"He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life." - Muhammad Ali

Considering his unanimous position amongst the Pantheon of Boxing's Legends, and arguably the greatest pound for pound fighter in the history of this sport, there is little risk when listening to Ali!

If there is a risk it's the black and blue bruises that could result from a bout, or worst, the Knockout (KO) which is very rare amongst amateur boxers. So yes, you might have guessed, the topic here is Boxing, more specifically Western Boxing, or Pugilism, the King of hand to hand combat. 

This noble art,  aptly called, is not as well known as one might think considering that English boxing is very present in the popular culture of all countries, whether it be in books, in cinema or in literature!

But the average person seldom puts on the gloves, being content with football, dance or athletics ...

Stand out then, and get on the ring!

However, before making this salutary decision, you must know abit of things about this kind of combat sport...

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The Fundamentals of Boxing

No doubt you already know them (unconsciously at least), because when the average person thinks of boxing, he usually thinks of Western or English  Boxing, overrepresented in the arts and society compared to other styles of boxing.

Usually, it matches two boxers, equipped with boxing gloves (they are padded), and puts them in a ring for twelve rounds.

A boxing match from the 50s
Little has changed in the history of boxing, one can see that the rules come from its predecessor, bare knuckle boxing - we are lucky for the gloves!

It's very clearly a fighting sport. Violence plays a central role, this is clear, but there are rules and techniques that elevate this from a crude brawl into a sport of champions - the ten second knockout rule , which is counted out loud by the referee, makes sure that the fight is a competition and not a senseless beating.

The fight is also divided into rounds which vary according to federationa etc. but usually consist of a three minute round of fighting followed by a one minute break where the Fighters return to their corners to rest but also to take advice from their team and trainer. Every fighter has their assigned corner, one might have heard the famous "In the Blue Corner " followed by the weight of the challenger and "In the Red Corner" etc. The corner is like the sideline or bench and it is a fighters best friend (When their opponent is not being saved by the bell!)

A ring side clock usually on the referee's table keeps track of the rounds and breaks and will also usually issue a 10 second chime to show that the particular round is coming to a close.

There are three rounds of three minutes in many amateur boxing leagues ( or four two minute rounds in Women's amateur boxing). The pro's have a twelve round system. There is always one referee who is in charge of monitoring the fight and "counting the boxer" when he is down.

Only punches above the waist are legal, and as should go without saying, only the use of the fists are allowed in a match. Clinching, the technical term for holding another boxer in a hug, is legal for very short periods of time - the referee will actively decide this during the fight.

Here is a quick point reference from the British Boxing Board of Control

3.31 Points will be awarded:-

For “attack” – direct clean hits with the knuckle part of the glove of either hand to any part of the front or side of the head or body above the belt.The “belt” is defined as an imaginary line drawn across the body from the top of the hip bones.

For “defence” – guarding, slipping, ducking or getting away from an attack. Where contestants are otherwise equal the majority of points will be given to the one who does most leading off or displays the better style.

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Learning the different boxing techniques is a great way to stay in shape

Speed bags, heavy bags, shadow boxing, jump rope, the list goes on and one can immediately see that the benefits of boxing extend beyond the ring and can also help non boxers get into great shape!

The main weapons in the boxers arsenal are the Jab, the Cross,  the Hook and the Uppercut. A boxer will usually begin by perfecting his footwork and basic combos before going into more complicated counters. Slipping, bobbing and Blocking are the fundamentals of defense. A strong foundation will go a long way!

In the spectacular multi-million dollar purse Las Vegas fights there seems to be a penchant for the Knockout and not having headgear is argued to favor this type of show. These are however very well trained and versed fighters, so it is no surprise that amateur boxers are required protective headgear. Olympic boxers are also required to wear protective gear due to the more technical scoring of the fights and the need for a higher level of safety.

The scoring system used in professional boxing is called the 10-Point Must System. These are the basics for scoring a round:

  • Judges score on a 10-point scale. Most rounds will end 10-9, with the more dominant boxer receiving 10 points, the other receiving 9.
  • If a boxer is knocked down, he loses a point. If a boxer is knocked down twice, he loses two points. If both fighters are knocked down, the knockdowns cancel each other out.
  • While uncommon, if a fighter completely dominates a round but doesn’t score a knockdown, a judge can still score that round 10-8.
  • If a judge deems the round completely even, both fighters receive 10 points.
  • When the referee sees fit, he can take away a point or two for an intentional foul; he can do the same for unintentional ones, but that usually occurs after at least a warning.

Resistance and endurance are key factors in a boxing bout, Twelve three minute rounds might not seem like a long time when you are watching from a couch, but one usually sees that veteran fighters still have their legs and energy well into the 8th and 9th round.

Offence is also as important as Defense, as the old Boxing quote states " It only takes one ticket to win the lottery" (One punch to KO!)

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A Brief History of British Boxing

Combat sport has been a part of our history since its earliest days , as we can see from the myriad of  sports such as Boxing, Wrestling, Karate and so and so forth, from all corners and epochs of the world.

There are many different accounts on the birth of Boxing as we know it, ranging from the Sumerians in the 3rd Century Bc to the Romans and their invention of the boxing glove. 17th century England would see the return of boxing in the gambling tradition that it still holds today, when in January 1681 a Butcher and a Butler went three rounds in the world's first "recorded" match. It would take years before the rules, regulations and weight divisions we have today!

Keep in mind that at this time the tradition of the sport is a bare knuckle one (ouch) the gloves still far away from making a come back! The world's first boxing champion is James Figg in 1719, a master of arms and clearly a very tough man!

It would be his apprentice, Jack Broughton, who after killing a man in the ring would become champion of some of the rules we have today.

His efforts and work would be continued by the famous Queensberry Marquis John Sholto Douglas and by the journalist John Graham Chambers. The protective gloves become mandatory after 1865,  and it is also  forbidden to hit an opponent on the ground or to slock into  body-to-body clinches or of course to attempt suffocation of the opponent!

Thanks to their efforts there is more emphasis on agility and - so to speak! - on finesse.

But all boxers do not accept these sixteen fundamental rules and  in 1889, the American John Sullivan is still world champion with his bare hands, while the longest boxing bout in history was just finishing in 1893: In New Orleans where Jack Burke and Andy Bowen are declared equal winners after more than seven hours of fighting spread over one-hundred and ten rounds! Wow!

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Equipment and Weight Categories in Boxing

Even Mike Tyson and Ali started out as Amateur boxers, so let's take a look at some of the things you will need on your road to the Heavy Weight Championship Belt!

In amateur boxing, it is necessary to bring bag gloves, boxing shoes (adapted to the slight bounce of an enclosure), a shell, a mouthguard and a boxing helmet even if it could be banned from  competition in 2018!

Also to note is the possibility of non-combat forms of boxing which are inspired by the characteristics and aspects of regular boxing. 

We must also keep in mind the imperatives of training that require: spare tracksuits (or boxing shorts + T-shirt), good socks, punching bag, punching ball (different punching bag), speed bag, rope to jump, drawbar (or bar), dumbbells or even any other fitness equipment or weight machines (unless, of course, you box in a club or have access to a good gym other than a boxing gym ).

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No matter the style of boxing, you should always wear safety equipment
Being an Amateur boxer is usually a stepping stone to being a professional and one should not assume, or can at their own peril, that amateur boxers are not tough and well versed fighters!

Here is a list of the traditional weights per category in Professional Men's Boxing:

  • minimumweight, 105 pounds (48 kg)
  • light flyweight, 108 pounds (49 kg)
  • flyweight, 112 pounds (51 kg)
  • super flyweight, 115 pounds (52 kg)
  • bantamweight, 118 pounds (53.5 kg)
  • super bantamweight, 122 pounds (55 kg)
  • featherweight, 126 pounds (57 kg)
  • super featherweight, 130 pounds (59 kg)
  • lightweight, 135 pounds (61 kg)
  • super lightweight, 140 pounds (63.5 kg)
  • welterweight, 147 pounds (67 kg)
  • super welterweight, 154 pounds (70 kg)
  • middleweight, 160 pounds (72.5 kg)
  • super middleweight, 168 pounds (76 kg)
  • light heavyweight, 175 pounds (79 kg)
  • cruiserweight, 200 pounds (91 kg)
  • heavyweight, unlimited

Here is a list of Women's Boxing  weights

  • Pinweight (up to 101lb, 45.8kg)
  • Light Flyweight (106lb, 48.1kg)
  • Flyweight (110lb, 49.9kg)
  • Light Bantamweight (114lb, 51.7kg)
  • Bantamweight (119lb, 53.9kg)
  • Featherweight (125lb, 56.7kg)
  • Lightweight (132lb, 59.9kg)
  • Light Welterweight (138lb, 62.6kg)
  • Welterweight (145lb, 65.8kg)
  • Light Middleweight (154lb, 69.9kg)
  • Middleweight (165lb, 74.8kg)
  • Light Heavyweight (176lb, 79.8kg)
  • Heavyweight (over 189lb, 85.7kg)

Unfortunately, and not free from debate, boxers weighing in in-between these categories are excluded from  the Olympics.

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Who are some of the Great Western Boxers ?

As we've said before, every pro was once an amateur. 

One can usually agree that Muhammed Ali, or Cassius Marcellus Clay the birth name he renounced, is the most recognizable and famous name in boxing. Not many of us will become Amateur boxers by twelve, Olympic medalists by nineteen, or defeat someone like Sonny Liston at Twenty-two but knowing that even the great Ali had to fight in the Amateur ranks for six years can make all the work and time as an Amateur inspiring!

Sugar Ray Leonard, another one of the greats,  has won world titles in five weight divisions ! He wanted to be a boxer so bad that he had to forge his entrance into Amateur competition because he didn't meet the age requirement! He eventually lost that tournament in the finals in a very disputed decision considering that his opponent was so badly beaten that he never boxed again! Not to worry, the legend continued his career at the olympics where an assistant coach would say to another: "That kid you got is sweet as sugar", a play on words considering the other Great Sugar, Sugar Ray Robinson!

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Practising regularly will help you to perfect your boxing techniques
"Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect" These incredibly wise words from legendary Basketball Coach John Wooden might give a bit of insight into what it takes to become a pro in any field!

Here is a short list of some of the World's greatest boxers :

1. Sugar Ray Robinson
2. Muhammad Ali
3. Henry Armstrong
4. Joe Louis
5. Willie Pep
6. Roberto Duran
7. Mike Tyson
8. Jack Johnson
9. Jack Dempsey
10. Sam Langford
11. Joe Gans
12. Sugar Ray Leonard
13. Harry Greb
14. Rocky Marciano
15. Jimmy Wilde
16. Gene Tunney

Sugar Ray Robinson can safely be said to be the unanimous choice as Boxing's undisputed King. His winning streak extended to 93 Wins! An Incredible number of fights, let alone wins, with a career that spans more than a quarter of a century!  His record of 174 wins and 19 losses is also incredibly impressive!

So what's your list of top fighters?

You can gain so much by studying their techniques and training habits! So get out there and train hard!

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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.