Depicted on the walls of tombs at Beni Hasan in Egypt, dating from about 2000 to 1500 B.C., boxing is one of the oldest forms of competition. A part of the ancient Olympic games, the sport was exhausting and brutal. The Greeks fought without regard for weight differentials and without interruption, a match ending only when a fighter lost consciousness or raised his hand in resignation. Boxers wound heavy strips of leather around their hands and wrists. Under Roman rule, these thongs (the caestus) were laced with metal, ensuring an abundance of blood. Statues of maimed boxers from late antiquity attest to the carnage. After the demise of the Olympics, boxing survived as a common sport. It persisted at local fairs and religious festivals throughout medieval Europe and was especially popular in the west and north of England, where it was often a combination of wrestling and street fighting.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.