History of boxing

Boxing is one of our most ancient sports, with evidence that it was enjoyed up to six thousand years ago in Ethiopia. Engravings in stone showing scenes of boxing have been found in Iraq, suggesting that five thousand years ago, its inhabitants (the ancient Sumerians) enjoyed an early ancestor of what we now know as boxing. From these origins, the sport spread to Egypt, where cave paintings thought to be two thousand years old depict boxers.

This pass-time then spread to Europe, and thrived in Greece, where one version of boxing involved two opponents sitting facing each other, and beating each other until one emerged victorious (when his opponent was knocked unconscious).

Romans developed the sport further by introducing the ring. They also began to wrap their fists in leather bands with metal studs to use as weapons. It was not long until the sport became so dangerous that it was banned by the Romans in about 30BC.

This ban and the surge of Christianity quashed the spread of boxing and it is thought that it was not taken up again until the seventeenth century in Britain. Bare knuckles clashed in the re-emerged sport, making it marginally less brutal than the Roman version.

With its renewed popularity came attempts to regulate boxing. For information on the London Prize Ring Rules and the Queensberry Rules, see the ‘History of boxing rules’ section below.

The boxing craze crossed the Atlantic to become an enormous success in America. Despite a dip in popularity in Britain shortly after World War II, when televisions were becoming more widespread, boxing has since gone from strength to strength, with boxing icons such as Mohammad Ali household names.