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Boxing, also sometimes called pugilism, is a martial art and combat sport that entails striking an opponent with one's fists. The object is to win a victory by one of three means: rendering the opponent unconscious; inflicting enough physical damage so that the opponent is unable to continue the match; winning a judgment from a judge and/or referees that one contestant has out-matched the other. A tied contest in which neither contestant is victorious is also a possible outcome.

In some circumstances the term "boxing" is used to refer to the skillset or act of fist-fighting, and not the sport itself. For instance, a commentator might say that a mixed martial artist needs to improve his boxing, referring to the fighter's striking abilities with his hands rather than his competition record in the sport of boxing. Until at least the middle of the 20th century, a phrase often heard was "to box [somebody's] ears", meaning to lightly strike a person's ears, particularly a child's. Occasionally the term "boxing" has also been used to refer to other martial arts that primarily feature punching, as in the dubbing of kung fu as "Chinese boxing", although this usage is generally considered to be inaccurate and is not commonly used today.



Fist-fighting as form of combat and a sport has existed for millennia in many different cultures, as the concept of hitting an opponent with one's fists is a natural one.

Boxing in the original Olympics

Boxing, then referred to as Pygme or Pygmachia, appeared as an Olympic sport in Greece in 688 BC. Matches had fighters wearing leather straps on their hands and wrists and sometimes chests to protect themselves from injury.

Boxing in England

The term "boxing" was coined in 18th century England, where bare-knuckle boxing, then referred to also as prizefighting, was practiced as a sport. However, there were no written set of rules used for the sport in its early stages. Boxing matches were fought somewhat differently than those used today, partly because the lack of rules allowed fighters to do things they wouldn't be allowed to do today (use of many more grappling techniques, particularly in the clinch), partly because equipment was slightly different (the lack of boxing gloves arguably made the modern boxing guard less effective) and partly because techniques had not evolved to the point that they have today.

The Broughton rules

The first known set of boxing rules, the Broughton rules, were created by Jack Broughton, a bare-knuckle champion, in 1743 after allegedly killing a man in the ring. Broughton also invented an early form of boxing gloves, called "mufflers", which were used in training and in some matches to protect fighters.

London Prize Ring rules

The London Prize Ring rules were revised multiple times to include such aspects as boxing rings surrounded by rope and prohibition of biting and headbutting. named the London Prize Ring rules These rules included a 30-second count for a fighter to continue before a match was declared over and the fighter on the ground the loser and prohibition against hitting a floored opponent.

Marquess of Queensberry rules

The Marquess of Queensberry rules were created by John Chambers in 1867. This set of rules had 12 rules in total, and included a 10-second count before a fighter was declared the loser, three minute rounds with one minute in between rounds, and prohibition of wrestling and clinching. The final rule stated that a revised set of the London Prize Ring rules were also considered to be in use for this rule set.

The Marquees of Queensberry rules required the use of larger gloves to prevent facial and hand injuries. Larger gloves changed the way in which boxing matches were fought considerably from bare-knuckle boxing.

The American Fair-play rules

The American Fair-play rules were codified by David Blanchard sometime in the late nineteenth century as amateur rules intended to address perceived shortcomings of the early Marquis of Queensberry rules.

Modern boxing

Boxing is now generally divided into amateur boxing and professional boxing. In both types of boxing, rule sets generally declare a predetermined amount of several-minute rounds, with a short time (usually a minute) between rounds. A fight has a referee to ensure that fighters follow the rules. A number of judges, typically three, score the fight based on connecting punches, defense, and knockdowns.

Amateur boxing

Amateur boxing is found as a sport in colleges, in the Olympic Games, and in the Commonwealth Games, among other organizations. People also train boxing on their own.

Amateur boxing is focused on scoring points by landing connecting blows rather than by dealing the maximum amount of damage possible to an opponent. Clinching tactics used to prevent an opponent from punching are prohibited. A referee will stop the bout if a boxer is seriously hurt or if one boxer is significantly outclassing or outscoring his opponent. Amateur boxers wear headgear and shirts.

Amateur matches typically consist of a low number of rounds.

The focus on scoring points makes amateur boxing relatively safer than professional boxing, but arguably makes it somewhat less useful for combat outside of the amateur boxing ring. There has been evidence to suggest that amateur boxing has no deleterious effects on boxers' health, although this has been debated numerous times. It is certain, however, that amateur boxing is safer than professional boxing.

Professional boxing

Professional matches typically consist of a longer number of rounds than amateur matches, usually ten to thirteen rather than the two to four typical of amateur boxing.

Professional boxing is focused mainly on inflicting injury on an opponent through punching, although point scoring does play a part in affecting the manner in which a match is fought. Professional boxers do not wear headgear. Professional boxers typically take much more damage than amateur boxers during a match, because referees typically do not stop a professional match because a fighter cannot defend himself as quickly as they would in an amateur match. Also, professional boxers are allowed a count and allowed to continue many times. Matches are often won by knockout.

Professional boxing has been shown to be dangerous to the health of the boxers over the course of long careers, typically demonstrated in the high percentage of professional boxers suffering from brain damage due to repeated trauma to the brain because of the powerful punching professional boxers endure.

Weight classes

Weight Class Amateur (kg) Professional (kg)
Light Flyweight 48 49
Flyweight 51 51
Bantamweight 54 53.5
Super Bantamweight NA 55
Featherweight 57 57
Junior Lightweight NA 59
Lightweight 60 61
Light Welterweight 63.5 63.5
Welterweight 67 66.5
Light Middleweight 71 70
Middleweight 75 72.5
Light Heavyweight 81 79
Cruiserweight NA 88.45
Heavyweight 91 >88.45
Super Heavyweight >91 NA


Training typically involves shadowboxing, speed bag work, double end bag work, heavy bag work, pad work, and sparring.

Training also usually involves non-technique workouts for endurance and strength.




There are four basic punches in modern boxing.

  • Jab: A quick straight punch thrown with the lead hand at the opponent's front, this does not have knockout power but requires the least amount of commitment. The jab is the most utilized punch in boxing.
  • Cross (Right Straight): A powerful straight punch thrown with the rear hand at the opponent's front, this has knockout power.
  • Hook: A powerful semi-circular punch thrown with either the lead or rear hand at the opponent's side, this has knockout power.
  • Uppercut: A powerful, vertical rising punch thrown with either the lead or rear hand, this has knockout power.

There are also other punches not as common as the four basic punches.

  • Haymaker
  • Shovel hook
  • Overhand punch

There are many striking techniques which were commonly used under pre-Marquis of Qeensberry rules. These techniques were made illegal under the Marquis of Queensberry rules. These include:

  • The Chopper - a downward angling "back-fist" aimed at the bridge of the nose.
  • The Pivot Blow - a "spinning back-fist" aimed at the side of the head.
  • The Rounding Blow - a longer range precursor to the modern hook, often thown thumb down.
  • A variation of the "hammer-fist."

Stance and Guard

Types of guard common in modern boxing

  • Peek-a-boo
  • Crab


  • Slip
  • Parry
  • Bob
  • Weave
  • Shoulder roll
  • Cover

In pre-Marquis of Queensberry boxing, particularly the bare-knuckle fights, there were other guard and defesive positions. These include:

  • Mendoza's Guard
  • Johnson's Attitude (Guard)
  • Jack Slack's Attitude (Guard)


Although there is plenty of linear movement, there is also a lot of circular movement. Boxers generally circle away from their opponent's rear hand, which has more power than the lead hand. Circling will also put a boxer's rear hand closer to his opponent, which will allow him to throw powerful punches quickly.

Boxers are trained to make use of the ring, trying to gain the center of the ring and cornering an opponent against the ropes.



It is notable that a boxing style is different in meaning than a martial art style, in that a boxing style is the way in which a boxer utilizes the set of boxing techniques, while a martial art style typically refers to the set of techniques itself.

It is often said that "styles make a fight", meaning that the manners in which two fighters of similar skill levels fight will determine the outcome of the fight. The matchup of styles is sometimes compared to a game of rocks-paper-scissors, where one style will beat another style but lose to yet another, with each style having its own strengths and weaknesses.

Although all boxers have their own unique styles, the general concepts of their style and strategy are often grouped into several broad categories, although the number and definition of these categories is not fixed.


The slugger is the type of boxer who will stand toe-to-toe and trade strong punches with his opponent. The slugger throws single but strong punches, and generally have good chins but not necessarily good defense.


The in-fighter, like the slugger, will move in close to his opponent, but, unlike the slugger, he will not trade single punches and will instead throw quick combinations of punches. He will usually attempt to have a maintain a defense by bobbing and weaving. The in-fighter generally has fast, medium-strength punches, and good defense.

Outside fighter

The outside fighter likes to keep his distance from his opponent by circling away and using jabs, wearing an opponent down until he can close for the knockout or winning on points. The outside fighter generally has fast but weak punches and good defense.

There are other styles that are ascribed to boxers, as well as boxers who use parts from more than one styles. Styles are a generalization, and as such, do not fit perfectly.

Boxing in other combat sports

There have been a number of boxers and mixed martial artists with backgrounds in boxing who have found success in mixed martial arts. Many mixed martial artists cross-train in boxing in order to gain or improve standup striking skills.

Boxing is often cross-trained by people who train for and compete in other combat sports, particularly those with emphasis on striking, like kickboxing, full-contact karate, Muay Thai.