Boxing in the United States

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Boxing in the United States
Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Juan Manuel Márquez.jpg
CountryUnited States
Governing bodyUSA Boxing
National team(s)United States Olympics team
International competitions

Boxing's origins began in the United States in 19th century.[1][2] The United States became the center of professional boxing in the early 20th century.[3][4][5][6]


The sport of boxing came to the United States from England in the late 1700s and took root in the 1800s mainly in large urban areas such as Boston, New York City, and New Orleans.[7]

While initially boxing was illegal many fighters and fights were held in secret to avoid arrest the sport soon found advocates in the late 19th century in the muscular Christianity movement, a religious sect that views sport as way of increasing moral and physical character.

John L. Sullivan became the first American heavyweight champion in 1882 under bare knuckle boxing rules and again in 1892 becoming the first gloved era.[8][9]

He was defeated by James Corbett, often referred to as the father of modern boxing due to his innovative scientific technique, in 1892.[10]

Jack Johnson was the first African American heavyweight champion.[11] Ring magazine was founded in the mid 1900s, and it began listing of championships and winners.

The National Boxing Association changed its name in 1962 and became the World Boxing Association. The new organization brought about an increased global role.

In 1963, a rival organization arrived World Boxing Council. Another body by the name International Boxing Federation emerged in 1983. There are different regional sanctioning bodies like the North American Boxing Federation and the United States Boxing Association promoted championships. Ring magazine list each weight division champion, and its rankings are still respected by boxing fans worldwide. In 2019 Andy Ruiz Jr. became the first male boxer of Mexican heritage to become a world heavyweight champion.

Professional boxing[edit]

The National Boxing Association was founded in 1921 and began to sanction title fights. Jack Dempsey became one of most popular athletes in the 1920s promoted by the likes of Tex Rickard.

After World War II television took on an important role in professional boxing. It was popular because of its relatively low production costs compared with other sports, professional boxing was a major feature of television programming throughout much of the 1950s and early 1960s.[12]

In the 1960s and 1970s, Muhammad Ali became an iconic figure, transformed the role and image of the African American athlete in America by his embrace of racial pride, and transcended the sport by refusing to serve in the Vietnam War.[13] In the 1980s and 1990s, major boxers such as Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe were marked by crime and self-destruction.[14]

Amateur boxing[edit]

The Amateur Athletic Union of the United States was founded in 1888 and began its annual championships in boxing the same year. In 1926 the Chicago Tribune started a boxing competition called the Golden Gloves. The United States of America Amateur Boxing Federation (now USA Boxing), which governs American amateur boxing, was formed after Amateur Sports Act of 1978 enabled the governance of sports in the US by organizations other than the AAU.[15][16][17] This act made each sport set up its own National governing body (NGB). Each of these governing bodies would be part of the United States Olympic Committee, but would not be run by the Committee.

In 1993 Dallas Malloy won a discrimination case against USA Boxing saying women were forbidden to box.[18]

An international organization for amateur boxing was begun in 1946, known as the International Amateur Boxing Association. The development amateur scene of boxing has seen the United States as a world beater. The US played a important role in building a respected status for the sport and also popularizing and making professional and amateur level boxing . The Olympic champions, the US has won 106 Olympic medals to date: 47 gold, 23 silver and 36 bronzes. Most heavyweight champions of this century originate from the United States.[19]

Women's boxing[edit]

The first recorded women's boxing match in the United States occurred in New York in 1888, when Hattie Leslie beat Alice Leary in a brutal fight.[citation needed]

Women's boxing at a professional and amateur was rarely acknowledged until 1970's Cathy 'Cat' Davis , Marian “Tyger” Trimiar and Jackie Tonawanda were pioneers as they were the first women in the United States to get a license for boxing in the United States. Cathty Davis was the female boxer to appear on the cover of Ring Magazine. [20][21][22]

In the 1990s, Women's boxing had a brief period of popularity due to likes of Christy Martin and Laila Ali.[23] But early into 2000's, the sport fell back to relative obscurity due to lack of promotion, television exposure and poor matchmaking.[24] Many female professional boxers in the United States struggle to make a viable living due to lack of finical opportunities and promotional opportunities.[25][26][27] In 2012, interest in women's boxing was revived when women where allowed to compete in boxing at the Olympic games for the first time.[28]

It has since lost out popularity to Women's MMA due to better financial opportunities from organistation such as the UFC.[23][29][30]


Boxing used to be a popular staple viewing on American television due to its low costs and production values and was broadcast on all the major networks. Since the 1970s it is mostly broadcast on PPV channels like HBO.[31] Showtime is another major network that broadcasts boxing the United States.

Present day[edit]

Since the late 1990s boxing has declined in popularity for a myriad of factors such as more sports entertainment options and combat alternatives such as MMA's UFC amongst a younger demographic.[32][33][34] Lack of mainstream coverage in newspapers and access on major television networks.[35] Also the lack of a US Heavyweight world champion.[36] [37]

It was hoped in 2015 that the Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao fight would re-invigorate interest in the sport in the United States but because the fight was disappointing it was perceived as doing further harm to the image of the sport in the United States.[38][25][39][40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sugden, John (19 August 1996). "Boxing and Society: An International Analysis". Manchester University Press. Retrieved 19 August 2017 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Fields, Sarah K. (1 October 2010). "Female Gladiators: Gender, Law, and Contact Sport in America". University of Illinois Press. Retrieved 20 November 2016 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ Cummins, Walter M.; Gordon, George G. (1 January 2006). "Programming Our Lives: Television and American Identity". Greenwood Publishing Group. Retrieved 20 November 2016 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Heiskanen, Benita (31 May 2012). "The Urban Geography of Boxing: Race, Class, and Gender in the Ring". Routledge – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Grasso, John (14 November 2013). "Historical Dictionary of Boxing". Scarecrow Press – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Smith, Kevin (1 October 2002). "Boston's Boxing Heritage: Prizefighting from 1882 to 1955". Arcadia Publishing. Retrieved 19 August 2017 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ "The Business Of Boxing - AMERICAN HERITAGE". Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  8. ^ "Floyd, Manny and the death of boxing". Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  9. ^ "Floyd, Manny and the death of boxing". Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  10. ^ Corbett, James J. (2008-04-01). Scientific Boxing: The Deluxe Edition. Promethean Press. ISBN 9780973769890.
  11. ^ "Boxing the Color Line - American Experience - PBS". Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Barra, Allen. "Why Can't America Love a Ukrainian Heavyweight Boxing Champ?". Atlantic. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
  14. ^ Grasso, John (14 November 2013). "Historical Dictionary of Boxing". Scarecrow Press – via Google Books.
  15. ^ "To fix a broken U.S. boxing Olympic program, why not a Dream Team?". Retrieved 2015-10-01.
  16. ^ "Olympics 2016: Five reasons why U.S. men's boxing has been so bad". Retrieved 2017-08-19.
  17. ^ "Down but Not Out". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-08-19.
  18. ^ "Striking a Blow for Equality : Dallas Malloy has won her fight to be America's first sanctioned female amateur boxer. The scrappy 16-year-old knows the rewards of blood, sweat and a killer instinct". 1993-10-18. Retrieved 2015-09-30.
  19. ^ "Wilbon: U.S. boxing simply a mess". Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  20. ^ Kates, Brian (2003-06-24). "PRETTIER THAN MEN Cat Davis vs. Floyd Patterson Chapter 104". The New York Daily News. Retrieved 2016-06-19.
  21. ^ "Women Try Boxing on the Coast". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-06-19.
  22. ^ "Women Have Been Boxing in the Shadows for Too Long". The New York Times. 15 August 2016.
  23. ^ a b Smith, Malissa (2014). A History of Women's Boxing. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 263. ISBN 9781442229952. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  24. ^ " BOXING - Women's boxing becoming a real joke". Retrieved 2016-02-15.
  25. ^ a b Brown, Sarah (2014-05-13). "Against the Ropes". Retrieved 2015-09-30.
  26. ^ "The Real Knockouts of Women's Boxing". The Atlantic. 2015-01-16. Retrieved 2015-11-18.
  27. ^ Raskin, Alex (6 July 2016). "Women's Boxing Fights for Exposure". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2016-08-17.
  28. ^ Nolan, Hamilton (3 August 2012). "Is There a Future for Women's Boxing?" – via Slate.
  29. ^ "Women's boxing hopes to gain traction from Holly Holm's UFC victory over Ronda Rousey". LA Times. 2016-02-08. Retrieved 2016-02-15.
  30. ^ "Examining the Growth and Popularity of Women's Mixed Martial Arts". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 2014-12-30.
  31. ^ "HBO to end live boxing programming this year". Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  32. ^ "Will McGregor v Mayweather save American boxing – or bury it?". 19 August 2017. Retrieved 19 August 2017 – via The Guardian.
  33. ^ Flinn, Jenny. "The rise and rise of ultimate fighting (and why boxing is now so passé)". The Conversation.
  34. ^ "Boxing takes a hit from MMA's growing popularity". Toronto Star.
  35. ^ "Boxing Is a Brutal, Fading Sport. Could Football Be Next?". The New York Times. 9 November 2015.
  36. ^ NJM. "Why Boxing Is Becoming Less Relevent [sic] In America". Bleacher Report.
  37. ^ Espinoza, Jose. "Is Boxing Broken Beyond Repair?". Askmen.
  38. ^ "Boxing and horse racing aren't coming back (but they won't go away)". 6 May 2015.
  39. ^ Connor, Patrick (12 May 2015). "Mayweather-Pacquiao is over and boxing is dead, again" – via The Guardian.
  40. ^ "Before Mayweather-McGregor, poll shows MMA isn't stealing boxing's popularity". Washington Post. Retrieved 20 August 2018.