Pugilism, a word rarely used today, is another term for boxing, a combat sport and a martial art in which two people throw punches at each other for a predetermined amount of time in a boxing ring. The term pugilism comes from the Latin word “pugil”, which means “a boxer”, and is related to the Latin word “pugnus”, which stands for “a fist”.
There is no conclusive evidence of where the practice of boxing comes from. The first known form of boxing seems to have prehistoric origins in present-day Ethiopia, where it presumably appeared in the sixth millennium BC. When the Egyptians invaded Nubia, they learned the art of boxing from the local population, consequently taking the sport to Egypt where it gained considerable popularity. From Egypt, boxing spread to other countries, including Greece, eastward to Mesopotamia, and northward, all the way to Rome. Archaeological evidence of ancient Greek boxing goes as far back as the Minoan and Mycenaean periods. Among numerous legends about the origins of boxing in Greece one stands out in particular. It says that Theseus, the founder of Athens, invented a form of fighting in which two men sat face-to-face and hit each other with their fists until one of them was dead.
All of this might sound like a barbaric pastime, but there is so much more to it than just two people trying to hit each other as hard as they can. Even back then, the sport had certain rules and regulations. The few rules of boxing in Ancient Greece that are known to us are mostly based on historical references and images. There were no holds or wrestling. Any type of blow with the hand was allowed, but no eye gouging. No ring was used, and there were no rounds or time limits. The fight would go on until one man was knocked out or admitted he had been beaten. Unlike the modern sport, there was no rule against hitting an opponent when he was down. There were no weight classes within the men’s and boys’ divisions; opponents for a match were chosen randomly. Although there is some evidence of kicks used in ancient Greek boxing, this remains a subject for debate among scholars.
Instead of gloves, Olympic boxers of the time wrapped leather thongs around their hands and wrists, leaving their fingers free. The earliest depiction of ancient boxing gloves in use comes in the form of a Minoan fresco from Thera (modern-day Santorini), which is commonly known as the Boxing Boys, and dates from around 1600 BCE. Eventually down the history road, further safety measures have been introduced to protect boxers from serious injury. The additions included mouthguards and headgear, along with revised rules governing the length of rounds and the conduct of the fight.
Boxing became an Olympic Games sport as early as 688 BC. This effectively meant boxing was one of the first sports added to the Games. Onomastus of Smyrna was the first winner in Olympic boxing. Despite the lack of rules and the tough nature of boxing at the Ancient Games, honour, respect, and fair play were always at the fulcrum of this noble art. At the time, the god Apollo was regarded as the inventor and guardian of the sport of boxing. Boxers in Ancient Greece who went down in history were revered as superheroes.
Boxing developed over time, with the pursuit of monetary gain becoming a significant part of the sport in England in the 17th century. Popular with the gambling crowd because of its brutality and spectacularity, it slowly evolved to become more civilised. Prizefighting was gaining popularity as well. Men were carefully trained to meet in the roped-off ring, usually marked out in a field. Fights went to a finish, that is, until one of the pair was unable to continue. The concept of modern boxing emerged around the mid-19th century in England. At that time, illegal fights were organized by matchmakers to win bets. Often, the police would come and break up the fights. In 1865, a journalist driven by his passion for pugilism wrote the rules of boxing, referred to as the Marquess of Queensberry’s rules. Among a total of 15 rules, it mandated the fighters to wear gloves, banned wrestling, and generally made this bloody sport more humane. Another thing to note is that it introduced certain standards and promoted sportsmanship.
Around the same time in the 19th century, the sport began to gain widespread popularity in the United States, where the first world championship fight was held in 1892. This marked the beginning of the “Golden Age” of boxing, where legendary fighters such as Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, and Muhammad Ali dominated the sport. By the 20th century, America had become the centre of professional boxing. The sport’s economic incentive rose as growing viewership brought larger purses and commercial success. The increasing popularity of boxing led to a rise in minority participation, with the first successful non-white champions coming at the beginning of the 20th century, despite severe racism plaguing their attempts to gain and hold championship titles.
Although predominantly a men’s sport because of its ruthless nature, women are not left behind. Women’s boxing has been getting increasingly more attention over time, with the first women’s boxing championship taking place in 1974. Women’s amateur boxing championship was first introduced at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Since then, it has become a regular part of the Olympic program, where women compete in three weight classes. It was officially recognized as an Olympic sport in 2012.
Women’s professional boxing has also grown in popularity in recent years, with many talented female boxers competing at the highest levels of the sport. Some of the most successful female boxers include Mary Kom of India, who is a five-time World Amateur Boxing champion and the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the six world championships, and Claressa Shields, who is a three-time Olympic gold medalist and the most successful American amateur boxer of all time.
Reading Passage 1 has five sections (A-E). Choose the most suitable heading for each section from the list of headings below.
Write the appropriate number (I-VIII) in boxes 1-5 on your Answer Sheet. There are more headings than sections, so you will not use all of them.
List of Headings
I Punching and Kicking
II Across the Atlantic
III Blessed by Heavens
IV Outnumbered, but not Outperformed
V Evolution and Recognition
VI Keeping it Civilised
VII The First Blow
VIII Gender Inequality
Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 1?
In boxes 6-10 on your answer sheet, write
TRUE if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this
6 It is unknown what country boxing came from
7 Greeks were the first to come up with rules for boxing matches
8 No visual evidence of ancient boxing has survived
9 A certain deity was associated with the sports of boxing
Choose the appropriate letters A-C and write them in boxes 10-14 on your answer sheet.