English Boxing

The history of English boxing

Boxing is without a doubt one of the oldest sports in the world. In its early days, it was known as pugilism or pankration. Artworks belonging to the Sumerian and Egyptian civilizations, more than 3000 years before Christ, show fighting scenes that prove the existence of boxing since that time. Naturally, the practice has evolved since then. Although boxing is the main discipline, there are also many variations. We can mention French boxing savate, Thai boxing or kickboxing.

Discovering the ancestor of boxing: pugilism


Men have been challenging each other in duels for about 5000 years. We don’t know exactly what the names of the fighting sports practiced by the Egyptians or Sumerians were. On the other hand, it is well established that the Greeks invented pugilism and pankration. Pankration is more associated with wrestling or even MMA. In fact, this sport allowed all types of blows, except for biting and putting fingers in the eyes. Wrestlers were completely naked and devoid of any protection.

Boxing has its ancestor in pugilism, since only fists were used. The first Olympic champion of the discipline is Onomastus of Smyrna. He won his title in 688 BC. However, the first great champion was Tissander of Naxos. He was crowned 4 times Olympic champion of pugilism, in 572, 568, 564 and 560 BC. Pugilism was the national sport in ancient Greece for 800 years.

The fights were marked by a particular level of violence. The boxers, in order to hit harder without hurting themselves, used leather straps to protect their fists. The Romans even ended up covering their fists with metal straps to transform it into a circus game, long before the time of the gladiators.

There were no weight classes. There was also no time limit or rounds. The fights were therefore long and sometimes very long. They were only concluded by a withdrawal or a K-O. There were very few cases where competitors died (in the Greek version). It was considered a sport. However, in the Roman version, the fight was carried out with metal gloves, which resulted in more casualties.

When a fight became excessively long, the fighters were separated at the climax. The first fighter to punch was chosen by a draw. He was regarded as something of a god favored fighter. He was the one who could strike the first blows to his opponent without the latter having the right to defend himself or to dodge the punches that were thrown at him.

Then, the second fighter had to hit his opponent in the same way until one of the two was no longer able to get up. This system had nothing to do with the scoring system we know today.

The first signs of English boxing

The concept of modern boxing emerged in the mid-19th century. At that time, illegal fights were organized by matchmakers to win bets. Often the police would come and break up the fights.

In 1865, a journalist driven by his passion for pugilism wrote the rules of boxing. There are 15 rules. They are called: the Marquess of Queensberry’s rules. In fact, it is thanks to the reputation of the Marquess that these rules spread throughout the United Kingdom, to finally come into force in 1891.

These rules made the fights less violent. On the other hand, the fights became quicker and more exciting. Over time, the game improved and gradually boxing went from being an illegal gambling activity to a recognized sport. It even became one of the first professional sports of the modern era. English Boxing as we know it today has seen the emergence of boxing glories such as Muhammad Ali.

The rules of English boxing

Rules and arbitration
Rules and arbitration

In 1865, the Marquess of Queensberry took the initiative to establish a series of rules aimed at encouraging agility rather than strength. These rules prohibited, among other things, hitting the opponent if the latter was on the ground or unable to fight, hand-to-hand combat, and fighting to the finish. A system of point scoring was introduced.

Nowadays, boxers fight by weight category (strawweight, flyweight, light heavyweight, super-heavyweight…). They compete in several rounds of 3 minutes, with one minute of rest in between. They then have the opportunity to heal, drink and clean their faces.

How does one win an English boxing match?

At the Olympic Games, English boxing fights consist of 3 rounds of 3 minutes each. For amateur fights, which are open to betting, the number of rounds can be adjusted. A boxer can win his fight in different ways:

  • By abandonment of his opponent;
  • By KO: when the boxer is on the ground with at least one knee or fails to get up after 10 seconds, the referee declares him KO;
  • By technical KO (or TKO): this is when the referee judges that the boxer is no longer able to defend himself.
  • By points: if the rounds end without a KO or withdrawal, the victory goes to the one who has scored the most points.

What you need to know about English boxing punches

The primary goal of any boxing match is the knockout of the opponent. This requires that the punch delivered is so powerful that it hits the brain, thus causing a slight dizziness. The objective of the blows is therefore to destabilize the opponent, to knock him out.

Some examples of punches in boxing:

  • Uppercut : a punch directed upwards, which causes a violent tilt of the head backwards ;
  • Hook : a circular punch ;
  • Jab : a punch thrown in the middle, with varying degrees of momentum ;
  • Short jab : a punch delivered to the lower chest, with the thumbs facing up.
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