Early Boxing – The Brutal Begining Of One Of The Worlds Toughest Sports

Primitive men probably used a mixture of wrestling and fighting when they met their enemies, but organized fist fighting did not become popular until a Greek monarch called Thesus around 900 BC.
greek boxers

Thesus would instruct the fighters that they had to fight to the death. They were made to sit on stones opposite each other and punch at each other until one of them was dead.

One of the best known boxers of this era was a gladiator called Damoxene his power was immense.

This form of fighting was included in a type of combat called Pankration. The only protection that these fighters had for their hands was a type of boxing glove called the cestus this was leather but with either stones or wood added for extra pain infliction.






After the end of the Roman empire, boxing ha declined for hundreds of years. It all started again in England around the 17 century this became a way for arguments to be settled there were often crowds who would pay to see these grudge fights. The fights were so popular that the fights had to be held outside so that there was enough space for all the blood thirsty on-lookers. These fighters fought without the protection of gloves. The round usually ended when one knocked down. There was then 30 seconds for him to gain composure and then return to the centre of the ring if he wished or was capable of continuing.

bare knuckle boxing



It is believed that Jack Broughton was the first bare knuckle fighter in 1723 to roughly outline a set of rules.

Jack Broughton


In the 18th century criminals realized that there was money to be made and quickly started to have the fights “fixed” so that the results of the fights were known before the fighters even started to fight.

two men bare knuckle boxing

In New Orleans in 1893, Andy Bowen and Jack Burke, Known as the Irish Lad , boxed in a fight which ended in a draw the fight lasted for 110 rounds and took seven hours and ten minutes, imagine fighting for that long !

On a visit to Tonga the new arrivals witnessed ladies having a go, these ladies weren’t scared of getting a bloody nose they just got stuck in.Ladies bare knuckle boxing

 The gloves are on

In the late 19th century things began to get a little more civilized, the Queensberry rules were taking shape gone were the 110 round fights now the fights had to be no longer than 20 rounds and the rounds only lasted for 3 minutes  how lazy ? The gloves that were worn weighed in at 170 grams. They even allowed him 10 seconds to recover and get to his feet if he was knocked down, what a gent, If the fight was not ended the fighters would be given a score for the amount of punches landed.

There were weight divisions which were flyweight under 50.8-2 Kgs to  heavyweight over 79.378 Kgs each weight division could now have it’s own champion. There were four basic punches that were allowed . The jab The straight right the hook and the upper cut


punches image

 Fighting for a title

Boxing has always attracted money from as early as 1805 a boxer called Hen Pearce was paid a purse of £1000 for fighting John Gully even by today’s standards that was a large sum of money, when you consider that a pint of milk back then would only of cost you 0.01 pence, could of bought a lot of bread for a £1000.

In 1927 Gene Tully was paid $1000000 for defending his title against Jack Dempsey. As we approach the middle of the 20th century the amounts of money in boxing were becoming obscene when you consider that Muhamed Ali AKA Casius Clay was paid $5000000 dollars for a single fight.

Not all fighters earn these sums of cash there is normally an apprenticeship in which boxers have to learn their craft- for free.

It is hard to make a living as a professional boxer. Most have to first win many amateur bouts (usually 3 3 minute rounds), before hopefully being spotted by a manager. Even when the boxer finds a manager the journey will still be hard as most new professionals have got day jobs. This combined with having to train hard for each bout means that boxing as a professional is not for everyone. But as with most good things in life hard work and dedication could have huge rewards.