Remembering The Boxing Pioneers Of Pre-Modern Boxing

Before the formal boxing games we now have were the brutal, bare knuckle fist fights that started during the 18th century in England. Not long after, the sport grew in popularity in America. From both lands, champions were raised and below are the profiles of the pioneer boxing champions who helped shaped the history of boxing as we know it.

The very first recognized boxing champion was James Fig who reined for more than 15 years as champion. He wore the championship crown until he died in 1740. He was then succeeded by the Father of Boxing, James Broughton who was a great boxer himself but was more known for his effort to formalize the boxing rules. He laid the foundation for the Broughton Boxing Rules which served as the first set of rudimentary rules that boxers followed until 1838, approximately 2 years after he killed his opponent by mistake during a fight.

His rules were devised to remove the free-for-all brawls that oftentimes happened in boxing arenas as well as forwarded the art of boxing. It was also due to him that other fighters saw the importance of practicing systematic fighting techniques instead of just throwing punches along with other things towards the opponents.

Only when Daniel Mendoza showcased a systematized approach to boxing did the sport became fully free of the previous state of boxing as an anything-goes sport. He introduced a more varied, more scientific approach to boxing where skills and strategies were actually used. Ironically, he was only champion for one year, from 1794 to 1795.

By this time, boxing has already caught the liking of the Americans. Thus, the two free African-American champions Tom Molineux and the Bill Richmond fought with the best British fighters and brought home the championship. In 1810, Tom Molineux became the very first American champion when he defeated the then champion, Tom Cribb.

In 1816, the first boxing fight was held in America under the British boxing rules between Tom Beasley and Jacob Hyer. Twenty years after, the British champion James Burke, also known as "The Deaf", sailed to New Orleans to fight with the Irish champion Sam O'Rourke. In 1841, the first formal American boxing championship happened between Jacob Hyer's son Tom Hyer and Yankee Sullivan.

Not long after this, the first transatlantic fight occurred when John Heenan, more popularly known as The Benica Boy, traveled to England to meet with Tom Sayers, the English champion during the period.

The London Prize Ring Rules remained to be the only set of governing rules in boxing until 1867 when the Marques of Queensberry proposed a new set of rules. This was somehow the mother of the modern boxing rules as the current basic rules resemble these old rules partially. This set of rules proposed that the boxers wear protective gloves and that each boxing round should consist of only 3 minutes.

The public agreed with it and it was accepted. Under the Queensberry Rules, the last pre-modern boxing champion John L. Sullivan reigned as champion. He was also the last champion of the bare-knuckle fights and the first heavy weight champion.

From the bloody brawls between working classes up to the high-class boxing fights between nobles, boxing surely had made itself very popular and made some boxing greats worthy of being recognized in boxing's hall of fame.

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