Records of boxing are dated back to the Summer era of the 3rd millennium BC and the Egyptian era of the 2nd millennium มวยโลก BC making it the oldest sport in the history of time, subsequently fighting with fists the most natural form of combat to man.
Boxing was not formalized as a sport until it appeared in the Ancient Olympic games of Greece in 688BC and carried the name Pygme or Pygmachia. Participants prepared for contests by striking punching bags called korykos. Fighters wore leather straps over their hands and wrists.
In Roman times there were two forms of boxing; the competitive form from the Ancient Olympic Games, and the much revered and viewed form of the Gladiatorial battled in the Coliseum. These battles were often a fight to the death, and were staged as a form of entertainment. In 500 AD boxing was banned, as it was seen as a form of disrespect to the gods. However, with the fall of the Roman Empire boxing remained popular throughout Europe during the Middle Ages.
Pre-industrial England saw a re-emergence in the popularity of boxing. Man to man combat was still seen as a form of entertainment; and entrepreneurs, often partnered with bar owners, staged boxing shows – interestingly this same format of promotion still remains in modern day boxing. The sport quickly became known as prize fighting, with fighters receiving a competition purse and money being wagered by spectators on bouts. Initially during this period there were no rules, with no referee or weight divisions, making the sport quite barbaric and dangerous, also giving it the name pugilism. Eventually a set of rules were written up by Jack Broughton in 1743 – recognized as the heavyweight champion – which came to be known as at London Prize Ring rules.
The London Prize Ring rules were later modified in 1867 and became known as the Queensberry rules, with significant changes made such as wearing of padded gloves, and the introduction of three minute rounds with one minute rest period. Fighters were also given a ten-second count if knocked down to rise to their feet (as opposed to 30 seconds in the previous London Prize Ring rules). The first Heavyweight Champion of the World who was universally recognized under the Queensberry rules was “Gentleman Jim” Corbett who defeated John L. Sullivan in 1882 at the Pelican Athletic Club in New Orleans.
In the early twentieth century boxing was arguably the most popular sport on a world wide scale, with champions being revered by the public, and bouts heavily increasing in gate size. During this period boxing commissions and sanctioning bodies were introduced upon government legislation to regulate boxers, managers and promoters. These organizations were also established to formally recognize world champions. The first of these organizations was the National Boxing Association (NBA) and the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC), who both begun to recognize world champions across various periods and weight divisions.
Despite public opinion, there has never been a single entity or universally recognized organization, therefore making the ‘back when there was only one champion’ phrase a myth, and the ‘real world champion’ a matter of public opinion. However, The Ring magazine has presented boxers they see as the universally recognized champions with the prestigious ‘The Ring belt’, a tradition which has seen a recent re-emergence (primarily due to sanctioning bodies losing credibility).
With the emergence of the World Boxing Council (WBC) – which was initially established as a universal organization, the NBA changed its name to the World Boxing Association (WBA) – and stands today as the oldest sanctioning body in world boxing. After internal political power play disputes within these organizations, board members separated and established their own organizations, with it the emergence of the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and the World Boxing Organization (WBO). The International Boxing Organization (IBO) has also seen a recent emergence as a recognized sanctioning body, mainly due to their (non human manipulated) computerized rankings system.
Currently world champions are publicly recognized by the WBA, WBC, WBO, IBO and IBF (in no particular order), with the holding of three championships at a time being recognized as the undisputed champion. However, in the educated public’s eye the holder of ‘The Ring’ belt is considered the true world champion.
There have been many all time greats of boxing, fighters who are remembered for their ability inside the ring, as well as their character outside of it. One fighter who stands above all in a historical sense is Muhammad Ali. Ali was initially known – and despised – for his load mouth antics outside of the ring in interviews and pre fight press conferences, however was also recognized for his ability inside of the ring. With significant handspeed, agility and great all over co-ordination Ali defeated another well known fighter in Sonny Liston in 1964 to win the Heavyweight Championship of the World. After making title defenses Ali was stripped of his title after rejecting his drafting into the United States military for the Vietnam War.