Bare Knuckle Boxing

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Bare Knuckle Boxing

Bare Knuckle Boxing or Fisticuffs is the old form of modern day boxing that features two fighting individuals who do not wear any protection, padding or gloves. This old sport is more similar to ancient Greek boxing in which opponents must overpower each other through punching.

In the mid-18th Century, Bare Knuckle Boxing was made into a sport by Jack Broughton by creating rules that would make this brutal art into a more refined and fairer activity.


The first documented bare knuckle boxing appeared in 1681 in the London Protestant Mercury. In 1719, bare knuckle boxing became a little more organized as the first champion of boxing emerged in the name of Jason Figg, and it was also at this time that people began to use the word boxing.

Bare knuckle boxing back then had no written rules: there were no weight divisions or round limits; it also had no referee. Rules such as banning "hitting below the belt", biting, kicking and grappling were not present at that time.

It was not until 1743 when the first boxing rules were drafted and it was called London Prize Ring Rules by a man named Jack Broughton. This was done in order to protect fighters in the ring because accidental ring deaths were rampant at that time. In these rules, if a man went down and could not continue in 30 seconds, a winner was declared. It was also at this time that hitting a downed fighter and grasping below the waist were prohibited. The use of "mufflers" or any form of padded gloves was also made compulsory. It is remarkable that in these rules, when a man went down on one knee the 30 second count would begin without any danger of being hit. So, whenever a fighter felt he was in danger of being knocked out he could kneel or sit for 29 seconds, giving him time to recover. In modern-day boxing, intentionally falling on one knee is considered a knock-down, and a fighter is penalized by the judges accordingly.


In 1838, the London Prize Ring rules were expanded in detail. Later revised in 1853, they stipulated the following:

  • Fights occurred in a 24-foot-square ring surrounded by ropes.
  • If a fighter was knocked down, he had to rise within 30 seconds under his own power to be allowed to continue.
  • Biting, headbutting and hitting below the belt were declared fouls.

See Also

European Martial Arts
Archery | Bare Knuckle Boxing | Bartitsu | Bata | Bâton français | Boxing | Buza | Catch Wrestling | Cornish Wrestling | Dai Ki Haku | Dirk Dance | Fencing | German Ju-Jutsu | German school of Swordsmanship | Glima | Gouren | Greco-Roman Wrestling | Italian School of Swordsmanship | Jieishudan | Jogo do Pau | Jousting | Juego del Palo | Kampfringen | Kas Pin | Kickboxing | Nindokai | Pankration | Real Aikido | Russian All-Round Fighting | Sambo | Savate | Schwingen | Scottish Backhold | Spirit Combat | Stav | Svebor | Systema | Wrestling | Wu Shu Kwan | Zhuan Shu Kuan






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