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boxing

boxing Forget the euphemistic ‘noble art of self-defence’; boxing is a human bloodsport in which the intention is to hurt one's opponents by delivering blows to their body and ultimately knocking them unconscious. It sanctions injury in the name of sport.

That said, modern boxing appears almost genteel alongside its prizefighting predecessor in which bareknuckled pugilists fought to exhaustion, with fights often lasting several hours. A round ended only when one combatant was floored; he then had half a minute's respite before placing his toe on a line scratched across the centre of the ring and resuming battle. Not until one fighter failed ‘to come up to scratch’ was a result declared: no wins on points in those days, just the objective test of an inability to continue. Early rounds were often hard slogging contests but the real physical damage came in the later stages when tiredness slowed defensive reflexes. Imagine too the state of even the winner's hands, protected only by having been soaked in brine.

With their combination of boxing and wrestling moves, early contests were literally ‘no holds barred’; grappling, punching, tripping, and throwing all being used to floor an opponent. The widely-adopted Broughton's Rules of 1743 eradicated some of the barbarism by outlawing the hitting of a man when he was down, and the seizing of hair or the body below the waist, but they still permitted butting. Yet it was not the brutality of the prize-ring which brought its demise, but the corruption with which it became associated.

The revival of the sport as boxing in late Victorian Britain saw several changes designed to render it more civilized. Although some of the old practices continued for a while — even the famous Queensbury Rules initially allowed endurance contests — by the turn of the century the general picture was one of boxing in gloves, limited-time rounds, points decisions after a fixed number of rounds had elapsed, and weight divisions, though the latter have accentuated problems of dehydration as fighters struggle to ‘make the weight’.

For much of the twentieth century the history of boxing has been one of crumbling resistance to changes intended to protect further the brains and bodies of participants. Between 1984 and 1993 eight boxers had died soon after fights in the UK; bantamweight Bradley Stone was added to the list in 1994. Following a report from a medical working party, which included neurosurgeons, the British Boxing Board of Control subsequently introduced mandatory annual magnetic resonance imaging scans for all boxers to replace the less sophisticated computerized tomography which had been compulsory only for those fighting eight rounds or more. Additionally, any boxer knocked out must wait 45 days (previously 28) before he again enters the ring competitively, and he must also have a hospital check. Ringside doctors may advise referees on a fighter's condition between rounds and may recommend that the contest be stopped. Doctors also examine each boxer at the conclusion of fights and paramedic teams must be on hand at all boxing bills.

The medical profession in several countries has increasingly adopted an anti-boxing stance, citing irreversible brain damage as its major objection to the sport. This is a key point for, in absolute terms of deaths and serious injuries, other sports such as horseracing, mountaineering, rugby, and even cricket appear more dangerous, but in none of them is deliberate and repeated striking of an opponent part of the rules of the game. In contrast a boxer has a licence for physical assault. The evidence is clear that repeated pummelling to the head can cause cumulative damage to the brain: here time is no great healer. Occasionally, acute brain injury can occur during a fight. The greatest danger comes towards the end when a tired man with a loose neck has his head flipped back rapidly by a punch. This can tear a vein outside or inside the brain, which then leaks blood, causing pressure on the brain and eventually leading to a coma. Only if the clot is removed rapidly can the fighter survive. Fighters now train harder; their bod-ies are fitter — but their brains are no more resilient than in the past. Some nations, notably Sweden, have already banned boxing on medical grounds.

So far the British government has been reluctant to follow the Swedish lead and since 1981 five private members' anti-boxing Bills proposed in parliament have failed to reach the statute books. Most schools, both state and public, however, have dropped boxing from their physical education curriculum. Yet it should be noted that amateur boxing is exceptionally well regulated: not more than four rounds are fought, headguards are worn, and the referee is allowed to stop a fight to prevent serious injury. However, headguards, whilst absorbing energy from punches, present an even larger target to be hit and thus the number of blows striking home may well increase. Indeed, studies have shown that non-boxing sportsmen outperform even amateur fighters in neurological tests and, notwithstanding the safety precautions, three amateur fighters have suffered serious brain injury in British rings since 1988.

For centuries boxing has been the epitome of overt masculinity, a demonstration of manliness and its embodying characteristics of courage, toleration of pain, and self-discipline. Women were merely ornaments displaying the round cards. This continues, but women have successfully demanded equal rights in the ring. In Britain, girls from the age of 10 are now allowed to spar in amateur boxing gyms, and recently professionalism, too, has been recognized for women — significantly later than its acceptance in the US where fights for women have appeared on the undercard of world championship events.

The moral dilemma of boxing is that it provides an honest opportunity to escape poverty, but it also means for some a legal beating and for all the threat of permanent damage. Hitting below the belt is outlawed to protect the genitals, but surely the brain deserves even more protection, by reducing the concussive power of the boxing glove, developing safer headgear, excluding the head as a target — or by banning the sport altogether. The issue is not how hazardous boxing is but whether the hazards are acceptable.

Wray Vamplew

Bibliography

BMA (1993). The boxing debate. British Medical Association, London.

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COLIN BLAKEMORE and SHELIA JENNETT. "boxing." The Oxford Companion to the Body. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. 27 Aug. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

COLIN BLAKEMORE and SHELIA JENNETT. "boxing." The Oxford Companion to the Body. 2001. Encyclopedia.com. (August 27, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O128-boxing.html

COLIN BLAKEMORE and SHELIA JENNETT. "boxing." The Oxford Companion to the Body. 2001. Retrieved August 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O128-boxing.html

boxing

boxing, sport of fighting with fists, also called pugilism and prizefighting.

Early History

Depicted on the walls of tombs at Beni Hasan in Egypt, dating from about 2000 to 1500 BC, boxing is one of the oldest forms of competition. A part of the ancient Olympic games, the sport was exhausting and brutal. The Greeks fought without regard for weight differentials and without interruption, a match ending only when a fighter lost consciousness or raised his hand in resignation. Boxers wound heavy strips of leather around their hands and wrists. Under Roman rule, these thongs (the caestus) were laced with metal, ensuring an abundance of blood. Statues of maimed boxers from late antiquity attest to the carnage. After the demise of the Olympics, boxing survived as a common sport. It persisted at local fairs and religious festivals throughout medieval Europe and was especially popular in the west and north of England, where it was often a combination of wrestling and street fighting.

The Organization of Boxing

In early 18th-century England, boxing, with the aid of royal patronage in the form of betting or offering prizes, became organized. James Figg, the first British champion (1719–30), opened a School of Arms, which attracted numerous young men to instruction in swordplay, cudgeling, and boxing—the "manly arts of self-defense." After delivering a fatal blow in a bout, Jack Broughton drew up (1743) the first set of rules. Though fights still ended only in knockout or resignation, Broughton's rules moderated the sport and served as the basis for the later London Prize-ring Rules (1838) and Queensbury Rules (1867). The latter called for boxing gloves, a limited number of 3-min rounds, the forbidding of gouging and wrestling, a count of 10 sec before a floored boxer is disqualified, and various other features of modern boxing.

Boxing in the United States

Until late in the 19th cent., American fighters established their own rules, which were few. Early matches, some of them free-for-alls, featured biting and gouging as well as punching. In most instances they were also illegal. In 1888, John L. Sullivan, a bare-knuckle champion and America's first sports celebrity, won a clandestine 75-round match.

New York legalized boxing in 1896, and other states soon followed suit. Although the reign (1910–15) of the first African-American heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson, disturbed the segregated society of the time, and although many continued to question boxing's social purpose, its inclusion in the Olympic games in 1904, its use for military training in World War I, its emergence as a source of discipline for youth, its regulation by state commissions, and its suggestion of national vitality strengthened its claims to legitimacy and bolstered its popularity through the 1920s and 30s. Heavyweight (over 190 lb/86.3 kg) champions Jack Dempsey (1919–26) and Joe Louis (1937–49) were national heroes, Louis becoming one of the first black athletes to gain wide popularity.

Since World War II, boxing has proceeded amid corruption and, at times, chaos. Rising admission prices, restriction of title fights to closed-circuit television, the proliferation of organizations claiming to sanction fights and proclaim champions, financial scandals, ring injuries and deaths, monopolistic practices by promoters, and claims of exploitation of lower-class fighters have threatened its appeal, yet the sport continues to attract huge audiences and investment. Great fighters like Muhammad Ali elicit admiration and fascination, while controversy surrounds others like the repeatedly imprisoned Mike Tyson.

Amateur Boxing

Amateur boxing, while not free from debate, has in recent decades taken steps to ensure safety and objective judging. The Golden Gloves national tournament has long been a stepping stone for young fighters, but the Olympics are the most visible forum for amateurs. Olympic boxers wear eight-ounce gloves and padded head gear and fight just three rounds of three min. Judges use electronic devices to record the scoring punches that determine the winner.

Bibliography

See N. S. Fleischer, Fifty Years at Ringside (1940); A. J. Liebling, The Sweet Science (1956); R. Roberts, Papa Jack (1983); E. Gorn, The Manly Art (1986, upd. ed. 2010); J. Sammons, Beyond the Ring (1988); G. Early, The Culture of Bruising (1994); K. Boddy, Boxing: A Cultural History (2008); G. Kimball and J. Schulian, ed., At the Fights: American Writers on Boxing (2011).

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Boxing

Boxing


Boxing, traditionally a sport of the least advantaged, proved a requirement for working class youth, who often settled ethnic, religious, and racial rivalries with their fists. African-American slaves who fought for the pleasure of their masters were among the first professional prizefighters. Even after Emancipation black youths were often forced or coerced into battles royal or group fights, sometimes blindfolded, while a surrounding cordon of white onlookers offered money to the winner.

By the latter nineteenth century boxing gained a slight measure of respectability as the sport became more organized with weight class championships under the sponsorship of Richard Kyle Fox, publisher of the National Police Gazette. More importantly, boxing offered a cloak of masculinity for men during this period who perceived an increasing feminization of American culture.

Working class youths saw the sport as an opportunity for social mobility as middle-class athletic clubs, newspapers, and even religious groups supported amateur teams and tournaments in the twentieth century. Successful fighters often progressed to the professional ranks where a series of ethnic immigrant groups enjoyed success. Irish, Jewish, and Italian champions won fame and symbolized a greater degree of assimilation in American culture.

Boxing was a controversial sport, and for a time was banned in many states. New York only legalized the sport in 1920. Three years later the Chicago Tribune sponsored a major boxing tournament, eventually known as the Golden Gloves, to challenge the New York team. Both cities became centers for the sport. By 1930 the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) joined the ranks of national boxing enterprises. The CYO team proved especially popular during the Depression, as it supplied its members with a full suit of clothes as well as medical and dental care. CYO fighters who opted for the professional ranks received guidance from program affiliated management teams. Others got jobs through the Catholic social and commercial network.

While the CYO and individual municipalities invoked age restrictions, usually age sixteen, professional boxing had (and still has) no age limitations. Wilfredo Benitez won a world championship at age seventeen. Teenage boys became heroes on local, civic, national, and international teams, often finding the esteem and recognition denied them in other spheres of life. The amateur bouts produced members of the Olympic teams and the professional ranks for the remainder of the twentieth century.

By the 1930s African-American boxers began to displace the white ethnics atop the ranks, joined by Hispanic fighters at mid-century. Girls, too, joined the amateur boxing ranks by the 1980s in training programs offered by park districts, police athletic associations, and private gyms. While most engaged in the activity in pursuit of personal fitness, a very visible minority joined the annual Golden Gloves tournaments for competition, with a select few attaining professional status in televised bouts. Though few have found material success in the pastime, boxing has assumed both historic and symbolic value in the physicality and toughness required and admired by working-class youth.

See also: Organized Recreation and Youth Groups; Sports.

bibliography

Gorn, Elliott J. 1986. The Manly Art: Bare Knuckle Prize Fighting in America. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Sammons, Jeffrey T. 1990. Beyond the Ring: The Role of Boxing in American Society. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Gerald R. Gems

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GEMS, GERALD R.. "Boxing." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 27 Aug. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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boxing

boxing Sport of fist fighting between two people wearing padded gloves within a roped-off ring. Boxers are classified in eight divisions according to weight: minimumweight (under 48kg/105lb), fly, bantam, feather, light, welter, middle and heavyweight (more than 88kg/195lb). Professional bouts are scheduled for four to 15 rounds of three minutes' duration. A fight is controlled by a referee in the ring, and ends when there is a knock-down (a boxer is unable to get to his feet by a count of ten) or a technical knockout (one fighter is seriously injured). If both boxers finish the scheduled number of rounds, the winner is determined by a ringside referee or three judges. Boxing developed from bareknuckle fighting when the Marquess of Queensberry's rules introduced timed rounds and padded gloves in 1866. Despite worldwide popularity, boxing is under increasing pressure to introduce further safety measures or be abolished, with brain damage, comas and deaths becoming worryingly regular. The international sport is now controlled by three major rival organizations: the World Boxing Association (WBA), the World Boxing Council (WBC), and the International Boxing Federation (IBF).

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boxing

boxing developed from uncontrolled encounters, in which wrestling, kicking, gouging, biting, hair-pulling, and kicking opponents when down were practised. Early prize fights went on until one of the combatants could not continue: Mendoza fought Henry Lee over 53 rounds in 1806. James Figg in the 1720s was hailed as the champion of All England and his protégé Jack Broughton tried in the 1740s to introduce some elementary rules, such as rounds. By 1838 London Prize Ring rules were in use, with a roped-off ring. The Queensberry rules from 1867 onwards took some time to establish themselves: they included padded gloves, 3-minute rounds, and a 10-second knock-out. Weight divisions were gradually introduced where previously heavyweights had dominated. The Amateur Boxing Association was set up in 1880 and boxing was brought into the Olympic Games in 1904. In professional boxing, the British Board of Control has supervised since 1919, though international authorities have proliferated. The introduction of radio and then television has vastly increased the purses which boxers can command.

J. A. Cannon

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Boxing

55. Boxing

See also 26. ATHLETICS .

pancratiast
a person skilied in the art of boxing or wrestling. pancratiastic , adj.
pugilism
the art or practice of fighting with fists; boxing. pugilistic , adj.
pugilist
a person who flghts with his flsts; prizeflghter.

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boxing

box·ing / ˈbäksing/ • n. the sport or practice of fighting with the fists, esp. with padded gloves in a roped square ring according to prescribed rules.

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