The Beginning of Boxing in Britain, 1300–1700

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About the Book

Many books have discussed boxing in the ancient world, but this is the first to describe how boxing was reborn in the modern world. Modern boxing began in the Middle Ages in England as a criminal activity. It then became a sport supported by the kings and aristocracy. Later it was again outlawed and only in the 20th century has it become a sport popular around the world.

This book describes how modern boxing began in England as an outgrowth of the native English sense of fair play. It demonstrates that boxing was the common man’s alternative to the sword duel of honor, and argues that boxing and fair play helped Englishmen avoid the revolutions common to France, Italy and Germany during the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. English enthusiasm for boxing largely drove out the pistol and sword duels from English society. And although boxing remains a brutal sport, it has made England one of the safest countries in the world.

It also examines how the rituals of boxing developed: the meaning of the parade to the ring; the meaning of the ring itself; why only two men fight at one time; why the fighters shake hands before each fight; why a boxing match is called a prizefight; and why a knock-down does not end the bout. Its sources include material from medieval manuscripts, and its notes and bibliography are extensive.

About the Author(s)

Arly Allen was president of Allen Press, Inc., a scholarly printer and publisher for many years until his retirement in 1993. He is a member of the International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO) and has written a number of scholarly articles on boxing and medieval history. He lives in Oxford, Ohio.

Bibliographic Details

Arly Allen

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 246
Bibliographic Info: 17 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8115-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3939-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction and Acknowledgments 1

I. Wrestling and Boxing 3

II. Buffeting, Beheading and the Beginning of Boxing (c. 875–1600) 11

III. Fist-Fighting and the Earliest Rules of Boxing (617–1600) 26

IV. The First Boxers in Britain (1165–1600) 51

V. Boxing and the Duel of Honor (1570–1790) 72

VI. Boxing and the Concept of Fair Play 88

VII. The Puritans and the First Matches of Boxing 107

VIII. Gambling and Boxing 122

IX. Why Was Prizefighting Illegal? 132

Appendices

1. Bringing Back Bare-Knuckle Boxing 151

2. Was It Legal for King Richard I to Use Wax on His Fists? 151

3. Pluck Buffet 153

4. Was the Caestus Reintroduced into Sixteenth Century England? 155

5. Oliver Cromwell and the Squire Papers 160

6. Early English Law Cases Dealing with Boxing (1789–1882) 161

Chapter Notes 185

Bibliography 225

Index 239