Boxing is a sport which has almost always been driven by money. The boxers were fighting for prize money, and the spectators were gambling on the result. Amateur boxing hardly existed before becoming an Olympic sport in 1908. Gambling on boxing is still alive today and it presents a good gambling opportunity as there are only two likely outcomes. A draw can occur but it is very infrequent.
Boxing itself can be traced back as far as 2000 years BC or even earlier. There are many references to boxing in ancient Greek and Roman writings, and even earlier depictions in carvings and statues. There are also detailed accounts of various fist fighting sports held in Italian cities between the 12th and 17th centuries, but the modern sport of boxing is probably better seen as a development arising from the emergence of ‘ bare knuckle ‘ boxing in England in the early 18th century. This was often referred to as ‘Prize Fighting ‘, with the first documented account being published in the London Protestant Mercury in 1681. It is not documented but there is a strong probability that gambling on boxing was a big part of the prize fighting. The first recognised English Champion was James Figg in 1719. It was about this time that the term ‘boxing ‘started to be used. At this time of course there were no written rules, no rounds or weight divisions, and no referee but the outcome for the boxing gambling public was clear.
The first written rules were drawn up by Jack Broughton in 1743, and were known as Broughton’s Rules. Jack Broughton was a Heavyweight Champion, and the rules were his attempt to prevent deaths in the ring, which were all too common. This was the first introduction of the ‘count ‘, whereby if a boxer was knocked down and could not continue within 30 seconds, the fight was over. The rules also banned hitting an opponent on the floor and ‘grasping ‘below the waist. Broughton also invented ‘mufflers ‘, which were padded gloves for use in sparring and exhibition bouts.
The next sets of rules were the London Prize Ring rules, introduced in 1838, and revised in 1853. These rules introduced the boxing ring, which was to be 24 feet square, and surrounded by ropes. They also modified the rules of the count by insisting that the boxer got up on his feet, unaided, within 30 seconds. Biting, head butting and hitting below the belt were also forbidden. In spite of these rules, boxing or prize fighting was virtually outlawed in England and many states in America during the late 19th century but gambling on boxing continued; it just meant that most bouts were held at gambling venues and were often raided by the police.
The better known Marquess of Queensberry Rules were actually written by John Chambers under the patronage of the Marquess of Queensberry, in 1867. These rules were drawn up specifically for an amateur boxing championship held at Lillie Bridge in London. The 12 rules included many of the elements of boxing we know today, including 3 minute rounds, the 10 second count and the introduction of ‘fair sized ‘gloves. Bare knuckle boxing in England came to an end following a court case in 1882, which ruled that bare knuckle boxing was
‘assault occasioning actual bodily harm ‘, despite the consent of the fighters.
The first Heavyweight Champion, under the Queensberry Rules was ‘Gentleman ‘Jim Corbett, who beat John L. Sullivan in 1892 at the Pelican Athletic Club in New Orleans.
Amateur boxing became an Olympic sport in 1908, and competitions now include the Commonwealth Games and a variety of National Championships. It is however mostly used as an entry into the professional ranks, except for some former Soviet Republics and in particular Cuba, where the amateur sport is still very strong. There is no doubt that Professional boxing is by far the strongest and most popular form of the sport worldwide and provides the most opportunity for gambling on boxing.
Professional boxing is usually fought over 10 or 12 rounds, with a referee and three independent judges. The bout is won by a ‘ knock out ‘, a ‘ technical knock out ‘ when the fight is stopped by the referee, or a ‘ points decision ‘ with the winner decided by the points awarded to each boxer in each round, by the judges. Professional boxers do not wear head guards, which makes a knock out or technical knock out much more likely than in amateur boxing. The most common reason for a technical knock out in professional boxing is a cut to the head, which cannot be stemmed by the support team in a boxer’s corner. Hence the importance of the ‘cut man ‘, many of whom become heroes in their own right.
It is the ‘points decision ‘which causes the most disputes in professional boxing both for the participants and the boxing gambling public, particularly at the top end of the sport where the prize money or ‘purse ‘can be huge. It is not unusual for a losing boxer or those gambling to claim that he was ‘robbed ‘, particularly when he is fighting outside his native country. The venue for a fight is always an important part of negotiations between managers and promoters, and should always be considered when gambling on boxing.
The other contentious issue for the sport of professional boxing is the number of ‘ Sanctioning Bodies ‘ which have emerged since the early 1960’s, each awarding its own World Championship. The only positive is that it provides more opportunities for gambling on boxing. There are now five Sanctioning Bodies involved in professional boxing, namely:-
World Boxing Association ( WBA )
World Boxing Council ( WBC )
International Boxing Federation ( IBF )
World Boxing Organisation ( WBO )
International Professional Boxing Federation ( WPBF )
It is possible in theory therefore to have as many as five World Heavyweight Champions, at any one time. Although this is very rare, the recent history of boxing is littered with examples of two or three World Champions in a particular weight division. There have of course been ‘undisputed Champions ‘, following ‘unification ‘fights, but these fights are often difficult to arrange because no-one wants to lose their title, especially a World title.
This issue remains a serious complication for the gambling on boxing fan.
We list below the most common weight Divisions in Professional boxing, but there are a number of intermediate divisions, sometimes given different titles by different Bodies. The
‘Weigh-in ‘is held the day before the bout, and often forms part of the theatre of professional boxing.
Flyweight 112 lbs
Bantamweight 118 lbs
Featherweight 126 lbs
Lightweight 135 lbs
Welterweight 147 lbs
Middleweight 160 lbs
Light Heavyweight 175 lbs
As well as gambling on the winner there are sometimes a number of alternative bets open to the boxing gambling fan including the round in which the fight will end.