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A History of Boxing Part I: pugilism and prizefighting (Pre 19th Century)

Updated: Jun 27, 2023


Unorthodoxx is proud of boxing's heritage. We explore the history of the sport that is iconic for men and women wearing boxing gloves. To celebrate the dawn of a new decade, and one that promises to be our most exciting to date for the sport, we explore the rise of boxing and the future of boxing for women and men. We begin this journey by reviewing the earliest form of boxing leading up to the 19th century. Be sure to keep up to date with the latest product releases, blog updates and news stories by subscribing to our blog and following our social media channels.

Pugilism and Prize Fighting

Boxing is one of the world’s oldest sports, if not the oldest and is recognised for its aggression and one on one combat. Since the Ancient Greeks and Romans, Boxing has been a popular spectator sport which filled stadiums, attracted crowds and created heroes of its athletes. However ancient versions of boxing did not reflect the same characteristic or values of the sport we view today. Instead, modern Boxing’s origins to the folk tradition of bare-knuckle fighting and prizefighting in Britain.

It would not be until the 18th century that prizefighting would begin to represent the characteristics of modern boxing. Triggered by the influence of several individuals such as the likes of James Figg and Jack Broughton. Both Figg and Broughton helped to identify and create commercial opportunities in boxing that resulted in the sport being introduced boxing to a wider audience of both spectating and participation. As society became more routinely and civilised the growing desire for a physical and competitive outlet grew. Gentleman and aristocrats began to seek more vicarious excitement through gambling or participating in boxing.

Particularly, Broughton understood how to commercialise prizefighting, and created an income for boxers and show promoters through selling tickets, managing books and increasing the appeal of the sport. It was during this time that the introduction of the first type of boxing glove was introduced to help reduce the brutality of the sport inflicted by bare knuckles.

The emergence of railways also helped to drive attendance to boxing events and promoters started building individuals boxer’s profiles and exhibitions around the country for their boxers to appear on Halfway into the 19th century and prizefighting had differentiated into two distinctions: amateur boxing and prizefighting – which would become professional boxing. In 1865, the Marquis of Queensberry Rules were initially introduced into amateur boxing before being adapted to prizefighting by 1890.

With a tighter set of rules, greater protection of contestants timed rounds and rests, and reduced brutality, a more civilised version of the boxing increased in popularity, business and spectatorship. This helped to increase the appeal of boxing to middle- and upper-class society which eventually helped the sport to survive through a time of turmoil caused by ring deaths and legality. By 1890s boxing has shifted from being a middle-class sport of recreation to one of mass popularity. In 1891, the National Sports Club established itself and as a combination of venue, promotor, and pugilist governing body. Introducing an expanded version of the Marquees of Queensberry rules, the organisation placed itself at a pioneer in bringing boxing to new heights.

By the end of the nineteenth century, Boxing had established international circuits, connecting spectators, boxers, managers, entertainment entrepreneurs, and press reporters in what was considered the first stages of modern globalisation.


Stay tuned as our next blog will explore the history of boxing during the 19th and 20th century, and the impact of new and emerging technology.

About Unorthodoxx and our Women's Boxing Gloves

Unorthodoxx is the UK’s first Women’s Boxing brand that has been created purely for women and has exclusively designed women’s boxing gloves and women’s boxing clothing. Our products and equipment are designed to offer the ultimate fit, protection and durability for female boxers and combat sport fighters. From novice beginners to elite competition Unorthodoxx fight gear offers the best women’s boxing gloves, clothing and equipment.

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