Boxing History and Timeline

The following article will throw some light on boxing history and timeline, in a bid to trace the origin and journey of what is considered to be one of the most popular sports in the world today...
A combat sport wherein two individuals fight with their fists - boxing has become one of the most popular sports in the world today. Add to it the fact that it also doubles up as a martial art, and even fitness enthusiasts can't keep themselves away from it. That's quite surprising, as boxing was considered to be one of the most brutal sport in history and was even outlawed in England at one point of time. Even though many of us sit glued to the TV sets when a bout of boxing is being telecast, not many of us know that boxing history and timeline is as interesting as, or perhaps more than, the bout that you are watching.

The History and Timeline of Boxing

The first name that comes to our mind when we hear boxing is likely to be Muhammad Ali, and his biography rightly tells you why it is so. However, the history of this sport, which can be traced back to 3rd century BC, has many more names to cheer for. From no-holds-barred fist fighting to well disciplined prizefighting, the journey of boxing has been quite interesting indeed. Given below is the timeline of boxing history, with special emphasis on some of the most crucial moments of this sport which tell you how fist fighting developed to become the popular sport of boxing as we know it today.

Fist Fighting in Ancient Times
Going by the depiction of fist fighting on relics belonging to the Sumerian civilization, the history of boxing can be traced back to 3rd millennium BC. Other than this, even Ancient Egyptian relics belonging to the 2nd century depict fist fighting, which suggests that it was a popular sport in this era. The first documented evidence of fist fighting with gloves came in form of relics belonging to the Minoan civilization - a Bronze Age civilization from the island of Crete. Historical records suggest that fist fighting was first introduced in the Ancient Olympics in 688 BC, wherein it was known as Pygme or Pygmachia. In Rome, fist fighting existed in two forms - athletic form, which was more of a recreational activity, and gladiatorial form, which was more of a fight to death involving the slaves. In 500 AD, the Romans banned this sport as they believed that disfiguring of a person's face was like insulting the image of God.

Boxing in the 18th Century
The sport of fist fighting virtually disappeared after the fall of Roman Empire, only to resurface in the 18th century. Some citations of a similar sport being played in Italy in the 12th century do exist, but most of these are unconfirmed. In the 18th century, bare knuckle fighting, known as prizefighting, became quite popular in England. The first known champion of bare knuckle fighting was James Figg. This century also marked the use of name 'boxing' for the first time in the history of this sport. Owing to the fact that there were no written rules of the sport, the contests often ended in a bizarre manner. The first boxing rules - the Broughton's Rules, were formed in 1743 by the then heavyweight champion - Jack Broughton. One of the most important rule in this set of rules was the '30 seconds count' used to decide the match after both the boxers were knocked down.

Boxing in the 19th Century
The 19th century was a bad phase in the history of American boxing, wherein the sport was virtually outlawed from the United States and England. The London Prize Ring rules, which were formed in 1838, included some of the most important rules of the sport including the stipulated area of a 24 square feet ring in which the competition was supposed to take place, and actions like biting and head-butting being considered foul. In the latter half of the 19th century, in 1867 to be precise, a Welsh sportsman - John Chambers drafted the Marquess of Queensberry Rules. It was a set of 12 rules which were drafted for different categories, Lightweight, Middleweight and Heavyweight. The '30 second count' was reduced to a '10 second count' in this very set of rules. A famous boxer of his times - 'Gentleman Jim' Corbett defeated John L. Sullivan in New Orleans and became the first world heavyweight champion, as per the new rules, in 1892.

Boxing in the 20th Century
The sport of boxing had to go through an immense struggle to achieve legitimate status in the beginning of the 20th century. This period saw the emergence of various boxing commissions and sanctioning bodies in different parts of the world. The aim was regulate boxing, and establish it as one of the recognized sports in the world. Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) and Mike Tyson were two of the greatest boxers of all time who made a mark in the 20th century. Other popular boxers of this century were Jim Jeffries, Bob Fitzsimmons, Tommy Ryan, Jack Johnson, Max Schmeling, Max Baer, Joe Louis, Willie Pep Sonny Liston, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, etc. The end of 20th century witnessed the rise of new names, such as Julio César Chávez and Lennox Lewis, in the world of boxing.

That was brief information about boxing history and facts, which highlighted its development over the period of time. The magnificence of boxing history and timeline has continued in the 21st century, with names like Roy Jones, Jr., Wladimir Klitschko, Vitali Klitschko, David Haye, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Manny Pacquiao, Joe Calzaghe, and Amir Khan making it big in the world of boxing. Over the period, the official rules of boxing have undergone tremendous changes to come to their present form. One of the most interesting change came in the form of a new rule which stated that if a fight was stopped due to a cut resulting from a legal punch, the boxer who gets the cut loses as a result of a technical knockout. All these developments in the history of this sport have played a key role in making boxing as we see it today.
By Abhijit Naik
Published: 10/6/2010
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