The history of boxing at the Olympics stretches back to the history of the Olympics themselves. In this guide, you'll take a quick trip through time, learning more about boxing at the Olympics through its various stages, and the changes which have been implemented today.
The Original Olympic Games in Greece
The ancient Olympics in Greece date back to 776 B.C., and boxing was one of the core original sports of those games. The history of boxing itself dates back at least several thousand more years beyond the ancient Olympics, stretching back to 3,000 B.C. Egypt.
Boxing has been a part of the modern Olympics since 1904. However, that competition only included U.S. fighters. In 1912, host country Sweden didn't allow boxing to be contested. That makes the 1920 Olympics the first true, full Olympic boxing competition in the modern era. Since then, it has been an integral part of every Olympiad.
Introduction of Protective Gear
The 1984 games in Los Angeles marked the first time that protective headgear was mandated for Olympic boxing. This is a far cry from ancient Greece, when leather straps around the wrists and knuckles, sometimes adorned with metal, were the only gear worn.
Rules and Judging Changes
Largely thanks to one of the biggest Olympic travesties of all time -- Roy Jones having his gold medal stolen from him by judges who favored a South Korean fighter at the 1988 games in Seoul - amateur boxing introduced an automated, computerized scoring system.
With this format, instead of watching a fight to determine who was in control and performed at a higher level, three judges out of five needed to press a button within one second of the others signifying a cleanly landed punch in order for that punch to count as a point. Total points determined the fight's winner.
In 2012, things will be a little different, thankfully, although the system still has major flaws - such as not counting knockdowns. Now, each judge keeps his own tally of clean punches, and the individual scores are averaged out to determine the final score for each round, and the collective score for the fight.
Recent Downturn for American Olympic Boxing Teams
The United States has won the most Olympic boxing medals, and gold medals, in history. However, that belies the recent downturn which has seen the American men clearly outpaced at the top of the international game.
The last gold medal for the USA in boxing came at the 2004 games, won by Andre Ward. In 2008, the team only took home one medal total, a surprise bronze from Deontay Wilder. (The 2012 team, with 9 members, has many medal hopefuls but no true favorites. You can read my overview of the team here).
While fewer and fewer American athletes choose to take up boxing - and the ones that do have eyes on professional fame and fortune, not Olympic glory - the sport has taken great strides in Eastern Europe, China, and across the rest of the globe as well.
Women's Boxing Debuts
Women's boxing will make its Olympic debut at the 2012 London Olympic games. In the sport's first Olympic turn, three weight classes will be used - Flyweight, Lightweight and Middleweight - with 12 women competing in each class.
After an initial ruling which would have made the women combatants wear skirts, the governing bodies later changed their minds due to the public backlash of the demand.
Sources: Boxing: A Cultural History, by Kasia Boddy, Olympic.org, London2012.com, HickOKSports.com
Jake Emen runs the boxing news website ProBoxing-Fans.com. You can find more of his writing, including a complete London 2012 Olympic Boxing guide, interviews, rankings, breaking news stories and more at the site.
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