Boxing

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A combat sport where two opponents score points by punching each other (wearing padded gloves) on the head and chest. Boxing contests are found throughout antiquity. Women's boxing was virtually unknown until the 1990's, but now attracts small numbers of competitors and spectators.

In amateur boxing, the version of the sport found at the Olympic Games, the primary emphasis is on landing scoring punches rather than concern with doing actual physical damage to one's opponent (though it still occurs). Competitors wear protective headgear, and box for three three-minute rounds. Each punch that lands on the head or torso is awarded a point. A referee monitors the fight to ensure that competitors use only legal blows (a belt warn over the torso represents the lower limit of punches - any boxer repeatedly landing 'low blows' is disqualified), and don't use holding tactics to prevent the opponent from swinging (if this occurs, the referee separates the opponents and orders them to continue boxing. Repeated holding can result in a boxer being penalised or, ultimately, disqualified). If a competitor is punched sufficiently hard to have trouble continuing the fight, and the opponent inflicted this condition with only legal blows, the match is over and the competitor still standing is declared the winner by knockout. In amateur boxing, referees will readily step in and award knockouts even if the competitor is only relatively lightly injured.

Professional bouts are far longer (consisting of anything from eight to fifteen rounds), headgear is not permitted, and knockout wins are only awarded when the competitors are knocked down and stay on the canvas for ten seconds (or are repeatedly knocked down). Serious injuries are far more common in professional boxing, a sport with considerable (though waning) spectator appeal, but with a large number of dubious organisations promoting "world championship" bouts and a long connection to organised crime.

Medical authorities around the world have consistently argued for a ban on boxing (or at least the changing of the rules to prevent blows to the head) because of the brain damage found in large fractions of professional boxers, but such calls have not been successful, both on civil liberties grounds and the argument that banning boxing would lead to underground, illegal bouts with far fewer safety regulations than currently.