Sponge

Throw up the sponge. Give up; confess oneself beaten. The metaphor is from boxing matches.

“We must stand up to our fight now, or throw up the sponge. There's no two ways about the matter” —Boldrewood: Robbery under Arms, chap. xxxi.

“We hear that the followers of the Arab chief have thrown up the sponge.” —Newspaper paragraph, April 2nd, 1888.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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