Individual Sports: Boxing

Figure 1.--These American boys are staging a mock boxing match in their backyard. Notice the screen door. The boys are wearing knickers, long stockings, and tennis shoes.

Boxing is a sport of ancient origins. We note Minoan boys in the 16th century BC show boxing in wall paintings. Curiously they are shown with only one glove. The Romans also boxed. Boxing in modern times became a sport in 19th century England. The Marquis of Queensberry developed rules for fighting. Boxing used to be a sport promoted at schools in America, England, and other countries, although I do not have a complete list. The sport was persued by many children beginning in primary school. European schools had more limited athletic programs, but boxing was popular in many Europen countries, often persued at athletic clubs. It was practiced at many British private boarding schools as part of the sports and competitive ethos of the schools. It was also a popular sport in America by the late-19th century. And it was taught in schools as a sport. We do not have a lot of infoirnmation on boxing in America during the 19th century. Once snapshots appear at the turn of the 20th century, we have a much better idea of how popular sports are and we see images of boys, but of course never girls boxing. A good example is a family boxing lesson about 1914. Boxing was also a popular activity at YMCAs in American and Europe. Boxing grew in popularity in Germany after World War I. The success of Max Schmeling in the 1930s-30s was a factor in the sports growth. In addition, the Hitler Youth promoted fighting skills, including boxing. Other NAZI organizations promoted boxing as a manly activity. Hitler in particular approved of the sport. Through the 1940s boxing gloves in America were given as Christmas or birthday gifts. It was gradually phased out as being too brutal. Here both the image of boxing and possible neurological damage were factors. Medical evidence demonstated that it was a dangeous sport, especially for developing children. I do not have a definitive chronology on when boxing was phased out of schools. I do not recall it in my American school in the 1950s. A British reader reports that boxing had disappeared from English schools by the early-70s.


Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main specific sports page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Created: February 10, 2004
Last updated: 7:02 PM 3/31/2011