the science of a boxing knockout3

What Words Are Used In Boxing?

Boxing has come a long way in America, from its golden days of legends like Muhammad Ali and Evander Holyfield in the second half of the 19th century. Unfortunately, the 20th century has seen much of its glory snatched away by Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). However, one thing has not changed: the wide usage of Boxing metaphors and catchphrases in everyday language.

While boxing isn't as popular as it once was, the practice of fighting with fists, also known as pugilism, is so deeply entrenched in our culture we might not know we're using centuries-old sayings from the gentleman's sport every day. In addition, boxing can be confusing, with all the terms used to describe the different moves.

Boxing is a sport hated and shunned by almost half the population, reduced to scant notice in the sports pages, and yet -- it remains by far the source of more idioms and catchphrases in our language than any other sport, and especially so in this election season by those writing and broadcasting about politics.

Many famous fighters came up from the poorest, most dire situations. And boxing puts us in a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, bone-crushing kind of place at times. It publicly exposes their bodies and our vulnerabilities. It requires both the basest human physical violence and a strong mental understanding, along with truckloads of courage and heart.

Over the decades, the world of boxing has coined a definite set of words to describe boxing weights, styles, equipment, and the different techniques and punches used in boxing. If you wonder what they mean by lightweight, bantamweight, speed bags, and sparring gloves, you will find this article useful. Boxing terminology or boxing vocabulary will also be useful to those who want to 'float like a butterfly and sting like a bee', as Muhammad Ali puts it.

Announce each fighter individually. Start with each fighter's first name and then say his nickname, followed by his last name. State their current weight, record and boxing team, plus any titles if applicable. Do not add commentary, such as which fighter you prefer.


Saying the names twice originally started many, many years ago. Back in the day, some of the speaker systems weren't that great, and guys would call out the name once and then do it [again to a different part of the arena], so guys can hear it on the other side".


The role of the referee

Determines when to start or stop a count when a fighter is down. Determines when a foul is so egregious that a warning should be given or points are taken away—signals when the round is over. Determines when more blows will endanger one fighter's health, and thus, stops the fight.

Similarly, in life, when some people land low blows in the form of comments, behaviours, or a combination of the two, in most cases, they initially deny landing the low blow. The sport of boxing is a metaphor for life in ways we can relate to, no matter where we are from, who we are or what we do.


We hear it all the time: boxing can change your life. Whether you get in the ring or not, boxing training teaches discipline, work ethic, self-control, and self-confidence. In addition, it teaches you about yourself.



Idioms From The World Of Boxing

Boxing as a martial art dates back to the early Greek civilizations and has been a part of human culture for a long time now. So it is no surprise that many expressions from this popular sport have entered into everyday language and become idiomatic. Some sound so natural and genuine that it is hard to trace back to the original boxing term.

You Get What You Put In

Often late in particularly close fights, announcers will say something to the effect of "Now we will see who put roadwork in".

This means it will be revealed who really put the critical, hard work in and who just did enough to get by. The same is true for life. When you are in the symbolic late rounds of life, the time will come.

It will soon be revealed if you put the hard work in or just enough to get by.

The Bell saved him

Before it was the title of a popular TV sitcom or meant that you "got a lucky break," it originated from early boxing rules. It means that when a punch and the referee knock down one boxer isn't able to reach the count of 10 before the Bell sounds, signifying the end of the round, the fighter can stumble, be helped, or crawl to his corner and have time to recover. As a result, the count doesn't continue. He is, in essence, "saved by the bell." Beyond boxing, it has come to insinuate that you were somehow "let off the hook" or that you somehow defied fate.

Respect Is Not Given It Is Earned

In "conventional" thinking, the concept of respect is pretty straightforward. To be respected, you must first respect. However, in boxing, the ideology behind respect could not be more different.

In boxing, respect refers to landing a hard enough blow that your opponent must "respect" the consequence of trying to engage in assaulting you. Trainers and fans can hear ringside encouraging fighters to get their "respect".

Nonetheless, respect is crucial. So having it and not having it is a big deal.

I'm In Your Corner

Every successful fighter has a good corner. There are no exceptions to this rule. The concept of having a great corner in life is just as necessary.

boxing is a metaphor for life

We all need people who will encourage us, criticize us, and hold us accountable. If we want to grow, that is.

Below The Belt

If a punch is landed below the beltline in a match between two combatants, it is deemed an illegal "low blow". The interesting point about low blows is that the officiating referee can only be determined as low blows.

In almost every case, the offending fighter strongly protests the low blow. Similarly, in life, when some people land low blows in the form of comments, behaviours, or a combination of the two, in most cases, they initially deny landing the low blow.

The sport of boxing is a metaphor for life in ways we can relate to, no matter where we are from, who we are or what we do.

He Has That Killer Instinct

This phrase was first used in the 1930s to describe fighter Jack Dempsey, who brought an unprecedented, unbridled rage and an aggressive approach into the ring. In a society where boxing had previously been referred to as a Gentlemen's Sport and Manly Art, Dempsey's "take no prisoners approach" created a newfound excitement, captured everyone's attention, and shed light on the real brutality the sport. But unfortunately, the "killer instinct" term has since become synonymous with businessmen who decide to win at all costs and individuals who have an unrelenting desire to succeed.

He Knows The Ropes

Almost everyone knows that boxing matches take place in a square ring, between four ropes and the fighters on that stage display a high level of skill intelligence and employ a high level of strategy. They know-their-way-around-the-ring, so to speak, or "know the ropes." Today, it is said that anyone who fully understands a situation or knows a lot about what they do that they "know the ropes."

You Beat Them To The Punch With That One

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Although it's obvious what this common phrase means, in terms of boxing, now it's used to describe anytime someone "gets the upper hand" on someone else or makes the first move, rather than getting hit first.

Sometimes You Have To Roll With The Punches

In training, fighters learn to anticipate incoming punches early on and, instead of embracing for impact, move with them to lessen the force. This boxing technique is known as "rolling with punches" and has worked its way into common terminology. It has become a phrase to encourage people to "go with the flow," not to get caught up in the details, and to be adaptable. It's good advice, inside the ring and out.

You'd Better Toe The Line.

Telling someone to essentially "get their act in order" or "straighten-up" was taken from Jack Broughton's original Seven Rules of Boxing. In 1743, to "civilize" the sport, this former bare-knuckle fighter crafted seven rules for combatants to follow. For example, rule #4 clearly states: "That no champion can be deemed beaten unless he falls coming up to the line in the limited time." Subsequently, "placing one's toe on the line" has become a common phrase and has since taken on its meaning in the English language.


The word we know as meaning sleepy or out of it originally meant "intoxicated" and came from grog, an old-timey alcoholic beverage. Groggy, meaning "dazed", is from the boxing ring, meaning weakened in a fight, hence staggering, shaky, and unsteady.


While we might think of a palooka as a stupid, oafish, or clumsy person, the word originally referred to a mediocre prizefighter. The prizefighter sense originated around 1926 and is credited to Jack Conway, the editor of Variety magazine. Joe Palooka was a 1920s comic that featured a dim-witted boxer with a heart of gold, which helped popularize the oafish meaning of the word.


This term meaning dazed and confused, originated in boxing parlance, referring to a fighter stupefied by too many punches to the head. Later, punch-drunk came to mean a neurological condition seen often in boxers and formally known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Roll With The Punches

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To roll or ride with the punches, or to adapt easily to adverse circumstances, comes from the fighting maneuver of moving or rolling one's head and body away from a blow to lessen its impact. Related is pulling one's punches or being gentle, like a fighter who pulls back to lessen a blow's impact.

Throw One's Hat In The Ring

While throwing in the towel signifies giving up, throwing one's hat in the ring shows you're ready for a fight. This custom is from at least the early 1800s, a time when most men wore hats and would have been more reliable than trying to make yourself heard over a noisy, fight-thirsty crowd.

Throw In The Towel

Another way of saying to quit or give up is to throw in the towel.

The phrase "throw in the towel" originates from boxing and reflects a literal showing of defeat. For example, when a boxer is suffering a beating, his staff person in the corner will throw a towel into the ring to indicate that the match is over and the boxer is conceding defeat. An earlier method involved throwing in the sponge to indicate defeat and stop a match.

Boxing Rules 101: 'Throwing in the towel' doesn't end a fight.

There's a big misconception in professional boxing that a corner has the power to stop a fight at any time by simply throwing in the towel in the ring.

'Throwing in the towel' is one of the more popular idioms in the English language and acknowledges early defeat.

For example, the candidate was far behind in the polls and decided to throw in the towel before the election.

In boxing, 'throwing in the towel' is a century-old ritual... and major misconception.

In the movie Rocky IV, Apollo's cornerman pleads with Rocky, Apollo's head trainer, to throw the towel in the ring when their fighter starts to take a savage beating. And even today, cornermen will sometimes chuck a towel in the ring as a sign of surrender, thinking the bout will automatically be stopped.

But that's not how it works.

The referee, and only the referee, can stop a fight. But, unfortunately, I've seen 'alert and judicious' referees toss the towel back into the corner and allow the fight to continue.

While the referee will sometimes choose to stop about based on the corner's advice or a towel toss, he is well within his right to ignore both.

Why do coaches throw in the towel?

It means to give up, give in, concede defeat. It arose from the custom that when a boxer is too hurt to continue with a match, their coach throws their towel into the boxing ring to signal that the match should end because they admit defeat.

Is throwing in the towel a knockout?

The traditional admission of defeat in boxing, where a second who feels his boxer cannot or should not continue the bout, throws a towel or sponge into the ring to end the fight by a technical knockout.

Does throw in the towel mean to give up?

To quit in defeat. The phrase comes from boxing, in which a fighter indicates surrender by throwing a towel into the ring: "After losing the election, he threw in the towel on his political career."

Can referees ignore towel throws?

If a corner throws in the towel, the referee CAN freely ignore it and throw it back out. Fourth… it's the referees' discretion, whether to 'call the foul', and whether to deduct a point or disqualify the corner that threw the towel and stop the fight.

Why Do Refs Say Protect Yourself At All Times?

The referee says it every time he finishes his pre-fight instructions. It is important to a fighter's safety and success that it has become a standard phrase in boxing. It says exactly what it means and yet is too often ignored. Unfortunately, it seems like many fighters have grown deaf to this common phrase, so let's recap exactly what the third man in the ring means when he says PROTECT YOURSELF AT ALL TIMES.

Go back to the fighters of the 70s, 80s and 90s and see how many boxers touched gloves, other than before the final round, in the centre of the ring when they were instructed to do so by the referee (where he supervised the contact). This happened occasionally, but never to the extent that fighters do it now. It has become a courtesy that has no place in prizefighting. Show respect for and make friends with your opponent AFTER the fight. Until the final bell sounds, the only sportsmanship that should be displayed should be a clean, fair fight. Boxers must give the fans what they paid for...a fight. Not a love fest.

Ultimately, it's up to you to ensure your safety.

There are many classy, respectful and clean fighters in boxing, but let's face it, some fighters could care less about conducting themselves professionally, and others are willing to do whatever it takes to win, even if it pushes the boundaries of playing fair. You would be naive to approach this sport with any other notion in mind, so take these simple steps to protect yourself at all times and in all ways possible.

The referee is there to enforce the rules and control the the best of his ability. But ultimately, it's up to you to ensure your safety, safeguard your health and be prepared to avoid cheap shots at all costs.


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