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Boxing History

Join us as we go through the annals of boxing history to trace the journey of this combat sport from ancient Egypt and Sumeria to present day Madison Square Garden. Continue reading for more information on the fascinating history of boxing.
When it comes to boxing or prizefighting, names like Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) and Mike Tyson may need no introduction - but there do exist some names which have sadly been forgotten by us. While going through boxing history you come across some famous names, such as Jack Broughton, James J. Jeffries, Tommy Burns, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano etc., which deserve due respect for their contribution to the world of this combat sport. The combat sport had to battle many beliefs and ideologies on its journey to become one of the most popular sporting event in the world.

Boxing History and Timeline

In its initial stages, boxing had to go through all sorts of ups and downs. If go through the history, you see that boxing was a popular sporting event in ancient times. It was eventually banned for sometime before it resurfaced with a bang again. The chronology of boxing history events given below highlights the journey of this sport from ancient civilizations, wherein it was practiced in its crude form, to 18th century England, wherein it got the name boxing.

Era Developments
3rd Century BCE A crude form of fistfighting was popular in the Sumerian civilization. (Source: Ancient relics belong to this civilization which were excavated from archaeological sites.)
2nd Century BCE A crude form of fistfighting, similar to Sumerian fistfight, was popular in Ancient Egyptian civilization and Minoan civilization in its crude form. (Source: Archaeological relics belonging to this era. Interestingly, some relics belonging to the Minoan civilization also highlight the use of gloves for the very first time in this sport.)
668 BCE Boxing introduced in Ancient Olympics for the very first time as Pygme or Pygmachia. The same era also saw the development of boxing in two different forms in Rome - gladiatorial form, involving the slaves, and as a recreational activity for the royal family.
500 AD Boxing banned in Rome citing that it is brutal sport which results in disfiguring of human body - which was then considered to be against the will of almighty.
12th Century A form of fistfighting surfaced in Italy, but disappeared soon after.
18th Century A form of fistfighting known as the 'Prizefighting' surfaced in England. This century also marked the emergence of the first ever world champion - James Figg, in the boxing arena and the use of name 'boxing' for the very first time in the history of the sport.

Modern Boxing History

While the 19th century dawned, the woes of this sport were not over as yet. One can see a great deal of difference in boxing in 18th century and boxing practiced today. This can be attributed to the fact that the transition of this sport from 18th to 19th century was marked by several important events. One of the most obvious important event was the introduction of boxing rules, which made boxing much less brutal. Given below is the timeline of boxing which traces some important milestones for this sport from 18th century.

Year Developments
1743 The then boxing champion Jack Broughton came up with the first set of rules for boxing which were known as the Broughton's Rules. The most important rule in the list was the 30 seconds count-out, which declared a boxer the winner if his opponent couldn't get up on his feet after the count of 30.
1800s The sport was outlawed from the United States America and England as it was considered to be a dangerous sport which could even result in death. Though banned, the sport did flourish in the dark alleys of Europe.
1838 The London Prize Ring rules were introduced in a bid to regulate the sport and slowly boxing started to reemerge in England, and eventually the United States. The most important rule in this set was the introduction of 24 square feet boxing ring in which the bouts were to take place.
1867 The Marquess of Queensberry Rules were introduced by John Chambers hailing from Wales. These rules were drafted after taking the different categories of boxing i.e. the Lightweight, Middleweight and the Heavyweight into consideration. This set of boxing rules also reduced the 30 seconds count-out to a 10 second count-out.
1892 Gentleman 'Jim' Corbett―one of the greatest boxers of all time―defeated John L. Sullivan in a title bout, which went on for 21 rounds, to become the first world heavyweight champion of boxing.

The golden era in boxing history finally arrived at the end of the 19th century when the sport finally got the legitimate status. The different rules which were drafted in the history of boxing played a crucial role in making it a legitimate combat sport by the end of 19th century. The first sanctioning body for this sport - the National Boxing Association (NBA), which is known as the World Boxing Association (WBA) today, came into existence 1927. It was followed by organizations such as the International Boxing Federation (IBF), World Boxing Council (WBC) and the World Boxing Organization (WBO) in a bid to put in efforts to make boxing one of the most popular sport in human history - were they successful in their attempt? The ever-rising popularity of boxing speaks in volumes about their success.

Boxing Trivia: Boxing is known by several different names across the world including Pugilism, English boxing, American boxing, Western boxing, etc.
By Abhijit Naik
Published: 11/18/2010
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