Boxing has changed over the centuries since 1500 B.C., except when it hasn’t. From the first recorded fresco of Minoan youths boxing and all the way up to today, the goal in boxing has been to knock out your opponent. Clean his clock, as it were. Most bouts continued until one of the boxers was so beaten that he couldn’t keep going. The “survivor” was pronounced the winner.
Anything else is just the icing on the cake.
There weren’t many rules either. Aside from hitting below the belt, which was frowned on in most places, it wasn’t until 1743 that the first set of rules were published. They lasted until 1838 when they were replaced by the London Prize Ring Rules. Those, in turn, were replaced in 1867 by the Marquess of Queensberry rules.
For most of boxing history, there weren’t any weight classes or restrictions. Bare fists were the norm, with boxing gloves being a latecomer to the ring.
One thing that has remained fairly constant throughout the thirty-five hundred years of boxing is that the contestants fought bare-chested. Even in Victorian England, when modesty dictated that men wear long pants in the ring, they were bare from the waist up.
The Toughest of the Tough
Boxing has never been a civilized sport. It has always been a brutal, knock-down, drag-out brawl that left men bruised and bloodied. Like the 2600-year-old Cypress trees along the Black River in North Carolina in the United States, boxing has been more about surviving than anything else.
When you get in the boxing ring you have to make up your mind that you’re not going to quit halfway through. You have to be determined that you’re in it for the long haul.
The slow growth and development of modern boxing with rules, referees, set limits on the length of the rounds, standardized judging, and regulations covering everything about it, gradually turned boxing into a legitimate sport instead of a dual.
The marathon nature of boxing hasn’t changed though. It’s doubtful it ever will. Sometimes the only way to win is to soak up the punishment until the other guy wears himself out trying to penetrate your defenses, then unload on him once he’s too tired to fight back.
This “rope-a-dope” tactic popularized by Muhammad Ali in his 1974 fight with George Foreman is a perfect illustration of the technique. When the going gets tough – the tough get going.
Since boxers fight without wearing anything above the waist, there isn’t much in the way of clothing required for them; gloves, mouthguards, shoes, and trunks.
Modern boxing gloves are much heavier than those used in the early 20th Century. Lighter gloves allow boxers to inflict more damage with each punch, while heavier gloves with more padding in them soften the blows.
Thinner, lighter gloves tend to result in shorter matches that end in a knock-out. Heavier, softer gloves give longer matches that typically end in a decision by the judges.
Mouthguards are the plastic mouthpieces boxers put in their mouth to protect their teeth, gums, and jaws. They’re similar to the mouthguards football players wear on the gridiron. The major difference is that in boxing a mouthguard decreases the chance of a knock-out, whereas in football mouthguards are only intended to protect against injuries.
Boxers are required by regulations to wear soft soled shoes in the ring. Older boxing boots resembled actual boots and were often used to step on the opponent’s foot, crushing it and breaking bones. Modern regulations forbid that and shoes are highly regulated.
Most boxers prefer to wear high top boots to provide greater ankle support in the ring. They are constantly moving and a turned or twisted ankle is a very real possibility. Although some boxers wear low top shoes, most will look for ones that turn up in articles such as Best Boxing Shoes Review: My 2019 Picks, an in-depth review of the different styles, weights, soles, and materials that go into boxing shoes.
Boxing trunks tend to be satin for the most part. Although there are a lot of rules and regulations governing gloves and shoes, there are almost none about the boxing trunks. This stands to reason since they don’t actually make any difference to the outcome of the match.
Boxing clothes are like the sport they’re used in; direct and to the point. They don’t need to be pretty, they just need to be tough.