Many recognize that professional boxing didn’t actually start until the year 1891. This marks the year when a private club in London called the National Sporting Club, or NSC, began to host and promote professional glove-boxing fights on its premises. In addition to the previously mentioned Queensberry Rules NSC made 9 more of its own. NSC stated that there should be a referee who would determine the results in a boxing match. The British Boxing Board of Control, or BBBC, was formed a couple of decades later in 1919. The British Boxing Board of Control had some relationship with NSC and they were later reformed after NSC closed.
At the beginning of the 20th century the BBBC began awarding Lonsdale Belts to British boxers who won three “title fights” in the same weight devision. One of the most notable among these boxers was the fifth Earl of Lonsdale who earned 22 such belts. In this early period of boxing title fights were done at each weight. These title fights were a very important part of boxing, and the first one ever broadcast over the radio was in 1921 between Georges Carpentier and Dempsey.
As we have already covered, boxing had a very long history around the world, and the first roots of professional boxing sprung up in the UK. It was not too long after that that professional boxing would move into the United States. In fact, in the early 20th century the United States had already become the focal point for the sport. Police Gazette listed the “world champions” according to popular belief at the time.
The National Boxing Association (NBA) now known as the World Boxing Association, was originally organized and founded in the United States in 1921. The NBA soon began sanctioning the aforementioned title fights. The Ring magazine, also of U.S. origin, was also founded around that very same time. Despite the United States having become a hot zone for professional boxing, Britain still produced quite a few champions and a lot of boxing activity.
From 1900-1920 some of the big champions in the professional boxing community were heavyweights Philadelphia Jack O’Brien and Jim Jeffries, middleweight Tommy Ryan, and Bob Fitzsimmons who was rated at light heavyweight, middleweight, and heavyweight. The first black boxing champion came unto the scene in 1902 as Joe Gans. A few years later Jack Johnson stepped forward as the first black heavyweight champion. Prizefighting champions were very popular during this period of time and saloons were the place to be to keep up on the latest news of an ongoing match.
The roaring 20s are famous for many things in the United States, and prizefighting in professional boxing was one of them. Jack Dempsey was one of the very biggest names during this time, dominating the field of professional boxing. After defeating Jess Willard, Dempsey famously became world heavyweight champion and he was notorious for how hard he hit, in particular his left hook. His career ended after a couple of memorable fights with Gene Tunney, and even then the general public was on the side of the famous Dempsey.
World War II brought on a more quiet period of time for the sport. There wasn’t as much excitement during the hardships of war as there had been in previous years, but a lot of fans still followed professional boxing and it was certainly far from dead. After the war was when things picked up much more with the champion Joe Louis, and other boxers like Willie Pep, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Rocky Marciano.
One cannot overlook one of the most noteworthy figures in the history of professional boxing: Cassius Clay who, after becoming champion, changed his name to Muhammad Ali. The 60s-80s saw other remarkable boxers like Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, and Carlos Monzon. The 80s on into the 21st century were filled with more great boxers and much controversy over domestic violence and other factors among the boxers. Some of the big names include Larry Holmes, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Lennox Lewis, among others.
Since the Turn of the Century
In the last 15 years MMA—an acronym for mixed martial arts—has slowly taken over the scene, pushing professional boxing to the sidelines and causing a slow decline. Professional boxing is still going strong in Britain, however, and it has also risen up in certain parts of Europe. Due to this cultural shift, some changes have occurred in regards to boxing championship title holders. Since the turn of the century names like Roy Jones Jr., Dariusz Michalczewski, Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko have turned up. There has also been a surprising increased interest in lower weight classes, in fact so much so that it is safe to say that professional boxing is still very much alive and a thriving part of the world. Subscribe to one of the Comcast Sports Packages to keep up to date with all the action.