These days the sport of boxing is often associated with the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Mike Tyson. However, this ancient sport has an extremely vast history dating back to Egypt around 3000 BC. The earliest physical evidence of boxing appears in a range of Sumerian relief carvings from way back in the 3rd millennium BC. These carvings depict both boxers and spectators, with boxers shown with bare fists and no gloves or wraps in sight.

Sumerian relief carvings from the 3rd millennium BCE
Journal of Combative Sport, July 2010

 

Various types of boxing existed throughout the ancient world in places such as India, Iraq and of course Ancient Greece. The Greeks in-particular cherished the sport of boxing and over the years it became extremely well developed and was enjoyed by all walks of life – the rich and the poor. Boxing became so popular that in the late 7th century BC it was introduced to the ancient Olympic Games. In these days’ protection was minimal and all that was worn were soft leather thongs used to wrap around boxers’ hands and arms. Sometimes boxers would even use nothing on their hands (ouch). Due to this, matches were far shorter, and injuries were quite obviously far, far more common.

This love of boxing also spread throughout the Mediterranean into Ancient Rome where like Ancient Greece people greatly enjoyed spectating the sport. At this time Rome was fuelled by the concept of violence as a form of entertainment (e.g. gladiators and lions in the Colosseum). As a result of this, leather thongs were substituted for caestus (ancient battle gloves made with leather straps and often filled with iron blades and spikes). This change took the intensity of boxing up a notch and there were often fatalities or serious injuries following boxing matches.

Once the Roman Empire collapsed, the sport of boxing was somewhat lost until it resurfaced years later in 17th century England. At this time (approximately 1860) the sport of boxing took off again in the form of amateur boxing and was more controlled than ever before. Five Weight classes were introduced: Bantam (54kg or lower), Feather (57kg or lower), Light (63.5 or lower), Middle (73kg or lower) and Heavy (any weight). Weight classes would determine who fighters would fight against depending on their weight and stature to make the match fairer. These same weight classes still exist today with the addition of three others. Marquis John Szolto Douglas was a Scottish nobleman who formed the basis of modern boxing through the introduction of “Queensberry Rules”. This is essentially a set of twelve rules that outline how boxing matches should go ahead. Two of the main rules are that:

  1. Fights should be “a fair stand-up boxing match”.
  2. Fights should always take place in a 24-foot-square or similar ring.

Marquis John Szolto Douglas was also the prime coordinator of the first amateur boxing matches in 1867. Later this century in 1880 the Amateur Boxing Association (ABA) was founded and still exists to this day.

In 1904 boxing made its modern Olympic Games debut at the 1904 Summer Olympic Games held in St Louis, USA. Since its introduction, boxing has been included at every Olympics Games since. Of course, rules and equipment have been altered and developed over the years but the sport at heart has remained the same. Speaking of developments, at the 2012 Olympics a women’s boxing event was also introduced, shifting Olympic boxing from a male only event to now inclusive of all genders. Instead of eleven men’s events, the structure was reworked to showcase 10 men’s and three women’s events.

In the 19050’s sports sponsorships in boxing became increasingly popular. Famous fighters by the likes of Sugar Ray Robinson, Rocky Marciano and Floyd Patterson were often seen using and endorsing sports related products on camera. From Nike to Everlast, these days sports sponsorships in boxing have a world of their own. They add economic benefit to the sport of boxing, not to mention prominent fighters are paid thousands to endorse these brands and their products.

Over the years the equipment and protection gear used in boxing has changed dramatically. From nothing at all, to leather hands wraps to nowadays custom boxing gloves. All had their purpose and assisted in developing the ever-growing need for the invention of the boxing glove. It seems strange to think that years ago no protection was worn for a sport as physically intensive as boxing. These days the most common injury is a black eye, which in the scheme of things is not that bad compared to what boxers experienced years back when no form of protection was used.

2020 saw the world of boxing take a hard hit. Matches were cancelled or postponed with no clear return to normalcy in sight. As the year went on fighters slowly were able to begin boxing again in front of small crowds, something that was greatly missed by all. Today in 2021 the sport of boxing is stronger than ever. Matches are beginning to regain traction and a familiar sense of normality and routine has returned. The future of boxing is bright. There is set to be thousands more fights and millions more fans all united over ONE iconic sport, boxing.