Boxing History – Timeline and Facts

All the sports that we play have the potential to become much more than just athletics. However, there is no sport that has undergone the kind of transposition which boxing has.

Boxing history has its roots back in ancient times. Earlier this game was known as Pugilism which means sweet science.

Boxing History Timeline

While talking about boxing history timeline, this sport was present from the start when humans used to fight with each other for food and meat. According to historical evidence, boxing was originated in North Africa in 4000 BC. Along with North Africa, it was quite famous in Rome and Greek as well.

1. Boxing in Ancient Times

According to boxing history facts, in ancient times the rules were crude and the boxers used to play with leather taped on their bare hands. In Ancient Rome, it is believed that the fighters were usually slaves or offenders who played the game to win and gain independence.

There is also evidence of free men fighting for the spirit of the sport and competition. However, the sport was banned by Theodoric in 500 A.D because of the growing distraction caused by the fights in public life.

2. First Signs of Documentation

History of Boxing

Following the boxing history timeline, the first signs of documented records fall in the year 1681 in Britain. It is believed that the Duke of Albemarle held a boxing competition that was fought between his butler and butcher. The sole purpose of these matches was amusement and fun.

Jack Boughtonis established the set of rules for boxing.

He decided to publish the rules in 1743 after the death of one of his opponents during the boxing match. Jack was a legend of the boxing world, also known as ‘Father of Boxing’.

3. Modern Era in Boxing

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In the modern era of boxing, most recognizable developments were done in the sport. As by boxing history facts, in 1866, the Marquess of Queensberry gave a new set of boxing rules. The rules were given the title after his name. According to the new rules, a limited number of 3-minute rounds were introduced in the sport.

These rules banned wrestling and gouging during the match and gloves were made compulsory. However, it took some time for the bare-knuckled fights to go out of fashion completely, but these fights were decreased after the rule was passed. Boxing history facts state that in 1892, James Corbett set this rule by defeating John Sullivan, who was bare-fisted with the newly developed rules.

4. Modern Day Boxing Rules

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Another radical change in boxing history took place in 1865 when John Douglass introduced the modern-day boxing rules. He was famous as the ‘Patron Saint’ and he contributed a lot to the systematic game of boxing.

Twelve prominent rules were introduced by him and among them, the most significant one was three-minute rounds and he also approved the standards of boxing gloves that are still being used.

5. Boxing in the Golden Age of Sports

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According to the boxing history timeline, the 1920s is cited as the most sports-crazy decade in the history of America. Jack Dempsey, born in the state Colorado, was a boxer with brutal fighting style. After hard work of many years and defeating many opponents, he gained the title of heavyweight that was previously taken by Jess Willard.

Talking about the boxing history facts, the boxing matches of the early 20th century were often traded on racial and ethnic animosities in order to promote fights. As soon as Johnson won the heavyweight champion title, America started the search of a white fighter to defeat him.

For this, James J. Jeffries came out of retirement, stating that his only purpose is to prove that a white man is better than a Negro. The fight was advertised as the ultimate test of racial superiority, but Johnson won the match and it was proven a dark day for the white supremacists.

Johnson was mocked by the whites and loved by the African-Americans who cherished him as the hero of the race. He was both the most famous and infamous celebrities of the time. His low-profile career helped boxing to gain a much larger following.

6. Boxing in the Age of Television

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There are many sports like baseball with the giant playing field, tiny ball, and large cast of characters. All these make these sports much attractive.

However, there are just two characters in the boxing match and a small space known as the boxing ring. Television was the ideal medium of broadcasting boxing.

It was the easiest way to make this sport popular and also the two opponents fit perfectly on the screen of the television.

Thus, according to boxing history, the late ’40s and 1950s dominated the medium, and boxing matches were telecasted on the television screen almost every night of the week.

Television brought boxing to a wider audience and it attracted many people. But some people stated that televisioned boxing was affecting the vibrancy of the live variety.

Also by this, the attendance of people on the live fights was dropped significantly.

The frequent broadcast of boxing on television required fresh boxers to get into the game who were not experienced enough to withstand the harsh environment of the boxing ring.

As a result of this, many boxers expired as the cameras rolled.

7. Developments in the 20th Century

During the early 1900s, there was no looking back for the sport. In 1904, boxing was on the list in the St. Louis games.

Throughout the 20th century, the world witnessed many great boxers who fought for titles and bestowed the game with world-known popularity and recognition. Next, this sport headed straight into the 21st century with grace and dignity.

8. The Invention of Mouth Guard

A London dentist Jack Marles invented the first mouth guard for boxers in 1902.

The mouthguards were designed basically for the training sessions to protect the teeth of the fighters or other severe injuries.

Welterweight fighter Ted “Kid” Lewis was the first boxer who used a protective mouth guard in the boxing ring in 1913. The mouth guards soon became popular and gained huge acclaim in boxing.

9. Establishment of National Boxing Association (NBA)

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In 1927 National Boxing Association (NBA) was established as the fair governing body that looked into the boxing sport and its success.

The primary purpose of the NBA was to arrange championships among the best talents and look after the ethic and popularity of boxing.

Today there are three world-acclaimed boxing organizations, the WBA, WBC and IBF.

The International Amateur Boxing Association was the first international body of the amateur boxing and was founded in 1946.

Boxing History Facts

Here are some of the most interesting boxing history facts that will surely amuse you:

  • The ancient God Apollo is believed to be the guardian and creator of boxing.
  • Wilfred Benitez is the youngest boxer ever. He won the title of the winner when he was only 17 and earned the title of the youngest boxer in the history of boxing.
  • In 1941, all the major boxing titles were frozen and the competition for them didn’t resume until it was early 1946. Four thousand boxers joined the military during World War II, which included five world champions.
  • In boxing history, a controversial boxing legend during the 1960s was Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali). He embraced Islam and was charged with evasion for not serving the U.S Army in the Vietnam War. After that Ali did not make a ring appearance for four years as he was stripped of boxing license and title. However, he made a comeback in the ring in 1970.
  • On June 4th, 1988 the IBF voted to change the 15 rounds title fights to 12 rounds, making it the last sanctioning body to do so and thus making all the title fights a standard 12 rounds.
  • On March 23rd, 1995, Arturo Gatti made one of the greatest come back in boxing history. Battered with both eyes shut due to swelling, he came back to KO Wilson Rodriguez, six rounds, New York for retaining the title of IBF junior lightweight.


Boxing is not as much popular sport these days as it once was during the time of Muhammad Ali and even during the era of Tyson.

There are several factors that have influenced its popularity in the culture.

For most of boxing history, this sport didn’t have to compete against many other sports. Today, boxing needs to stand out and compete with other sports like UFC and MMA.

Unlike other sports, boxers do not compete in long sessions and they only fight a few times in a year.

The popularity of this sport has further been weakened by the multiple governing boards of boxing and titles. Due to the numerous divisions, it has become difficult to call a fighter the complete champion.