Boxing History, Rules and Divisions

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Boxing is the method of fighting with the fists either with or without gloves, though the latter method is not legal to-day, but at one time it was very common, and perhaps should really come under the heading of pugilism. In ancient times Boxing was practised at the Greek and Roman Gladiatorial spectacles. Among both the Greeks and Romans, however, the naked fist was not used, but a kind of glove known as the cestus (q.v.), made of leather and sometimes loaded with iron or lead. It was a terrible weapon, and these fights frequently proved fatal. Later a mixture of Boxing and wrestling, called Pancratium, became popular.

The rules were revised after sev. Contestants had been killed. It is in England, however, that the ‘noble art’, as it is sometimes called, attained a high state of proficiency. It first came into public notice in this country in the early part of the 18th cent. James Figg opened the first Boxing booth in London in 1719, and it continued to increase in popularity all through the reigns of the 4 Georges. Jack Broughton was the first man to think of using gloves for Boxing.  They were known as mufflers, and the same boxer also drew up the first set of rules. After Broughton’s death the public interest in the ring flagged a little, but a boxer named Tom Johnston stepped into the breach. From 1750 up to about 1820 the interest in the ring was enormous. All classes of society, high and low, took a part. Byron has related in his diary how he had lessons in Boxing from the famous ‘Gentleman’ Jackson, who made a fortune out of pugilism. Mendoza the Jew, Jem Belcher, Humphreys, Tom Cribb, Spring and Dutch Sam were all famous fighters of their day.

Gully was a pugilist who afterwards entered Parliament, and more extraordinary still was the case of Bendigo, who became a revivalist preacher, and of whom the story is told that he once used threats of a pugilistic nature to induce his congregation to give liberally to the collection. Since about 1820 the ring has been shorn of much of its glory, and the days of the `Corinthians’, the rich patrons of the ring, are now over. From 1850 to 1860 public interest was rearoused by the Boxing of such men as Sayers and Heenan, Broome and Mullins, but other sports have since grown in the public favour. Public interest has always tended to centre on the heavyweights, and among the more notable boxers who have held the world championship of this div. Since the latter part of the 19th cent. Are John L. Sullivan, James J. Corbett (q.v.), Bob Fitzsimmons, James J. Jeffries, Tommy Burns, Jack Johnson, Jess Willard, Jack Dempsey, ‘Gene’ Tunney, Joe Louis, ‘Rocky’ Marciano and Cassius Clay.

Professional boxing in Britain is under the sole control and jurisdiction of the Brit. Boxing Board of Control (Boxing B. Of C.), formed in 1929, and all contests are conducted under the rules laid down by this body. The board consists of 25 stewards, who are unpaid and have no financial interest in the sport. Their theoretical function resembles in a general way that of the stewards of the Jockey CluBoxing They are divided into 2 groups which deal respectively with administration (e.g. policy making) and disciplinary action (stewards of appeal). Although the B.B Of C. has no legal standing, it is regarded by the gov. as the responsible body. Before a foreign boxer can take part in a contest in Britain application must be made to and permission obtained from the Minister of Labour by the board, which is held responsible for the assessment and collection of his income tax.

In the U.S.A. Control is in the hands of state-appointed Boxing commissions and associations whose rules are the law of the state. Everyone having a financial interest in professional Boxing—boxers, managers, trainers, seconds, promoters, referees, etc.—is required to hold a Boxing B. of C. licence, for which an annual Fee is payable to the board, which also receives a percentage of the takings from all promotions. In the’ case of referees the applicant must be interviewed and approved and must then pass oral and practical examinations before a licence is granted. For administrative purposes the Boxing B. of C. divides Britain into 8 areas—Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland and 5 areas in England. Each area has its own council consisting of 19 members, elected to represent the interests of all parties. Each area also has its own medical officer.

The recognised weight categories of professional Boxing throughout the world are:

Flyweight 8 st. and under

Bantamweight 8 st. 6 lb And under

Featherweight 9 st. and under

Junior Lightweight 9 st. 4 lb And under

Lightweight 9 st. 9 lb And under

Junior Welterweight 10 st. and under

Welterweight 10 st. 7 lb And under

Middleweight 11 st. 6 lb And under

Light-heavyweight 12 st. 7 lb And under

Heavyweight Any Weight

Each contest must be for a specified number of rounds. No contest shall exceed 15 rounds nor be of less than 12 minute duration, except in the case of novice competitions where contests may be of 8 minute duration. There is now no question of contests being fought to a finish as in the days of the prize ring. Rounds must be of 3 minute duration with 1 min intervals. In novice contests 2-minute Rounds are permitted. The terms ‘fight’ and `knock-out’ are never used officially and have been replaced by ‘contests’ and ‘count out’. All contests are to be decided in a 3-roped ring (with the ropes joined in the centre of each side) not less than 14 ft or more than 20 ft square, and not less than 18 in. margin of ring floor outside the ropes. The floor is to be covered with canvas over a layer of felt. Corner posts are to be padded.

Boxers must shake hands before the commencement of the contest and before the beginning of the last round. Contestants must be stripped to the waist, use dark coloured shorts and box in regulation boots without heels or spikes. The gloves are to weigh 6 oz. Each and contestants to weigh in on the day of the contest. Breaking by twisting, and removal of the padding by fingering or thumbing from the potential part of the glove, is prohibited. If bandages are used, the length of bandage in each hand must not exceed the following: flyweight to middleweight, 9 ft; light-heavyweight and heavyweight, 12 ft; width must not exceed 1 in., and material must be the best adhesive tape; 9 ft of 2-in. Soft bandage (W.C.W., Boxing P.C.), as supplied by the board for championships, may also be used, except in the light-heavyweight and heavyweight divisions. When 12 ft of tape and 12 ft of bandage are allowed.

In all contests a referee, who must officiate inside the ring, and a timekeeper shall be appointed by the board. In contests of 6 rounds or under, 2 seconds for each boxer shall be allowed in the ring: in other contests 4 seconds are allowed for each boxer. The seconds shall leave the ring when ordered to do so by the timekeeper: the referee shall see that this is carried out. The seconds shall give no advice or assistance to the contestants during the progress of any round. Contestants must be medically examined immediately after the weigh-in on the date of the contests. The referee shall award a maximum number of 5 marks at the end of each round to the better man and a proportionate number to the other contestant or, when equal, the maximum number to each. Marks are awarded for ‘attack’—direct clean hits with the knuckle part of either glove on any part of the front or sides of the head or body above the belt (the belt is an imaginary line drawn across the body from the top of the hip bones), and for `defence’—guarding, slipping, ducking, or getting away.

Where contestants are otherwise equal, the majority of the marks shall be given to the one who does most of the leading off or who displays the better style. If a contestant is down, he must get up unassisted within 10 sec; his opponent meanwhile must retire to the farthest neutral corner and shall not resume Boxing until ordered to do so by the referee. A man is considered down even when he is on one or both feet, if at the same time any other part of his body is touching the ground, or when he is in the act of rising. A contestant failing to continue the contest at the expiration of 10 sec. Shall not be awarded any marks for that round, and the contest shall then terminate. If at the conclusion of any round during the contest, one of the contestants should attain such a lead on points as to render it an impossibility for his opponent to win, he must then be declared the winner.


The referee shall decide each contest in favour of the contestant who obtains the greater number of marks. The referee shall have the power to disqualify a contestant for any of the following acts: hitting below the belt, using the pivot blow, hitting on the back of the head or neck or on the kidneys, hitting with the open glove, or the inside or butt of the hand, the wrist, or elbow, for holding, butting, shouldering, wrestling or roughing, for ducking below the waistline, intentionally falling without receiving a blow or for any other act or conduct which he may deem foul. A contestant disqualified for any cause whatever shall not be entitled to any prize or remuneration, except in accordance with regulation 20, paragraph 16, of the Boxing B. of C. The referee, who has the power to stop the contest if in his opinion a contestant is outclassed or accidentally disabled, shall decide any question not provided for in the rules and the interpretation of any of these rules on matters arising during the time the contestants are in the ring. The referee’s decision is final. See G. E. Odd, Ring Battles of the Century, 1949; T. Leigh-Lye, The Squared Circle: from Corbett to Ezzard Charles, 1951; F. Mills, Learn to box with me, 1955.

Boxing history rules and divisions

Amateur boxing. In Great Britain amateur Boxing comes under the control of sev. Associations. The Amateur Boxing Association (A.B.A.) is the governing body in England, the Scottish A.B.A. In Scotland, and the Welsh A.B.A. In Wales. Amateur Boxing in Eire and N. Ireland comes under the jurisdiction of the Irish A.B.A. Wales was affiliated to the A.B.A. Until Dec. 1955, and Scotland also came within the A.B.A. Until about 1946. To-day each of these bodies is separately affiliated to the International Association. However, a joint consultative committee still enables the 3 associations to meet for the discussion of matters of mutual interest.

The A.B.A., formed in 1880, is the oldest such organisation in the world, and the original rules of most other associations and federations, including those of the world controlling body, Association International de Boxe Amateur (A.I.B.A.), have been based on those of the A.B.A. Evolution necessitates changes, and these original rules, whilst retaining their basic qualities, have been amended from time to time, to allow of such innovations as the refereein-the-ring, the audible count, etc. Tradition dies hard, however, and the A.B.A., parent of amateur Boxing, has often been amongst the last to adopt such changes. With H.Q. In London, the A.B.A. Governs amateur Boxing in all affiliated clubs in England, including all units of the services, pre-services organisations and all clubs within the National Association of Boys’ Clubs (see Boys’ CLUBS).

There are a number of Boxing clubs throughout the country which have chosen to affiliate to the A.B.A. It should be noted that a club does not become affiliated automatically on application. Certain minimum standards as to training facilities, equipment and instructors are necessary, and, of course, the fules of a club must be approved by the parent body. Fundamentally the regulations governing amateur Boxing and professional Boxing in Great Britain do not vary greatly. Important differences, however, are the following. Amateur Boxing contests are controlled by a referee (who does not score) and 3 judges seated at different sides of the ring (who give the decision at the end of a bout, if the referee has not stopped it, because of injury, for example, and given his sole decision); the wearing of a singlet, as in all other amateur sports; a ‘drawn’ decision may not be given. The raising of the winner’s hand, whilst possible under A.I.B.A. Rules, is not generally followed in England, except occasionally in international matches. Apart from certain junior classes, the weight of gloves is 8 oz.; the ring may vary from 12 ft to 20 ft square. Whilst amateur and professional Boxing in Great Britain are administered by 2 completely separate bodies, representatives from each meet from time to time to discuss mutual interests, and a close and friendly liaison is maintained.

Until 1950 the weights of the amateur and professional organisations were the same, but to lessen the disparity in weight in the more popular categories, the A.I.B.A. Increased the weight classes from 8 to 10. These metric weights, now adopted throughout the amateur world, and their avoirdupois equivalents used in Great Britain, are:

Flyweight 51 kg.

(8 st.: 112 lb)

Bantamweight 54 kg.

(8 st. 7 lb: 119 lb)

Featherweight 57 kg.

(9 st.: 126 lb)

Lightweight 60 kg.

(9 st. 7 lb: 133 lb)

Light Welterweight 63.5 kg.

(10 st.: 140 lb)

Welterweight 67 kg.

(10 st. 8 lb: 148 lb)

Light Middleweight 71 kg.

(11 st. 2 lb: 156 lb)

Middleweight 75 kg.

(11 st. 11 lb: 165 lb)

Light Heavyweight 81 kg.

(12 st. 10 lb: 178 lb)

Heavyweight over 81 kg.

(Any weight)

Affiliated clubs wishing to hold a tournament must obtain permission from the A.B.A. The 1 A.B.A. Appoints the main officials such as referees, judges, clerks of scales and often timekeepers. The duration of rounds varies with the type of competition or contest, as does the duration of the bout on occasion. Schoolboy Boxing, up to the age of 15, is left in the hands of the Schools A.B.A., which is affiliated to the A.B.A. Boxers over 45 are divided into Juniors, 15 to 17 years of age, and Seniors, over 17. Juniors for competition purposes have 2 classes: A (15-16 years), and B (16-17 years), and in addition are subdivided as ‘Junior Novices’ and ‘Juniors.’ Senior boxers are in 3 classes: ‘Novice’, ‘Intermediate’ and ‘Open.’

Whilst the A.B.A. Controls amateur Boxing in England there are throughout the country, for administrative purposes, various subsidiary associations, e.g. the London A.B.A., prov., co. and service associations, all of which have representation on the A.B.A. Council and many of its committees. Although all come under the `umbrella’ of the basic A.B.A. Regulations, they have autonomy in local affairs and can alter their rules to meet local conditions, subject to the A.B.A.’s permission. In recent years many of these subsidiary associations have instituted medical schemes, the forerunner being that of the London A.B.A. These schemes vary in minor respects throughout the country, but all have as their object the protection of the competitor.

Though normally participating in a number of international matches each season, the A.B.A.’s main event of the year is the final stage of the A.B.A. Championships, usually held on the last Friday in April at the Empire Pool and Sports Arena, Wembley. Prior to this eliminating championships are held, not only in England, but in Scotland and Wales, both of whom take part in the A.B.A. Championships. All championship bouts are decided over three 3-minute Rounds.

It is essential that all participants in amateur Boxing, whether they be competitors or officials, comply with the A.B.A. Definition of an amateur which is as follows: ‘An amateur is one who has never competed for a money prize, staked bet, or declared wager, who has not competed with or against a professional (except with the express sanction of the A.B.A.), and who has never taught, pursued, or assisted in the practice of athletic exercise as a means of obtaining a livelihood or pecuniary gain, or accepted money directly or indirectly for acting in an official capacity therein.’

Amongst the main functions of the International Association are the technical arrangements for the Olympic Games (q.v.) and the holding of the European championships. Unlike the former, which are held every 4 years, the latter are held every odd year (1957, 1959, et seq.), and are without doubt, the toughest proposition for competitors, outside the Olympic Games. Styles, of course, vary enormously, but style, important as it is, is a secondary factor in Boxing The first essential is to attack, and naturally to defend. Therein lies the strength of most of the continental experts of amateur Boxing, allied to the supreme fitness, without which success in this arduous sport must prove an elusive will-o’-the-wisp. Apart from the Olympic Games, European championships and certain other regional games, most nations find experience and competition through the medium of international matches. In this respect the A.B.A. Has provided its boxers, not p mention the public (physically present and televiewing) with a universal cross-section of amateur Boxing teams ranging from the U.S.A. To the U.S.S.R.


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