The Origins of Boxing

By Phin Upham

Boxing is a sport that has been romanticized multiple times in films and television shows. It’s given us greats like Rocky Marciano and Evander Holyfield. It started trends, like the way Mohammed Ali talked, and it inspires rivalries that excite us. It’s a dramatic sport with ancient roots.

The sport can actually trace its roots back to Africa in 6,000 BC. The area that is now Ethiopia, and it spread into what is Egypt today. It spread into ancient Sumeria, where wrestling was the dominant form of physical combat for sport. It’s likely this tradition grew out of military exercises. It probably served two purposes, as training first and foremost, and as entertainment. In the beginning, gloves went all the way up to the elbow.

There are cave paintings that go back some 17,000 years that depict humans wrestling with one another as crowds cheered them on. Probably closer to the Greco-Roman concept than the WWE, this physical form of combat probably formed the basis for boxing. Boxing has similar forms, similar ideas and a definitive ending.

The Greeks engaged in the sport as well, but the Romans perfected it. The sport went from bare knuckle to leather thongs wrapped around the hands, then hard leather, which became something like a weapon. The Romans held boxing matches that were fights to the death in most cases, but the sport was eventually abolished for its brutality.

The next time it would resurface was during the late 17th century in London, as the wearing of swords fell out of favor with the general populace.

Phin Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or LinkedIn page.