Some say that boxing is the oldest martial art, and there is a real argument for that statement. Ever since our simian ancestors learnt to ball up their hands into fists and use it to brutal (even deadly) efficiency, mankind has engaged in some form of hand-to-hand combat. As time rolled on, early man refined its fighting techniques. Survival instinct, became military requisite, this flowed into an art form and then became sport. Each age and epoch adding its own element, style and flavor to what will come to be known as boxing.
Even though fist fighting has existed since the dawn of time, the earliest recordings came not from Europe or the America’s, but from what is known the Middle East and the Cradle of Civilization. Depictions of fist fighting as a form of contest was depicted in early Sumerian reliefs in Iraq. Then like most events, activities, inventions and food of the time it spread to the other great nations of the area and Asia Minor. Excavations from Assyrian, Babylonian and Hittite sites revealed images of figures who were undoubtedly engaged in a primitive boxing match.
The sport then spread westward, through the Aegean and Mediterranean. Sardinians were boxing each other around 2000-1000 BCE, and the Minoans of Crete took up the sport around 1650-1400 BCE. The ancient Greeks introduced the sport into the Olympic Games in BCE 688 and called it pygme or pygmachia. The Romans, in their typical fashion, brought the sport to a whole new, bloodier and deadlier level during their time of prominence. In the Amphitheaters, boxers would fight to the death, but this practice later became unfavorable during the gladiatorial days when the ruling class saw the fighters not just as entertainment but as commodities as well.
As time moved forward, civilization, countries and nations became more organized, more evolved, and so did boxing. The combat and brutality was still there, but techniques and rules were implemented and refined. During the 12th-17th century the sport became huge in Italy. The development of the sport overlapped with the ongoings in Britain during the 17th century from which the majority of what we know as boxing today came from. The Marquess of Queensberry rules were written under the patronage of, who else, the Marquess of Queensberry and was the official rules of fist fighting from 1867 all the way until the modern era.
The 19th and 20th centuries saw the rise of timed rounds, and the mandatory use of leather and padded gloves (even though statues of ancient Roman boxers have been excavated showing them with leather wraps around their hands) and weight divisions. The sport also broke free of regional and national boundaries becoming a true global sport. These days boxing events draw some of the largest crowds, both live and televised, throughout the entire world of sports.
An event in the modern Olympic Games since the early 1900s, boxing is now an international sport practiced by men and women of all ages, and from reasons ranging from serious competition to the promotion of physical fitness. Boxing is special in that it has existed almost as long as we have and will enjoy a healthy future as well.
Article contributed by London Fight Factory.