Updated: May 29, 2024
19th and 20th century photos of people who participated in the sport of boxing - also called pugilism.

Modern boxing is supervised by a referee. There are usually 8 to 12 rounds in a professional match, consisting of one to three minute intervals with a one minute rest period in between. Also known as pugilism, the result is decided when an opponent is deemed by the referee to be incapable of continuing, an opponent is disqualified for breaking a rule, one of the boxers resigns by throwing in a towel, or by the judges' scorecards at the end of a bout.

Boxing gloves, in their current form a relatively recent piece of equipment (for centuries, boxers fought barehanded or with smaller, less padded gloves), are actually more dangerous than bare hands and have resulted in more deaths. Gloves protect boxers' hands, allowing them to throw stronger punches and cause more damage to opponents' heads/brains.

From local boxing rings to amateur bouts to professional boxing, the sport is still popular after thousands of years with both participants and spectators. The rules vary depending on the type of boxing and yet the general form remains the same - knocking out your opponent is the goal. These are some interesting facts about the sport:

  • Len Wickwar of Great Britain fought 463 bouts between 1928 and 1947. He holds the record for the most wins - 336 - and the most losses - 127 - of any boxer.
  • American boxer Joe Louis, nicknamed the Brown Bomber, defended the heavyweight title 26 times - a record.
  • In 1949, a man and a bear fought an official boxing match. The bear won.
  • Amercan boxer Archie Moore - nicknamed "The Mongoose" - holds the record for most knockout wins during a career - 141.
  • Sugar Ray Robinson, a Hall of Fame boxer, tried to withdraw from a fight because he had a dream that he was going to kill his opponent in the ring. After the promoters of the fight brought in a priest - or a priest and minister according to some - he was convinced to fight. He went into the ring and and knocked out his opponent, Jimmy Doyle, in the 8th round. Doyle never regained consciousness and died 17 hours later.
  • Canadian boxer George Chuvalo - despite fighting some of the greatest boxers, fighting 93 fights, and losing 18 times - was never once knocked down or knocked out in a fight.
  • It is claimed that Guglielmo Papaleo, known in boxing as Willie Pep, is the only boxer to ever win a round without throwing a punch. Though the claim is disputed, Willie did tell reporters before the match that he would win the third round without throwing "a punch of anger."

Stroll through these photos of boxers of the 19th and 20th centuries - men and women, amateur and professional.

Share and discover the people and places from your past