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Early Boxing (to 1838)


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Fighting with fists was a sport about 6,000 years ago in what is now known as Ethiopia, from where it spread to ancient Egypt and eventually throughout the Mediterranean area. Ancient Crete also had a boxing-like sport, which probably developed independently, about 1,500 B.C.


Although the sport wasn't added to the ancient Olympic program until 688 B.C., some sort of boxing had become pretty well established among the Greeks before that time. In one form of Greek boxing, the two combatants simply sat on stones facing and pounded away at one another until one of them was knocked out.


Boxing in the Olympics wasn't quite that brutal, but there were no breaks in the action. Fighters wore leather thongs, originally to protect their hands and wrists. As time went on, harder leather was used, turning the thongs into weapons.


The Romans added iron or brass studs, creating the cestus, which could be a deadly weapon. Then they went even farther, developing a cruel, spur-like instrument of bronze, called the myrmex ("limb piercer"). Boxing in the Roman Empire was not so much a sport as a bloody amusement for spectators, like the gladiatorial contests, with slaves pitted against one another in a fight to the death.


The myrmex was finally abolished and boxing itself was banned by Rome about 30 B.C. The Romans had made one small contribution to the sport: They invented the ring, originally a simple marked circle.


With the spread of Christianity, pugilism in any form evidently disappeared from Europe completely. It resurfaced in England in the late 17th century. A London newspaper referred to a bout in 1681, and the Royal Theatre in London was the site of regularly scheduled matches in 1698.


The sport at that time was actually a mixture of wrestling and boxing. Although hitting with fists was emphasized, a boxer could grab and throw his opponent, then jump on him and hit him while he was down.


James Figg, who opened a boxing academy in London in 1719, introduced a measure of skill to the sport. Figg was an expert fencer as well as a boxer, and his academy was patterned after the fencing academies of the period. He taught parrying and counter-punching, just as fencing masters taught parries and ripostes to their students.


Figg won great publicity for his academy by challenging all comers to bouts of boxing or cudgeling, He never lost, and was generally considered champion of Great Britain until he retired in 1730.


His success inspired the establishment of several other boxing academies in London, and the fact that he was a fencer also gave the sport some prestige. A number of "gentlemen amateurs" took up boxing as a pastime. They also became enthusiastic fans at prize fights.


One of Figg's pupils, Jack Broughton, became known as the "father of English boxing." Broughton, generally acknowledged as champion from 1729 to 1750, taught boxing and operated an arena in London. In 1743, he drew up the first formal rules for the sport.


Under Broughton's rules, there was a 3-foot square in the center of the ring. When a fighter was knocked down, his handlers had 30 seconds to get him into position on one side of the square, facing his opponent. In effect, this marked the first division of a bout into rounds, since each knockdown ended fighting for at least 30 seconds. Although wrestling holds were permitted, a boxer was not allowed to grab his opponent below the waist.


Broughton also invented the first boxing gloves, known as "mufflers," to protect not only the hands but also the face from blows. However, they were used only in practice, not in actual fights.


The rules devised by Broughton were used throughout England with only minor modifications until 1838, when the Pugilistic Society (founded in 1814) developed the London Prize Ring Rules. The new code called for a ring 24 feet square, enclosed by two ropes. A knockdown marked the end of a round. After a 30-second break, the fighters were given eight seconds to "come to scratch," unaided, in the center of the ring.




I use WOT (Web of Trust) and they have it marked as red. So browser be cautious, just in case..



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