanctuary in the New World.

By 1915 the Irish became the dominating national group in the professional boxing, representing such boxers as Terry McGovern, “Philadelphia” Jack O’Brien, Mike (“Twin”) Sullivan and his brother Jack, Packey McFarland, Jimmy Clabby, Jack Britton and many others.

Several talented boxers from Germany, Scandinavia and Central Europe emerged as well. The outstanding Jewish sportsmen, such as Joe Choynski, Abe Atell, “Battling” Levinsky and Harry Lewis who were actively boxing until the second wave of such boxers followed 1915, as Barney Ross, Benny Leonard, Sid Terris, Lew Tendler, Al Singer, Maxie Rosenbloom and Max Baer. One cannot help remembering such world-famous American boxers of Italian origin, as Tony Canzoneri, Rocky Marciano, Johnny Dundee and Willie Pep.

Meanwhile, black Americans also started to reach great boxing heights. Peter Jackson, Sam Langford, Joe Walcott, and George Dixon are among the African Americans who reached the peak of glory in boxing in the USA. Joe Gans who won the Worlds Championship in the lightweight group in 1902 and Jack Johnson, who became the first black champion among heavyweight boxers in 1908. Due to racism, the participation of black Americans in the world boxing championships was highly hindered. Sullivan refused to defend his World Champion title against black Jackson, and Jack Dempsey, also known as “Manasa Mauler” refused to bout versus black Harry Wills. Johnson was not recognized as the champion due to his skin colour, and after multiple persecutions, he was forced to leave the USA.

Black American boxers persecution lasted until the “Great Depression” of 1929. In 1937 the black boxer Joe Louis won the World Champion title among heavyweight boxers and became one of the most noted fighters. Henry Armstrong, “Sugar” Ray Robinson, Archie Moore, Ezzard Charles, “Jersey” Joe Wolcott, Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier also won the World Champion titles in various weight groups.

In the last quarter of the twentieth century, black fighters dominated other boxers. “Sugar” Ray Leonard, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Larry Holmes, Michael Spinks and Mike Tyson are among them.

Spain also contributed with its famous boxers, such as Carlos Monzon, Pascual Perez, Roberto Duran and Alexis Arguello. Pancho Villa from the Philippines was the first Asian boxer who won the World Champion title in the lightweight group in 1923. In the late 20s, Eastern Asia presented many fighters, who were successfully fighting for the highest titles in professional boxing.

Development of Amateur Boxing:

Marquis John Sholto Douglas, the “Queensberry” Rules developer, initiated the first amateur boxing competitions in 1867. In 1880 the Amateur Boxing Association (ABA) was founded, and since 1881 the first regular championships had been arranged among amateurs. In 1888 in the USA the Amateur Sporting Union (AAU) was founded, and since then annual national championships among amateurs had been conducted.

In 1926 the “Chicago Tribune” arranged the “Golden Gloves” amateur competitions with national championship status, which were competing with bouts arranged by AAU. The law forbidding the AAU to control more than one Olympic sport was passed in 1978 in the USA. This resulted in the establishment of the USA Amateur Boxing Federation (USA/ABF).

Amateur boxing quickly gained popularity worldwide. This resulted in international tournaments’ arrangement, held every year, every two years, or as in the Olympic Games case, every four years. Commonwealth Games, Pan-American Games, All-African Championships, and World Military Games are among internationally recognized competitions among amateur boxers.

All amateur competitions are conducted under the control of Association Internationale de Boxe Amateur – AIBA), established in 1946 with its headquarters in London.

Fist Blow Power Wrestling

In 1950 the Soviet Union joined the Association Internationale de Boxe Amateur – AIBA. It took part in the Olympic games in 1952, where the high level of professionalism of Soviet sportsmen in this kind of sports was demonstrated along with East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Cuba.

The F. Castro government still forbids professional boxing in Cuba, therefore the Cuban boxers dominate in international amateur boxing.

Teofilo Stevenson, the Cuban heavyweight, won the Olympic Gold in 1972, 1976 and 1980. Boxing in Africa started developing in the 50-s – 60-s after most countries of that continent became politically independent.

Professional Boxing Managers and Promoters:

Managers are, frequently, the most influential people in a professional boxers’ career. A manager is responsible for maintaining his boxers’ fitness and motivation levels, handling contracts, coaching, supervision and preparation for fights.

In the fist-fights times, the best fighters had patrons who defended their financial interests.

However, when boxing became less popular among nobility, boxers were engaged by professionals, who took care of money issues and chose appropriate opponents for boxers as well. This very function became managers’ primary task.

A good manager thoughtfully leads his protege to fame and rewards a job well-done and receives a portion of profits. The most successful managers often become as popular as the boxing champions themselves. Promoters are people responsible for fight planning and organization, invitation of boxers, and probably play the most crucial role behind the scene (or outside the ring!).

George “Tex” Rickard, the first prominent promoter, was the man who turned boxing into a big business. In 1906, after he arranged the fight for the lightweight World Champion title between Joe Gans and Oscar “Battling” Nelson in a small miners’ settlement Nev. Goldfield, he understood that he could get considerable profits arranging professional boxing fights. Rickard, playing up the public feelings and professionally using advertising to attract spectators to the boxing tournaments, had considerably increased the earnings from ticket sales. He was also the first person to suggest broadcasting boxing matches that increased boxing audience and the number of fans.

Boxing Match Punch

He invested over $1million into each of the five games to promote Jack Dempsey, the World Champion, in 1919-1926. During the years of the “Great Depression”, when the sporting career of Jack Dempsey was over, the dividends from Rickard’s previous investments gradually decreased. Then, in 1935 promoter Mike Jacobs signed the contract with Joe Louis, starting the new big profits era. The earnings gained throughout Louis sporting career exceeded $5,000,000.

The English promoter Jack Solomons, who helped one of the ailing British boxers to get on his feet after World War II, encouraged many leading American boxers to cross Atlantic. At the same time, they would rather have stayed at home. Many great English promoters such as Harry Liven, Mikky Daff, Mike Berrett and Berry Irn followed Solomons’ way.

Lately, promoters are often suspected in dubious deals and undertakings. Scandalously known American promoters Don King and Bob Arum were under close FBI investigation. King is probably one of the most controversial people in modern boxing. Although he worked hard to promote boxing and his boxers, Tyson and Chavez, his methods and style were somewhat questionable.

The spotlight of the English promoter Franck Warren in 1990 gave rise to the anxiety about the sport’s integrity.

TV and Professional Boxing

The TV was playing a significant role in professional boxing promotion after World War II. Because of relatively low funds needed to be invested into professional boxing matches broadcasting from the mid-1950s, boxing broadcasts became more regular than other sports events. The interest in professional boxing broadcasting decreased after 1962. However, in 1976 when five American boxers won the Olympic gold and then entered the rank of professionals, the TV audience’s interest in boxing matches grew again. The introduction of cable TV in the USA in the mid-1980s influenced the emergence of many professional clubs where young boxers were coached and trained.

TV broadcasts have significantly increased the professional boxing returns. The multimillion earnings gained from the Super Heavyweight World Champion title in the mid-1960s became a part of the deal. The boxing legend, Muhammad Ali earned over $ 69,000,000 during his 20 year-long careers.

On April 6, 1987, two famous welterweights Ray “Sugar” Leonard and Marvin Hagler shared the fees of $ 30,000,000. In addition to TV broadcasts, professional boxing popularization in America and Europe was done through arrangements of boxing matches in casinos. The most prestigious casinos in Las-Vegas, Atlantic City and New Jersey profited from professional boxing tournaments, although those boxing shows were worldwide recognized as well.

Modern Boxing Today

The rich history of boxing leads to the modern day, to the sport we have all grown incredibly familiar with. Throughout the 19th century, boxing has risen immensely in popularity, giving birth to a myriad of sports heroes and legends that have captivated imaginations from all over the world.

Modern professional boxing is practiced in hundreds of nations, where it has seen its popularity grow to unprecedented levels. Countries such as the United States, Mexico, and Russia are just some that treat boxing as a way of life.

Boxing has also emerged in pop culture, with classic films like the Rocky series, and more modern adaptations like Million Dollar Baby and Cinderella Man. Superstars have also become prominent, with names such as Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. and Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao inspiring and entertaining millions of fans from all across the world.

Prizes have also increased, with boxers now able to earn millions of dollars to perform in the ring. The Mayweather vs Pacquiao bout in 2015 is the richest boxing match in history, earning both fighters record paydays with Mayweather rumored to have taken home close to $300 million US in a single evening.

As one of the oldest martial arts in existence, boxing is definitely here to stay. So the next time you’re strapping on a pair of boxing gloves, take a step back and appreciate the history of the sport and honor those who have come before you. Needless to say, the future of boxing moving forward rests in our hands — the fans, the enthusiasts, those who love the sport.

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