The History of British Boxing Containing Lives of the Most Celebrated Pugilists (Complete)
Library of Alexandria
The origin of boxing has been assumed by some superficial writers as coeval with the earliest contests of man. This view appears to the writer both crude and unphilosophical. It might be argued with equal probability that the foil was antecedent to the sword, the sword to the dagger, or the singlestick to the club with which the first murder was perpetrated. The clumsiest and, so far as rude and blood-thirsty attack could contrive them, the most deadly weapons were the first used; the sudden destruction of life, not the art of defence, being the brutal instinct of the vengeful, cunning, and cowardly savage, or the treacherous manslayer. This, too, would lead us fairly to infer—as the most dangerous forms of the cæstus are the most ancient, and the naked fist in combat appears nowhere to have been used in the gladiatorial combats of Greece or Rome—that to England and her Anglo-Saxon race is due this fairest and least dangerous of all forms of the duel; and to attribute to a recent period the padded boxing-glove (at present the air or pneumatic glove), by means of which the truly noble art of self-defence can be safely and healthfully practised and illustrated. The most polished people of antiquity included boxing among their sports. With them it was also a discipline, anexercise, and an art. A discipline, inasmuch as it was taught to pupils; an exercise, as followed in the public games; and an art, on account of the previous trainings and studies it presupposed in those who professed and practised it. Plutarch indeed asserts that the “pugilate” was the most ancient of the three gymnic games performed by the athletæ, who were divided into three classes—the Boxers, the Wrestlers, and the Runners. And thus Homer views the subject, and generally follows this order in his descriptions of public celebrations. This, too, is the natural sequence, in what philosopher Square would call “the eternal fitness of things.” First, the man attacks (or defends himself) with the fist; secondly, he closes or wrestles; and should fear, inferior skill, or deficient strength tell him he had better avoid the conflict, he resorts to the third course, and runs.