Boxing has been around for thousands of years. Some historians believe pugilism, as a sport, originated in parts of Egypt and Africa before it spread to southern Europe. Other scholars suggest it developed in ancient Mesopotamia at least 5,000 years ago.
First accepted as an Olympic sport (ancient Greeks called it Pygmachia) in 688 B.C., participants in the ancient games trained on punch bags (called a korykos). Keeping their fingers free, boxers then wore leather straps (called himantes) on their hands, wrists and sometimes lower arms, to protect them from injury.
In Rome, opponents also strapped leather thongs around their fists. Slaves, often fighting to the death in front of Roman spectators, conducted their "sport" inside a circle marked on an amphitheater floor. Thus was born the first boxing "ring."
Boxing in the ancient world was governed by few rules. If a man was down, his opponent could still hit him.
Since they were chosen randomly, boxers in a match could be mismatched in weight. They fought without rounds and without weight classes. The bout was over when one player was knocked out or admitted defeat.
There came a time, during the Roman Empire, when boxing as a sport was no longer permitted. It had become too brutal. Reborn in the 17th century, it took on new life in England.