A History of Boxing Part II: globalisation, and emerging media (19th and 20th Century)

Updated: Dec 13, 2020


Unorthodoxx is proud of boxing's heritage. We continue exploring the history of the sport that is iconic for men and women wearing boxing gloves. As the sport enters into the 20th century we look at the impact of early globalisation, technology and emerging media.

Boxing, globalisation, and emerging media

The dawn of the 20th century saw boxing become adopted around the world with central cities increasingly hosting large boxing shows and reaping the benefits of increasing ticket prices.

New York was one of these cities and despite turbulent times of legality, supervision and regulation, it established itself as the home of boxing with the highest concentration of boxing contests in any city worldwide.

On the other side of the pond, London was also increasing the number of shows at various venues. Between 1893- 1913, boxing events filled up to fourteen different venues a year. Boxing continued to represent a paradox of interest in which spectators were fascinated by the human violence that existed with the confinements of the boxing ring.

On the 8th September 1894, the first broadcast of a world title boxing match occurred. Filmed by Thomas Edison as an exhibition between James J. Corbett and Peter Courtney in Orange, New Jersey. Unbeknown to Edison was the impact his image motion video would have on sparking a new frenzy of boxing media and content which remains today.

However, Boxing still maintained its ability to e relevant. In 1921, the first radio broadcast transmitted on live radio and began the ever so important role of boxing commentators that remains today.

The next forty years saw Boxing fluctuate in popularity, rising in the early 1930s but waning in the 1950s and 60s – some believe this may have been reflective of post-war times and a desire for less violence.

In 1933, Boxing was televised for the first time. Just six years later transmitted to a movie theatre in London. On the 22nd January 1973, the first premium capable TV boxing bout aired on HBO between George Foreman and Joe Frazier, fought in Kingston, Jamaica.

In 1986, Showtime aired its first main event, on a closed circuit that was the modern equivalent of Pay-per-view, between Marvin Hagler and John Mugabi. Five years later, the first HBO Pay-Per-View (PPV) was the heavyweight match between Evander Holyfield and George Foreman.

The era of boxing continued to rise and fall as each promoter showcased upcoming boxers such as the likes of Muhammad Ali, George Forman, Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, Sugar Ray Robinson and Roberto Duran (to just a name a few!).

The era also so the first stages of boxing promotors struggling to work against and with one another promotors worked with and against one another. And Introduced the rise Don King, Bob Arum, Al Haymon, Barry Hearn and Frank Warren who each helped steer boxing into new commercial territory.