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The Organization of Boxing
Boxing in the United States
Until late in the 19th cent., American fighters established their own rules, which were few. Early matches, some of them free-for-alls, featured biting and gouging as well as punching. In most instances they were also illegal. In 1888, John L. Sullivan, a bare-knuckle champion and America's first sports celebrity, won a clandestine 75-round match.
New York legalized boxing in 1896, and other states soon followed suit. Although the reign (1910–15) of the first African-American heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson, disturbed the segregated society of the time, and although many continued to question boxing's social purpose, its inclusion in the Olympic games in 1904, its use for military training in World War I, its emergence as a source of discipline for youth, its regulation by state commissions, and its suggestion of national vitality strengthened its claims to legitimacy and bolstered its popularity through the 1920s and 30s. Heavyweight (over 190 lb/86.3 kg) champions Jack Dempsey (1919–26) and Joe Louis (1937–49) were national heroes, Louis becoming one of the first black athletes to gain wide popularity.
Since World War II, boxing has proceeded amid corruption and, at times, chaos. Rising admission prices, restriction of title fights to closed-circuit television, the proliferation of organizations claiming to sanction fights and proclaim champions, financial scandals, ring injuries and deaths, monopolistic practices by promoters, and claims of exploitation of lower-class fighters have threatened its appeal, yet the sport continues to attract huge audiences and investment. Great fighters like Muhammad Ali elicit admiration and fascination, while controversy surrounds others like the repeatedly imprisoned Mike Tyson.
See N. S. Fleischer, Fifty Years at Ringside (1940); A. J. Liebling, The Sweet Science (1956); R. Roberts, Papa Jack (1983); E. Gorn, The Manly Art (1986, upd. ed. 2010); J. Sammons, Beyond the Ring (1988); G. Early, The Culture of Bruising (1994); K. Boddy, Boxing: A Cultural History (2008); G. Kimball and J. Schulian, ed., At the Fights: American Writers on Boxing (2011).
a type of sport; fistfighting between two athletes according to specific rules.
Boxing developed from fistfighting, which existed as a sports contest more than 5,000 years ago in Egypt and Babylon. Such fisticuffs were included in the program of the Olympic Games in ancient Greece. Rules for boxing (without gloves) first appeared at the beginning of the 18th century in England. It was also in England that the first rules for boxing with gloves were established in 1867. The beginning of boxing in Russia dates back to the 1890’s. Since 1904 boxing has been included in the program of the modern Olympic Games, and since the 1920’s the European Championships have been held.
Boxing matches take place in a ring—a square area 6x6 m in size enclosed by ropes—with contestants who wear soft gloves from 250 to 300 g in weight. A fight lasts for three rounds of three minutes each, with a one-minute interval between rounds. Victory is awarded to the boxer who gains the greater number of points for his successful attacks. A boxer can also win the fight by a knockout, as well as by his opponent’s inability to continue the fight, disqualification, or refusal to fight. In boxing it is forbidden to land blows below the belt, on the back of the head, or on the backbone. Butting an opponent with the head or hitting him when he is down is also prohibited. A fight is judged by a referee (a judge within the ring) and by three to five judges outside the ring.
According to the rules adopted in the USSR, boxing matches are conducted for the following age groups: youths 14–15 years old, youths 16–17 years old, young men (juniors) 18–20 years old, and adults (over 21 years of age). Age groups of adults and juniors are, in turn, divided into 11 weight categories: first lightest, up to 48 kg; lightest, up to 51 kg; very light, up to 54 kg; semilight, up to 57 kg; light, up to 60 kg; first semimiddle, up to 63.5 kg; second semimiddle, up to 67 kg; first middle, up to 71 kg; second middle, up to 75 kg; semiheavy, up to 81 kg; and heavy, more than 81 kg.
Soviet boxers began to participate in the Olympic Games in 1952. (Nine boxers from the USSR have won championships.) Soviet boxers have also competed in the European Championships since 1953. (Thirty-four boxers have been champions.)
Among the outstanding Soviet boxers are repeated champions of the USSR V. P. Mikhailov, E. I. Ogurenkov, N. F. Korolev, and S. S. Shcherbakov; European and Olympic champions A. S. Shotsikas, V. N. Engibarian.G. I. Shatkov, O. G. Grigor’ev, B. N. Lagutin, V. V. Popenchenko, D. I. Pozniak, and S. I. Stepashkin; Olympic champion V. S. Sokolov; European champion V. P. Frolov; and others. Among foreign boxers who have appeared in the amateur ring during the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s, L. Papp (Hungary), J. Torma (Czechoslovakia), Z. Pietrzykowski and J. Kulej (Poland), N. Benvenuti (Italy), C. Clay (Muhammad Ali), J. Frazier, G. Foreman (USA), and others were widely known. In the USSR boxers are members of the Boxing Federation of the USSR, which is included in the International Association of Amateur Boxing (AIBA), created in 1947, and the European Association of Amateur Boxers, founded in 1970, with headquarters in Moscow.
Professional boxing is also widespread in capitalist countries. Its rules allow rougher conduct in a fight, dangerous for the athletes’ health. Fewer weight categories are observed, lighter boxing gloves are used, and there are more rounds.
REFERENCESGradopolov, K. V. Boks. Moscow, 1965.
Na ringe. Moscow, 1966. (A collection of articles.)