Irish Athletic Boxing Association
National Boxing Stadium,
145 South Circular Road,
Although boxing is a highly aggressive sport, it also places great emphasis on technique, concentration and physical stamina. The best boxers of ancient Greece – such as Melagomas, from Asia Minor – were actually more famous for their ‘atravmatistos’ (or uninjured) boxing style in which they shunned throwing attacking punches, and instead just defended themselves from incoming blows for so long that their opponents would tire themselves out and concede defeat.
Boxing wasn’t on the itinerary of ancient Olympic sports that made up the first modern Summer Games in Athens, Greece, in 1896 as it was considered “ungentlemanly, dangerous and practiced by the dregs of society”.
Its worldwide popularity ensured that it was included in the 1904 Summer Games in St Louis, USA, though. Since then, it has been a regular fixture in the Olympic schedule, producing a number of great champions, including Hungarian Laszlo Papp, Cubans Felix Savon and Teofilo Stevenson and American Paul Eagan, who was also a Winter Games gold medallist in the bobsleigh in 1932.
Probably the most famous of them all, though, was Cassius Marcellus Clay, who won gold in the light heavyweight contest in Rome in 1960, and later went on to become perhaps the greatest professional heavyweight boxer of all time under the name Muhammad Ali.
Modern Olympic boxing is determined by regulations adapted from the famous ‘Queensberry Rules’. Boxers fight in an elevated ring with a canvas and rubber floor, measuring 6.1m by 6.1m. The sides are marked by four rows of ropes. There are two corners – blue and red – for each opponent to sit in between round. The boxers wear clothing to match the colour of their corner.
As with most combat sports, competitors are divided into weight divisions so that they face-off against opponents of equal size. Because of this, boxers are weighed on the opening day of competition and every day of the tournament to make sure that they aren’t heavier than their division’s permitted maximum.
Contests are scored by five judges, who award points when they feel contact has been made from a targeted punch. Events take place over four rounds of two minutes each. At the end of the match, the boxer with the greatest number of points is the winner. Boxers can also win a match by knocking out their rival.
Boxers qualify for the Olympics in regional tournaments. They must be at least 17 years old and no older than 34. Before the Olympic Games begin, they are required to undergo a physical and be weighed to determine the weight division that they’ll fight in. They are then weighed every day during the competition to ensure that they don’t exceed their division’s permitted maximum.
Within each division, the opponents for matches are decided by a lottery draw, as in ancient times. Bouts are controlled by a referee and four judges, and last four rounds of two minutes each, with a one-minute break between rounds. During the breaks, boxers sit in their respective corners and can receive help and advice from their coach and corner-man.
Judges award points when a boxer cleanly hits his opponent in the front of the head or on the upper part of the body above the belt line. Modern electronic equipment is used to make sure that at least three of the five judges record the point within a similar space of time. Only then does they count.
Typical punches include straight right and left, sweeping hooks and close-quarter uppercuts. Boxers are only allowed to use their gloves to make contact with their opponents, so using the elbows or head butts is not allowed and ‘holding’ their opponent isn’t allowed. They also have to hit an area above the belt line, and can’t hit the kidneys or behind the head. The referee can caution a boxer for these fouls, and three cautions leads to a disqualification.
At the end of the fourth round, the boxer with the most points wins the bout. If the points are identical, then the best and worst total scores from the five judges are deducted. If a boxer falls to the floor and is unable to get up within eight seconds, this is called a ‘knockdown’. If the boxer can’t get up after 10 seconds, it’s classed as a ‘knockout’ and the bout is over.
Referees can call a halt to a match at any time if they feel the health of one of the athletes is at risk, while a coach can ‘throw in the towel’ and call an end to the match if they’re concerned about the health of their boxer. Matches also end if the score difference between two boxers exceeds 15 points.