Boxing is a physical contest between two combatants who use their fists to achieve supremacy over their opponent. Like wrestling, boxing has ancient roots, as it was well known to the cultures of Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea before it was first included in the Greek Olympics in 688 BC. Boxing was later known as pugilism, a derivative of the Latin term for a fighter, from which comes the slang term "pug." Paradoxically, the often brutal and unsophisticated thuggery of the boxing ring earned the affectionate title "the sweet science," as the sport became increasingly popular throughout the world in the twentieth century.
In England, boxing was an underground activity into the 1700s. Fighters fought with bare knuckles, and the contests were wars of attrition, rarely decided by a single blow or flurry of punches, but through the cumulative effect of many rounds of combat. Deaths were not uncommon, and boxing, or prize fighting, was banned until the mid-1850s. A similar situation persisted in the United States during the nineteenth century, as many cities banned boxing matches.
Two developments served to legitimize boxing to a significant degree. The first was the work of the Eighth Marquees of Queensbury, a member of the English aristocracy, who in 1865 published his now-famous Rules. The 12 Rules of the Marquees have since remained the essence of boxing competitions throughout the world. The key elements of the Queensbury rules are the division of a boxing match into three-minute rounds, followed by a one-minute interval; permitting a boxer who is knocked to the surface of the ring an interval of 10 seconds to resume the fight; having each fighter wear proper-sized gloves; and ruling down a fighter that has been knocked to one knee.
The second development to boost the public profile of boxing was the emergence of John L. Sullivan of Boston, the first world heavyweight champion in 1885. Sullivan was beaten for his title in dramatic fashion in 1892 by American "Gentleman Jim" Corbett, the first of the reputed scientific fighters, who relied on speed and finesse to exploit an opponent's weaknesses.
Boxing made its debut in the modern Olympic Games in St. Louis in 1904. It has remained a sport where the competition is organized along weight classification lines, as it is presumed in boxing, like wrestling and judo, that the heavier competitor is generally the stronger competitor. With some variations as to categories, all professional boxing, as well as amateur competition, is determined by weight class.
The governing body of international boxing and Olympic boxing is the International Boxing Association (AIBA; the acronym includes a reference to the term amateur that is no longer used by the AIBA).
The only significant differences between professional and Olympic boxing are the use of protective gear and the length of the rounds in each bout. In Olympic competition, all fighters must wear protective headgear and each round is two minutes in duration, with one-minute intervals, and four rounds in total. Professional bouts can last from between eight and 15 rounds, depending on the weight classification and the sanctioning organization. (Professional boxing has a number of organizations, each of which claims to be the official authority regarding the rules of the sport.)
Scoring in the sport of boxing is similarly varied between Olympic, amateur, and professional bodies, but the general principles are consistent across the sport. A knockout is the result of a legal blow delivered by a fighter that sends the opponent to the surface of the ring (often termed the canvas, in reference to the material used on the floors of early boxing rings), when the opponent cannot regain his (or her) feet within 10 seconds of going down. A technical knockout is one of a number of circumstances in which the referee determines that the fight cannot continue, including a fighter not being able to continue at the end of a round ("answer the bell"); or when the fighter has been knocked down repeatedly and the referee forms the opinion that the fighter cannot safely continue.
Boxing matches are scored by the referee who is in the ring to maintain order and to enforce the rules of the sport, as well as by three judges stationed outside the ring who assess the fight based on a scoring system. Each punch that, in the opinion of the referee, lands on the opponent's head or body will score a point. In Olympic competition, the gloves used by the fighters have a target area marked across the area of the fighter's fists; only blows delivered with that part of the glove to the body or head will score. Penalties may be imposed in the scoring system for such items as a low blow, which is a punch delivered below the belt line of the opponent; a head butt; or any other type of contact that is not permitted by the rules. When the fight is not concluded with either a knockout or a technical knockout at the end of the last round, the fighter with the highest number of points will be deemed the winner. If the points total is equal, the fight is declared a draw.
There is no question that an elite-level heavyweight fighter, who may weigh as much as 240 lb (110 kg) or more, will possess the physical capability to deliver a powerful punch. No matter how strong a fighter may be, all boxers seek to develop a range of punches and corresponding tactics in which all types of punches are employed. All boxers typically assume a fighting stance throughout the course of a match. The fighting stance is similar to the traditional athletic stance common to the execution of many sports, with the knees bent and the hips flexed to permit agility and the establishment of a stable position. In the fighting stance, the boxer's hands are maintained in a defensive position in front of the head, to protect against punches aimed there.
The jab is a punch in the arsenal of every boxer. It is a blow delivered from the shoulder, the fighter square to the opponent, with the fist snapped forward. The jab is used as a punch to establish a tactical base from which other punches may be thrown. The hook is delivered from an angle to the opponent's body, with the blow transcribing an arc, usually targeted to the opponent's head. A cross is a shorter punch, delivered at an angle across the head of the opponent. An uppercut is a punch that begins with the hand positioned below the fighting stance being driven upward in a short arc toward the head of the opponent. There are a multitude of variations on these basic boxing blows.
A counterpunch is a blow delivered in an immediate response to one received from an opponent. A combination is a series of two or more different punches thrown consecutively. The boxer's footwork is of critical importance to the delivery of a strong punch from a balanced position. Footwork that permits the boxer to maintain balance as the blows are delivered and absorbed is the base on which an effective punch can be delivered; an ability to move gracefully and with agility will often permit a boxer to escape dangerous encounters with the opponent.
The tactics employed in a boxing match are a combination of a particular boxer's strengths, the opponent's perceived weaknesses, and the status of the fight at a given time. When a fighter believes that he or she is "behind on points" as the fight enters the last scheduled round, the fighter will be compelled to go on the offensive and seek a winning knockout. The opponent, believing to be in the lead, will fight a correspondingly conservative fight, seeking to protect that lead.
Boxing training is a very physically demanding process. Boxing is a sport that is anaerobic, in terms of the intervals of high intensity activity contained within each round; it is also aerobic in its requirements that the boxer build a powerful physical recovery mechanism, to assist the body in returning to its natural balance between each round. Effective boxing programs will make ample provision for the development of both energy systems. Boxers have traditionally employed skipping and running (road-work) to enhance their cardiovascular proficiency.
Boxing, with its emphasis on stability in delivering and absorbing a punch, requires outstanding core strength development. The abdominal, gluteal, lumbar, and groin muscles and connective tissues are areas of particular attention in a boxing training program. Abdominal crunches, Swiss ball exercises, and back extension work are examples of these core strength exercises.
Agility, lateral quickness, and hand-eye coordination are fundamental to boxing success. Many boxers employ different types of plyometrics exercises to maintain quickness and explosive power. The mechanics of the delivery of a punch require the instant coordination of footwork with arm action; when the blow is attempted on an unstable base, the blow will result in an off-balance body position for the fighter at the end of the delivery, compromising both the fighter's defensive position as well as the power that can be transferred to the target.
Unless the boxer is a heavyweight and therefore not limited by the rules of a weight division, all other boxers must organize their weight training in accordance with the maximum size permitted by the rule. Weight training aims to reduce the percentage of body fat in the fighter to the lowest healthy level possible to permit greater muscle development.
The physical risks of boxing are many; the larger the fighters and the more power with which they are able to throw a punch, the correspondingly greater risk of injury to the opponent. Lacerations to the face, fractured noses, damage to the ear cartilage ("cauliflower ear"), and similar injuries caused by punches to these areas are common to boxers. The most serious boxing injuries are those caused by a blow or a series of blows to the head, most commonly concussion and subdural hematoma. Concussion is a brain injury in which the brain is violently moved within the fluid that supports it within the skull. The