Boxing, perhaps the oldest martial art in the world
Is boxing a sport for tough guys looking for rough-and-tumble way to compete with each other? A brutal contest amongst thugs? Or is it an effective whole-body training for body and mind? The popular sport of boxing has often stirred up controversy, and that is nothing new. Already in its early days in antiquity the sport attracted equal numbers of supporters and opponents. After a thousand-year-long retirement, boxing was rediscovered in modern times and is today one of the most popular sports ever.
Roots in antiquity
Historic documents show that public boxing matches were being held in Egypt as early as 3000 B.C. Gradually the sport spread to the entire region surrounding the Aegean Sea. Boxing’s arrival in Rome would significantly transform the sport, making it more violent, with deaths and life-threatening injuries becoming almost commonplace. Instead of gloves, the athletes wore knuckle straps fitted with metal spikes.
A new era of boxing
The spread of Christianity turned public opinion increasingly against the brutal gladiator fights until they were completely abolished. Boxing would then disappear for a long time.
Only toward the end of the 17th century did it return to the scene, when in England, rules were established, administered by a scoring judge, thereby laying the groundwork for the contemporary version of boxing. The bloody carnage of antiquity was transformed into a fair and increasingly technical sport with high standards. Under the new Marquess of Queensberry rules, athletes were first divided into weight classes. What’s more, Queensberry advocated the use of padded gloves and introduced the K.O. rule: If a fighter is knocked to the ground and cannot stand up and continue within 10 seconds, the other boxer is ruled the winner by a knockout (KO).
From the side lines to popularity
Boxing grew increasingly popular in the 20th century. In 1904, boxing became an Olympic sport. Two years later, the first international federation for amateur boxers was founded in Germany.
Boxing increasingly followed a two-fold development: Olympic amateur boxing and professional boxing. With the amateur version, the priorities are especially technique and the athlete’s health and fitness, whereas the professional version is all about a good show.
Boxing first became highly popular in Germany in the 1930s, thanks to Max Schmeling, the first German to be crowned World Champion.
For many years, the public was largely interested in the heavy-weight class fights where the athletes weigh more than 86 kilograms. John L. Sullivan became the first heavyweight World Champion in 1882. 16 years later, Jack Johnson became the first African American to win the title of World Champion, making boxing the most popular sport among the minority African-American population in the U.S. Boxing first become highly popular in Germany in the 1930s, thanks to Max Schmeling, the first German to be crowned World Champion. Even today, Schmeling is still a boxing hero and icon in the international history of boxing. Since the turn of the 21st century, the sport’s heavyweight class has been dominated by the Vitali brothers as well as Wladimir Klitschko, Nikolai Walujew, Ruslan Tschagajew and Sultan Ibragimow.