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The Early Days of Boxing: BareKnuckle Fights and The Marquess of Queensbury

Updated on August 26, 2016

The Boston Strong Boy

John L. Sullivan also known as The Boston Strong Boy was the last bare knuckle heavyweight champion and the first ever boxing (gloves) heavyweight champion as well.
John L. Sullivan also known as The Boston Strong Boy was the last bare knuckle heavyweight champion and the first ever boxing (gloves) heavyweight champion as well. | Source
Gentleman Jim Corbett took the heavyweight title from John L. Sullivan in the first gloved boxing heavyweight title tilt.
Gentleman Jim Corbett took the heavyweight title from John L. Sullivan in the first gloved boxing heavyweight title tilt. | Source

Bare- Knuckle Prizefighting

James Figg was the first recognized bare-knuckle champion and he won his crown all the way back in 1719. John L. Sullivan was the most famous of all the bare- knuckle fighters. No gloves were worn during these bots and bouts were scheduled anywhere from ten rounds to 40 rounds. The rounds had no time limits. Each round ended if a knockdown occurred in some set rules. Many boxers kept breaking their hands, fingers, knuckles and wrists. There were no hand wraps or boxing gloves for protection. Boxing is a very tough sport but originally it was a deadly sport.

Bare- Knuckle boxing was also called Prizefighting before it was legalized and named boxing. Before the writing of the Queensbury rules they had a small set of standards called The London Prize Ring Rules. Boxing in the old days was very dangerous for the participants. Many of the fighters died or sustained serious injuries competing in the early days of the squared circle.

The longest recorded bare knuckle bout lasted for six hours and fifteen minutes. The match was fought in Australia in 1855 and the rounds totaled 17. James Kelly made Jonathan Smith quit after catching him with several strait right hands to the jaw line.

* Please be sure and leave your thoughts and opinions on bare knuckle fighting in the comments box located at the bottom of this page.

Great Bare- Knuckle Boxers

John L. Sullivan
Jake Kilrain
Bob Fitzsimmons
Nonpareil Jack Dempsey
Paddy Ryan
Tom Molineaux
Charlie Mitchell
Jack McAuliffe
Tom Sharkey
 
Peter Jackson
 
Ten legendary bareknuckle prizefighters.

Brutal Fisticuffs

Boxing without gloves resulted in many serious injuries and was outlawed in many areas. Gloves were primarily invented to protect the fighters hands which were often broken during bouts.
Boxing without gloves resulted in many serious injuries and was outlawed in many areas. Gloves were primarily invented to protect the fighters hands which were often broken during bouts. | Source

With or Without?

Do you prefer boxing to be with or without boxing gloves?

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Boxing Gloves

Using boxing gloves helps protects boxers from breaking their hands, fingers and knuckles.
Using boxing gloves helps protects boxers from breaking their hands, fingers and knuckles. | Source

Boxing Rules: Marquess of Queensbury

Boxing rules were established in 1865 and then they were published officially in 1867. By 1892 they were recognized worldwide as the official rules for the sport of boxing. These rules established standards such as three minute rounds with a one minute rest in between each stanza. Also, The Marquess of Queensbury brought about the mandatory use of boxing gloves.

The original rules for gloved boxing are as follows:

1. A standing boxing match in a 24 foot ring. Nowadays the squared circle can be anywhere from 18-24 feet. The original rules allowed for only one single, universal ring size.

2. No wrestling or hugging of any kind. This is now called clinching and it is done far to often in the fight game. A ref understands holding when you are stunned but holding just to get a breather is ridiculous.

3. Three minute rounds with one minute rest in between each round. These time limit rules are still in effect worldwide.

4. If a boxer is knocked down he must arise within ten seconds and the other boxer must retreat to a neutral corner before the official will begin the count.

5. If the ropes keeps a boxer from going down it shall be considered a knockdown and the prizefighter shall receive a standing 8-count.

6. Nobody other than the two boxers and the referee can be in the ring during the action. If a boxer has his corner enter the ring during combat that boxer will be disqualified.

7. If interference such as rain stops the bout it shall be declared a draw unless otherwise agreeing to other terms.

8. Gloves must be new and of fair size and quality.

9. If a boxing glove tears it must be replaced instantly with another glove.

10. A man is down if his knee touches the canvas and if his opponent strikes him while he is down and he will be declared the loser.

11. No shoes with springs allowed.

12. The rules will be monitored by a commission of members from the London Prize Ring's Revised rules.

Personally, I have always found the rule about no springs in the shoes to be very funny.

The Establishment of Rules

Boxing rules were established for fighters in 1867. It was outlawed in many states during its early years before gaining mainstream acceptance in the long run.
Boxing rules were established for fighters in 1867. It was outlawed in many states during its early years before gaining mainstream acceptance in the long run. | Source

Evander Holyfield vs. Riddick Bowe 2

Evander Holyfield fought Riddick Bowe three times under modern day boxing rules using gloves, wearing a mouthpiece and keeping punches above the waistline among other things.
Evander Holyfield fought Riddick Bowe three times under modern day boxing rules using gloves, wearing a mouthpiece and keeping punches above the waistline among other things. | Source

Modern Boxing

Modern boxing uses the Marquess of Queensbury rules with some tweaks here and there. Championship bout were cut down from 15 rounds down to 12. They now have a three knockdown rule in effect in some states. In this rule if a boxer is floored three times in a single round then he loses by T.K.O. The standing 8 count is also an additional more modern rule. If a boxer is hurt the ref can rule it a knockdown and count to 8 while evaluating the state of the boxer.

The most important aspect of boxing rules is the protection of the fighter. And the number one rule in boxing both then and now is to protect yourself at all times.

Three judges score fights on a ten point must system. The winner of a round gets 10 points and the loser gets 9 points. If you are knocked to the canvas then you will lose the round 10-8 in most cases. And you can also lose points for infractions such as low blows, head butts, elbows and rabbit punches (Punches to the back of the head). You can be disqualified at the referees description for fouls that are deemed to be intentional or have two points docked from your score.

Bareknuckle Champion John L. Sullivan

Marquis of Queensbury Rules

Birthplace of Modern Boxing (London, England)

© 2014 lesliebyars

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    • profile image

      mikesquid 3 years ago

      hehehe no muscles ! lol

    • Skarlet profile image

      Skarlet 2 years ago from California

      I wish I could actually see John L. Sullivan in action. These were some tough guys who were willing to fight to the finish.

    • profile image

      Voodooeyes 2 years ago

      Jonathan Smith was my ancestor, my grandfather's grandfather, who told me he won 300 gold sovereigns for the fight in 1855. It was said in the family he ended up dying of a brain tumour from the fighting.

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