Legal History and Emergence of Boxing – PART 1


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Boxing is one of the sports which used to struggle to make its mark in the history as a sport which is accepted by society and amateur sports federations. Boxing is also known as Pugilism with prehistoric origin from the ancient Greece time as Olympic Sport. Boxing was first depicted in Iraq after which it was played under various formats and rules. Initially boxing had no fixed rules, no weight categories and format, the whole development was a result of slowly and steady work by eminent champion boxers.

In its ancient form boxing was a form of fist fighting and very much popular in Rome as a spectator sport. Earlier slaves were used to fight against one another till death in a circle marked on the floor and the origin of “Term Ring” is known to be come from here. After which during Roman gladiator period boxing was abolished due to its violent and brutal nature, it is in 16th century when some initiatives were taken in London to reconstitute Boxing.

Boxing recurred in England as Prizefighting and also referred as Bare Knuckle Boxing which is a kind of fencing with fists.

  1. The first documented Bare Knuckle Championship was held in England in the year 1681 in The London Protestant Mercury,
  2. The first Bare Knuckle Champion was James Figg in 1719 and
  3. The first boxing rules were laid down by champion Jack Broughton in 1743 which were known as Broughton’s Rules before this boxing had no rules, refrees and regulations.

During late 19th and early 20th centuries boxing was under legal radar because of safety concerns and usually these fights used to happen in gambling clubs which were quashed by police in most of the events because of its doubtful legitimacy.  R v Coney, English case held that “bare buckle fight was an actual assault occasioning actual bodily harm, despite the consent of the participants. The case also found that voluntary attendance as a spectator as the evidence of aiding/abetting the assault.” The abovementioned case has a wide applicability in consensual crimes.  During 1897, in United States first time film censorship occurred when broadcast of films on fights was abandoned by the authorities. Then During 20th century, Marquess of Queensberry Rules, a code for boxing was drafted by John Graham Chambers which are used in both amateur and professional boxing. Marquess of Queensberry rules was the first to mention use of boxing gloves, size of foot ring, timing and a proper format for Boxing.

At present, Boxing is regulated by the amalgamation of various Boxing Federations namely International Boxing Federation alongside World Boxing Council, World Boxing Organization and World Boxing Association.


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Ekta Khangawal

Ekta Khangawal

Founder SportsGranny, Studying Law at Law Centre -1, Faculty of Law (University of Delhi)
Ekta Khangawal

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