Idea Health

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The Evolution of Boxers  

Today, boxing is one of the most watched sports around the world, with fights attracting millions of viewers and an ever-increasing audience. Over the many years, boxing has produced stars such as Muhammad Ali, Chris Eubank, Anthony Joshua, Mike Tyson, and Lennox Lewis, who have helped boxing become an international sport with three world-acclaimed boxing organisations.

History of boxing

Over three centuries ago in 1681, the first boxing match was hosted in Britain. There were no written rules to the game. In fact, the first set of rules wasn’t introduced for another 60 years in 1743. Then, champion Jack Broughton introduced rules to help protect fighters in the ring. Deaths sometimes occurred during fights where rules were not provided, therefore, guidelines had to be introduced. The rules stated that if a fighter went down and could not continue following a 30 second count, the fight would be over and the other fighter crowned the winner.

Modern developments like we know today were not introduced until 1866, where a more recognisable set of rules was established to help keep fighters as safe as possible in the ring. The Marquees of Queensberry consented to a new set of rules which saw the introduction of the limited three-minute round rule, for instance, while boxing gloves became compulsory.

One of the most important accessories in the boxing ring is the mouth guard, which was not invented until 1902. This proved to be a very important piece of protection for boxers. However, it was not introduced until 1913 and was first used in the ring by Ted ‘Kid’ Lewis. It soon gained acclaim in the sport of boxing as a protective accessory to the sport.

There were also no standard weight restrictions in boxing throughout the early 19th century. Weight classes were first introduced as late as 1910 and were labelled flyweight, bantamweight, featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight, and heavyweight. There was originally 8, however, there are now technically 17 weight classes within boxing. Some of these have changed over time, with the most recent weight class introduction in 2007 — the light minimumweight (102lb).

Throughout the early 20th century, it was highly likely that boxing fights could last for an unlimited number of rounds, only ending when a fighter quit, was knocked out or the fight was stopped by the police. In the 1910s and 1920s, a 15-round limit was introduced and became the norm among most boxing matches. The now current, 12-round limit on championship fights was introduced in 1983 following the death of boxer Duk Koo Kim in a fight against Ray Mancini. The boxer died in the 14th round, which led to the rule change. Each round now lasts three minutes, meaning for televised boxing fights, the fight can be broadcast within an hour.

There’s always a chance in a fight that a knockout or disqualification won’t occur throughout the duration. It is then that the winner is determined by the referee, who will hold up the arm of the deserved title winner. In the early 20th century, it was common for a referee or judge to score each round and the winner could be determined based on their score or ‘points’. This was then changed to two ringside judges to improve reliability, and by the late 20th century and still up until the present day, three judges were to be sat at ringside and score round by round. The referee still holds the power to stop the fight or deduct points.

Rules of boxing

To help keep fights fair, boxing opponents are now chosen within the same weight category. When in training for an upcoming fight, the boxer’s aim is to get down to the fighting weight for their weight class — the weigh in generally takes place the day before the fight.

There are 17 professional major weight classes, which are as follows:

  • Heavyweight (over 200lb)
  • Cruiserweight (200lb)
  • Light heavyweight (175lb)
  • Super middleweight (168lb)
  • Middleweight (160lb)
  • Light middleweight (154lb)
  • Welterweight (147lb)
  • Light welterweight (140lb)
  • Lightweight (135lb)
  • Super featherweight (130lb)
  • Featherweight (126lb)
  • Super bantamweight (122lb)
  • Bantamweight (188lb)
  • Super flyweight (115lb)
  • Flyweight (112lb)
  • Light flyweight (108lb)
  • Strawweight (105lb)

Importance of a healthy diet

So that a boxer is given the best chance, they follow strict diets and nutritional guides. Training and nutrition are vital for boxers whilst preparing for a fight. The diet of a boxer is a crucial part of staying in shape and keeping up with the demands of training. A diet comprising of the three main macronutrients, carbohydrates, lean protein, and good fats put you in the best position for optimum workout performance and help you reach your target weight. Pure protein is key, as is plenty of liquids. Most boxers aim to stay within 3-5% of their target weigh-in weight whilst training to avoid the need of a crash diet, which could affect their performance.

A report conducted by TalkBoxing, discovered that a boxer’s diet should contain 45-55% carbohydrates, 30-40% protein and 15% of fats. Boxers require carbohydrates because the sport is an anaerobic activity that requires the maintenance of high energy levels for 12 intensive three-minute rounds. Carbohydrates slowly release energy, replacing used-up glycogen stores. Meanwhile, protein is needed in a boxer’s diet to help maximise recovery and contribute to muscle growth, whilst certain fats are required for the upkeep of internal bodily functions. These are generally called ‘good fats’ or ‘essential fats’ — think Omega-3 and Omega-6.

Also, protein shakes and energy bars are now very popular choices of workout aids for some boxers, as they provide them with all the necessary supplements.

Risks with boxing

Boxing is a very dangerous sport and there is evidently a lot of skill needed behind a good boxer. Endless hours are put in at the gym and to ring training, as well as the dedication to a strict diet to keep to a specific weight. But what about the many risks involved? Boxing is also known for the risk of serious injuries — at the end of the day, the point of the sport is to fight with an opponent. Serious injuries associated with boxing are concussion, fractured skulls, eye injuries, brain injuries, shoulder dislocations, and sprains (not only in the hands and wrists).

A study conducted between 2013 and 2015 found that the concussion rate for national-level boxers was a very high 61% (these results were taken from active competitors that were recruited to take part in this study). On average, the results showed that boxers suffered 7.59 injuries per year during both training and competitive fights — with head and facial injuries the most frequent. Lip laceration was the most common injury, with 81.48% of boxers suffering this setback. 61% of participants suffered a concussive injury across the two-year period.


‘Power Vs. Speed’ — which technique has proven to be the most successful? Most evidence shows that the majority of boxers are better at one technique than the other, but the aim is to strive to combine the two to beat their opponent.

It is said that speed is usually the preferred technique for boxers, as boxers with speed have been seen to land more punches on their opponent. Accuracy, of course, is still key but faster punches often increase the chances of a knockout. However, boxers with power sometimes only need that one accurate punch and the knockout soon follows. The most famous example being Floyd Mayweather who is known for his speed. Mayweather is currently undefeated in his professional boxing career, winning 15 world titles, and is a five-division champion. Meanwhile, Manny Pacquiao is considered one of the world’s fastest boxers by many. Out of a total of 68 fights, Pacquiao has won 59 of them, and he is the only eight-division world champion in the history of boxing.

Muhammad Ali is still regarded as the best boxer the world has ever encountered. Often referred to as one of the most significant sportsman of the 20th century, his professional career began at a young age, winning gold as a light heavyweight at the age of just 18 at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. In 1964, he won the heavyweight title. Following several years out of the boxing spotlight having had his boxing licence denied in every state, Ali made his comeback in 1974 where he reclaimed the heavyweight title after defeating George Foreman.


Study – 61% Concussion Rate for National Boxers in 2 Year Period