The Boxing World Before The Greatest!
Fist-fighting wasn’t what it is today. When we all see someone ‘clocking’ each other in the streets, all we basically want to do is get out of the line of fire. For us, it takes a ring and two men in boxing uniforms in order for us to feel the thrill of a true sport and real athletes taking and receiving the hits. Only in this type of scenario, is fist-fighting something that is absolutely acceptable.
Well…that wasn’t so back when boxing first came into the world of sports. As it was with wrestling, boxing dates back many, many centuries. In fact, glimpses of boxing have been found by archaeologists in caves in Sumeria. Depicted on Sumerian relief carvings dating back all the way to the 3rd millennium BC; as well as even farther in carvings and relief’s found in ancient Egypt, fist-fighting was all the rage. And the competitions were monumentally entertaining for the crowds. (Of course, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot to do back in those days, unless you visited the Library of Alexandria.)
Fighters and spectators are both depicted in beautiful colors on these relief’s. There are bare-fisted contests shown, as well as other depictions with actual boxing uniforms in Assyrian, Babylonian, and Hittite artwork.
But it was in 1927 that Dr. E.A. Speiser – a famous archaeologist, discovered a Mesopotamian stone tablet in Baghdad, Iraq which depicted two men getting ready for a serious prize fight. The tablet is over 7,000 years old. The earliest evidence for fist-fighting with gloves came from Minoan Crete that dates back to c. 1500–900 BC. Yes, they were quite elegant back then, making sure that their fighters were appropriately attired in their full uniform for the ultimate protection. (Odd, considering that they never minded throwing the fighters in with the lions when they were all done.)
Anyway, Sardinia is the place where actual statues representing boxing are hidden in the Parma mountains, and almost date back to the beginning of time (c. 2000–1000 BC).
The ancient Greeks were always quite the athletes, as anyone will tell you from the amazing relics that have been found strewn across their beautiful sites. And when it came to Ancient Greek boxing, the relief’s and ‘scripts’ tell everyone about how it was to go to your local prize fight and have the most entertaining night of your life!
One boxer would signal that the game should begin by raising his finger high in the air. Apparently, his opponent just had to be ready! The Ancient Greeks also provide the world with our very first historical records of boxing as a formal sport; they codified a set of rules and staged tournaments with professionals.
But, of course, for the modern day people – the actual ‘birth’ of boxing comes when it was first accepted as a sport into the Olympic Games as early as 688 BC. Therefore, boxing was perhaps the first real gentlemen’s sport to hit the athletic world. In the famous Iliad, written by Homer, the first detailed account of a boxing match was offered. According to the Iliad, Mycenaean warriors included boxing among their competitions when honoring the fallen with hugely amazing ceremonies. Another legend says that the heroic ruler Theseus, said to have lived around the 9th Century BC, invented a form of boxing in which two men sat face to face and beat each other with their fists until one of them was killed. (So much for the gentlemen theory).
When boxing became an Olympic sport, it was called Pygme or Pygmachia. Participants trained on punching bags, and fighters wore leather straps over their hands, wrists, and sometimes breast, to protect them from injury. The straps left their fingers free to do the damage.
Boxing seemed to disappear during the reign of the Roman Empire, but that was simply because weapons became common once again, and interest in fighting with only the fist and not a gleaming sword, waned. Different cities kept boxing – leaving the Romans to their brutal weapons. Provinces of Italy, as well as a sport in Ancient Rus called Fistfight continued to the crowds amusement.
Now swords slowly lost their followers – as soon as the Roman Empire fell to its knees – which renewed the public’s interest in fencing with the fists. The sport would later resurface in England and be called bare-knuckle boxing, or prizefighting.
Who was the first champion? Well, seeing as that the ancients didn’t carve their ‘winners’ names into their caves, the first documented bare-knuckle champion was James Figg, in 1719. This is also the same time when the word “boxing” came into play.
The funniest piece of information where this sport is concerned? In 1681, the first recorded boxing match took place in England. This is when the Second Duke of Albemarle was extremely bored, apparently, and put on a boxing bout between his butler and his butcher. The butcher won the prize.
There were no written rules; no weight divisions or round limits; and, definitely no referee. In general, it was simply, chaos. The first rules didn’t appear until a heavyweight decided in 1743 that his boxing buddies were really getting hurt! He wanted to protect fighters in the ring where death was frequently occurring. Under his rules, if you went down on the ground – after a count of thirty seconds - the fight was simply over. Hitting below the waist was stopped, and “mufflers,” a form of padded gloves, became the ‘norm.‘
One of the coolest fights of the century? William Futrell remained undefeated until his one hour and seventeen minute fight at Smitham Bottom, Croydon on July 9, 1788 against a much younger John Jackson. The big attendee – the Prince of Wales – got a huge kick out of the fight!
So, from Ancient Greece, to the power of the Roman Empire, to Homer’s own adventure – boxing has been a part of our world for a good long time. BUT, there will never be anyone in history – whether on a relief carving or standing in the ring at Madison Square Garden – that will EVER be in the same class as the Great Ali! Even the rough and tough Sumerians would agree with that one!
Although…I bet the match between the butcher and butler was a real treat!
For all of your team or squads needs: www.uniforms4cheerleading.com