Beginner's guide to boxing


If you’d like to get into boxing and aren't sure where to start or what it’s really about, then let us help.

Quick facts

Boxing is described as fighting with the fists. According to rules, it requires the use of boxing gloves and limits legal blows to those that strike above the waist and on the front or sides of the opponent.
Organised amateur boxing as we know it came about in the late nineteenth century when the eighth Marquis of Queensberry devised a new set of rules.
At the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 boxing was not included in the program of events, but made a comeback at the Olympic Games in 1904 and has appeared in every Olympics since 1920.
A number of professional boxing champions first made their names at the Olympics, including Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay), Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, Lennox Lewis and Audley Harrison.

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The boxing ring

A boxing ring must be no greater than 6.1m (66ft) squared and has four corner posts. Two are white with the others red and blue, which are diagonally across from each other these are the indivdual fighters 'corners' to which they retreat in between rounds to be patched up and given tactical advice from their trainers.


Boxers wear leather, padded gloves with each glove weighing 283g (10oz). These will sometimes have a white strip to mark the main hitting area. They are allowed to wear bandages underneath the gloves to prevent bones from being damaged in competition.

Competitors often wear red or blue vests to indicate their 'corner'. They also have headguards and gumshields, to protect their head and teeth, and a groin protector toaccount for any possible foul play ...

The competetion

In amateur boxing competitors usually take part in a single-elimination tournament with no seeding. Boxers who lose in the semi-final both automatically receive bronze medals, with the finalists battling it out for the silver and gold.

Bouts consist of four 2-minute rounds, with a 1-minute break between rounds.


Scoring in boxing

There are five judges for an Olympic bout, and since 1992 they have operated under a computerized scoring system. With this system, a judge is supposed to press a button to record each punch landed by a fighter and, if three of the five judges agree and press their buttons simultaneously, that fighter is awarded a point.

To score points, the boxer must hit the opponent with 'a direct meaningful blow' to the front or sides of the head or body above the belt line.

Boxing bouts at the Olympics are controlled by a referee and, if a boxer is legitimately knocked down, the referee begins to count to 10. If the boxer fails to get up and resume the contest within the time limit then the contest is over. As well as this, if the boxer does get up, the referee can still insist on a mandatory count of eight to make sure the boxer is fit to continue. The referee (or the ringside doctor) can decide if a fighter is unfit to continue and therefore stop the contest.

The boxer who scores the most points is the winner, although the contest automatically ends if the opponent is knocked out and unable to make the count.

Requirements for boxers

All boxers must pass a medical examination and must have reached their target weight for the category.

The 12 Olympic weight divisions, with the maximum weight allowed are:

Light flyweight — 48kg (106lb)
Flyweight — 51kg (112lb)
Bantamweight — 54kg (119lb)
Featherweight — 57kg (126lb)
Lightweight — 60kg (133lb)
Light welterweight — 63.5kg (140lb)
Welterweight — 67kg (148lb)
Light middleweight — 71kg (157lb)
Middleweight — 75kg (166lb)
Light heavyweight — 81kg (179lb)
Heavyweight — 91kg (201lb)
Super heavyweight — 91kg+ (201lb+)

Why get into boxing?

Whether you fancy sparring or not, boxing is an absolutely superb workout which impacts on a number of key areas. A boxing workout develops upper body muscles and arm strength, strengthens arm muscles, increases agility with (boxers need to be quick on their feet), improves balance and flexibility and strengthens leg muscles. Read more on
Boxing tactics
Top tips for starting out in boxing
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