Saturday, January 7, 2012

Origins of Modern Boxing

Boxing, or pugilism, is called "the manly art of self-defense." It is personal combat with only fists for weapons, known since antiquity wherever tempers flared into conflict. However, when it became a contest with rules and people who earned prizes and money by boxing, it became a professional sport in which two competitors slug each other with gloved fists while trying to evade each other's best punches. Its recorded history begins in ancient Rome.
Roman Origins
During Roman times, professional boxing was played for high-stakes prizes, personal freedom or survival in a contest to the death. Skilled Roman boxers were professional because they earned their living in organized, rule-bound, popular sporting contests. The Roman fighters wound leather straps around their fists for a fight. These served as hand protection and sometimes included metal-filled, leather coverings called cesti, according to historians reporting for White Collar Boxing. This was most often done in duel-to-death battles. Boxing disappeared as a professional sport after the fall of the Roman Empire.
19th Century Revival
In the 19th century, boxing was revived as an amateur, club sport in England under the Marquis of Queensberry Rules written by John Graham Chambers in 1865. However, in 1891, the original 12 rules were expanded with nine more by London's private National Sporting Club, NSC. The new rules enabled the NSC to promote a series of regular, professional gloved-fistfights on its premises. The new rules gave the officials more specific responsibilities and established a scoring system by which the referee could fairly and unambiguously declare a winner.
Early Title Fights
The British fifth earl of Lonsdale awarded the first of 22 title belts to a winner in 1909. By 1919, boxing had advanced to a point requiring a controlling authority. The British Boxing Board of Control, BBBC, was formed, linked to the NSC until the club's closing in 1929. The BBBC continued awarding Lonsdale belts to British boxers who won three title fights in their weight division. The predominance of Lonsdale title competitions in each weight class characterized British professional boxing throughout the early years of the 20th century, according to chroniclers of the sport at Boxing Beginners.
The Move to the United States
By the end of World War I, the acknowledged center of boxing moved to the United States, where its popularity had been growing. The generally accepted "world champions" were the fighters named in the "Police Gazette." Beginning in 1920, the National Boxing Association, NBA, established its authority to sanction title fights. "Ring Magazine," founded about the same time, listed title champions and awarded the championship belts. In 1962 the NBA renamed itself the World Boxing Association, WBA. In 1963 and 1983, respectively, the rival World Boxing Council and the International Boxing Federation were formed. By the late 20th century, all three organizations had to recognize a boxer to established the "undisputed world champion." "Ring Magazine" continues to list the world champions and its rankings are generally accepted as the most authoritative in the 21st century.

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