When Cassius Clay aka Mohamed Ali passed away earlier this year, the world lost a great sportsman and a champion for human rights.
Not many of the current generation may have heard of this great athlete who rose from very humble beginnings to conquer the world of Boxing and remained a huge favorite with many of the earlier generation even as a debilitating illness kept him away from public view for many years.
The sport of Boxing is a blend of combat and martial art where two opponents use techniques to aim punches at each other to win the bout. Protective gloves and headgear is part of modern-day boxing, which is a highly popular event in many countries, with competition going up all the way to the Olympic level.
Like many other combat sports, Boxing has its origins in hand-to-hand combat that was practiced since ancient times; however, as an organized sport it was most likely played by the ancient Greeks to whom we trace the origin of the Olympic games of the modern era. Reliefs from ancient civilizations like the Babylonian, Mesopotamian and Sumerian point to us the evidence of fist-fighting with protective hand covers or gloves. The earliest reference of the sport goes back to 668 BC during the ancient Olympiads but it has evolved continuously and our current knowledge of Boxing is connected in a big way to the 16th century prize fights that were held mainly in Great Britain but spread quickly to other parts of Europe and the United States.
In ancient Rome as well, Boxing was a hugely popular sport. Opponents used leather thongs wrapped around their fists for protection. In due course, harder leather and metal studs were introduced giving it a lethal weapon like status referred to as the ‘myrmex’ or limb piercer. Amphitheatres in Rome often held Boxing events resembling gladiator fights where a fight until death was often the spectacle that most spectators enjoyed. This progressed to bouts where trained combat performers and purchased slaves were made to fight each other in a circle marked on the floor, the beginning of set rules to mark the sport and bringing up the notion of a ‘Boxing Ring’. However, excessive brutality in later years made the Romans abolish boxing during the gladiator period around 393 AD. From then, it was only around the 17th century when Boxing reappeared in London at pubs and riverside wharfs where ‘throwing down the gauntlet and picking it up’ largely defined the way Boxing bouts were held.