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Boxing and Its Glorious Past

February 12, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 176

The first evidence of boxing as a sport is found in Egyptian hieroglyphics believed to date from 4000 B.C. Other early evidence consists of depictions of boxers on ancient stone slabs and vases. From Egypt the sport spread to Mesopotamia, Crete, Greece, and Rome; eventually to England; and from there to the United States.

Greece and Rome

Boxing was used in ancient Greece to train youths to become warriors. It was one of the most popular of sports. The history of boxing was recorded when Homer and other writers described fistic contests. In Greece strength, endurance, and courage were emphasized more than skill. The contest began with two boxers seated face to face, noses touching. At a signal, they started hitting each other with chopping blows. Their hands were protected by a leather-thong wrapping, called a cestus. Later, these wrappings were extended up the forearm and trimmed with metal studs and subsequently with spikes.

The cestus was adopted by the Romans, who imported this form of boxing when they brought vanquished Greek warriors to Rome as slaves. Most of these contests ended in the death of one of the participants. Although in time the Romans allowed boxers to stand and move within a small area, the brutality of the sport led to its ban near the beginning of the Christian era.

Revival in England

Boxing reemerged into prominence in 1719, when James Figg, an Englishman, introduced it in a more modern form. In that year Figg opened a school in London, where he taught bare-knuckle fist fighting. Figg also met all comers for a purse and whatever side bets he could encourage, and for 11 years he was the first acknowledged boxing champion.

During Figg's reign boxers fought without a rest period until one had obviously won. Wrestling, hair pulling, gouging, kicking, tripping, and hitting an opponent trying to regain his feet were permitted. After Figg retired undefeated in 1730, he was succeeded as titleholder by Jack Broughton, called "the Father of Boxing" because it was he, another sword and cudgel expert, who first attempted to refine the sport by outlawing brawling tactics.

In 1743 Broughton established a code of rules, specifying a 30-second rest period following a knockdown, his own presence "to keep decorum," and two umpires to settle disputes. He banned striking of an opponent who was down and seizing and wrestling an opponent below the waist. He also introduced the padded glove to protect the hands of his pupils. His major contribution was his code of rules, the basis of the London Prize Ring (LPR) rules of 1838, revised in 1853.

Under the LPR rules matches were fought in a 24-foot (7-meter) square bounded by ropes, with a referee and two umpires officiating. A knockdown terminated a round and was followed by a 30-second rest period plus an additional 8 seconds, during which the fighters had to reach a spot marked in the center of the ring. Hitting below the waist was a foul, as was butting, gouging, kicking, or kneeing a fallen opponent.

Boxing was governed by these rules until the end of the bare-knuckle era. The last bare-knuckle championship fight occurred in 1889, when John L. Sullivan defended his heavyweight championship by defeating a fellow American, Jake Kilrain, in Richburg, Miss., in 75 rounds (each round terminated by a knockdown). In England 24 years before that, however, Sir John Sholto Douglas, 8th marquis of Queensberry, had lent his name and sponsorship to a set of 12 rules drawn up by John Graham Chambers, a member of the Amateur Athletic Club.

The Queensberry Rules, which prescribed gloves, three-minute rounds, and the ten-count following knockdowns, and which barred wrestling and hugging, have been the basis of all subsequent boxing regulations. They were first followed in a tournament in London in 1872, when, also for the first time, boxers were grouped into several classes-lightweights weighing 140 pounds (63.5 kg) or less; middleweights, 158 pounds (71.7 kg) or less; and heavyweights, above 158 pounds.

By then, however, boxing was on the decline in England. The prevalence of "X's"- the designation given by Pierce Egan, the sport's first historian, to dishonest fights in which the outcome had been prearranged-had alienated many of its supporters, and in the Victorian era the sport fell into general disfavor. In the 1850s and 1860s many fighters went to America.

Rise of Boxing in America

In the United States, boxing first gained prominence in the South, where slaves were pitted against each other by plantation owners whose sons had become acquainted with the sport while being educated in England. The first native American fighter to gain international recognition was Bill Richmond, who was the son of a Georgia-born slave and himself the property of a clergyman from Staten Island, N.Y.

Richmond's fighting ability first attracted attention in the American Revolution during the occupation of New York by the British. When the British embarked following the war, Richmond accompanied them to England where, although hardly more than a welterweight, he defeated several leading heavyweights. It was Richmond's success that induced Tom Molineaux, another American slave, to invade the London ring where he won several matches before losing twice (1810, 1811) to Tom Cribb, the champion.

The first fight to attract public interest in the United States was held in New York City in 1816 between Jacob Hyer and Tom Beasley. After Hyer won, he declared himself champion and retired. In 1841 his son, Tom, defeated George McChester (known as "Country McCloskey") in 101 rounds at Caldwell's Landing, N.Y.; the bout lasted 2 hours and 55 minutes. Eight years later he knocked out Yankee Sullivan in 16 rounds at Rock Point, Md. Tom Hyer became the first boxer to obtain public recognition as heavyweight champion of the United States.

The first international match to stir public interest on both sides of the Atlantic took place in 1860 at Farnborough, England, between John C. Heenan, who claimed the American championship, and Tom Sayers, the English champion. In the crowd of 2,500 were Prince Albert, members of Parliament, William Makepeace Thackeray, and Charles Dickens. Also present were four representatives of the American press that, five years earlier, had sent only two correspondents to report the Crimean War. The two boxers fought 42 rounds to a draw, the term used to indicate that a winner has not been determined.

In its early days in the United States, boxing was declared illegal in most areas. As a result, matches were usually clandestine affairs, sometimes staged near state borders so that, if discovered by the authorities, the participants could avoid arrest and prosecution by stepping over the state line. The John L. Sullivan-John Flood bout in 1881 was held on a barge in the Hudson River off Yonkers, N.Y.

Sullivan, who claimed the bare-knuckle championship of the world after defeating fellow-American Paddy Ryan at Mississippi City, Miss., in 1882, is credited with popularizing boxing in the United States. When he became aware that police tolerated matches conducted under the Queensberry Rules, he joined theatrical troupes and toured the country offering first $100 and then $500 to any man who could last four rounds with him. Tours he made to England and Australia were extremely successful.

It was Sullivan's defeat by James J. Corbett, who knocked him out in New Orleans in 1892 in the first championship bout fought with gloves and under the Queensberry Rules, that ended the bare-knuckle era and started the rise of boxing in America. New York state legalized the sport in 1896 but outlawed it four years later. Subsequently boxing was permitted in private clubs, but even that permission was revoked, and it was not until New York passed the Walker Law in 1920 that the sport's legality was firmly established. The law became the model for legislation in other states.

The "Golden Age"

Passage of the Walker Law ushered in what has been called "the golden age of boxing." The two men most responsible for that era were George L. (Tex) Rickard, the most enterprising promoter in boxing history, and Jack Dempsey, one of the most devastating and exciting fighters of all time.

With Dempsey, the heavyweight champion, as his attraction, Rickard promoted the first bout to attract a "million-dollar gate." In 1921, he matched Dempsey with Georges Carpentier of France at Jersey City, N.J. The one-sided contest, in which Dempsey knocked out the challenger in the fourth round, drew $1,789,238 in ticket receipts. Four other Dempsey fights promoted by Rickard topped the million-dollar mark, and in 1927 in Chicago, where Gene Tunney outpointed Dempsey for the second time, the total reached $2,658,660-the largest amount ever paid in gate receipts at a boxing contest. For his share Tunney received $990,445.

The second great boxing promoter was Michael Strauss (Mike) Jacobs who, as a ticket broker associated with Rickard, learned from the latter what was then the basic law of boxing promotion: the man who controls the heavyweight championship controls boxing. Jacobs obtained the exclusive services of Joe Louis, the greatest heavyweight since Dempsey, and between 1933 and 1949 promoted fights in all weight divisions that grossed more than $24 million. Included were three Louis fights that each drew more than $1 million.Outstanding Boxers

While the heavyweights, whose champion presumably can defeat any man in the world, have attracted the most public interest, there have been since the beginning of the 20th century many smaller men whose skill and agility enabled them to become highly talented exponents of the boxing sport. Sugar Ray Robinson, who held the welterweight championship from 1946 to 1950, then won the middleweight crown five times between 1951 and 1958, is considered by most experts to be the greatest boxer of all time.

The middleweight division also produced greats, such as Stanley Ketchel, Harry Greb, Mickey Walker, Dick Tiger, Emile Griffith, Carlos Monzon, Marvin Hagler, and Sugar Ray Leonard. Walker, Griffith, and Leonard held the welterweight championship before winning the heavier crown, and Tiger moved from middleweight to win the light heavyweight title.

Owner/ writer of http://www.the-warriors-club.com martial arts and fitness website. Articles written for the warriors club site include http://the-warriors-club.com/blog/2012/02/06/weighted-boxing-gloves/. Articles may not be changed and are to be used as is. A live link to the website above must company the article.

Source: EzineArticles
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