The History of American Boxing

The history of American boxing begins during the Industrial Revolution, though the history of boxing itself dates back much further than that, to ancient Greece. It made its way over the years to England, who in turn brought the sport to the US.

The original American boxing involved little in the way of rules. Boxing matches were bare-knuckled events between members of the working class, sometimes including wrestling, often resulting in serious injury or death. Without a governing body, early boxing matches could go on for hours.

Another subdivision of boxing was African American boxing, which was between Black and Latino boxers. These boxers were often slaves who were used as entertainment by their masters. Sometimes they could win their freedom by winning a boxing match. Tom Molineaux is one of the most famous of the slave boxers, winning his freedom in the early 1800s and traveling to England to box. Bill Richmond, known as "Black Terror," was another famous black boxer who was taken to England by his master to fight in the 1700s. Both Molineaux and Richmond were eventually defeated by the British Tom Cribb.

Rules were finally brought to British boxing by the Marquess of Queensberry (though they were actually written by a man named John Chambers). These included time limits on rounds (three minutes), rest periods (one minute) and recovery periods (ten seconds). The goal of these rules was to limit injury, so wrestling was also excluded. Eventually these rules made their way to the US, helping boxing to become more civilized.

The first real championship took place in 1880 in West Virginia between Joe Goss and Paddy Ryan. The fight lasted an hour and a half, with Ryan eventually knocking Goss out. Goss was later defeated by John L. Sullivan, who used the win to promote himself and make money.

The National Boxing Association (NBA), now known as the World Boxing Association (WBA), came about in 1921. It was lead by representatives of thirteen states. The NBA's role was to govern boxing and ensure that rules were being followed and safety was being practiced. The 1920s also saw the rise of Jack Dempsey, the World Heavyweight champion from 1919 to 1926. To this day, he remains a legend in sports.

Boxing took a dip in popularity in the 1930s because of the depression. Boxers weren't making as much as they were used to and therefore weren't fighting as often. It took another hit in the 1940s when athletes from all sports were being sent overseas to fight in WWII. Sugar Ray Robinson, Jake LaMotta and Rocky Graziano were the big boxers at this time.

The 1960 saw George Foreman and Muhammad Ali emerge as some of the best boxers to live. The 1980s and early 90s would bring Mike Tyson, a controversial but skilled boxer.

Today the popularity of boxing continues to fluctuate as it is met with resistance due to its violence. Still, it remains a multi-million dollar sport with avid followers, a sport that is unlikely to disappear anytime soon.

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