Boxing, fistfighting sport between two matched combatants wearing padded gloves. A boxer’s primary aim is to land as many blows as possible to the head and torso of the opponent, using strength and speed to dominate the contest. One of the oldest sports still practiced, boxing dates back thousands of years. Today the sport is popular in many parts of the world and encompasses both amateur and professional matches. Sometimes it is referred to as pugilism, from the Latin word pugil, meaning “a boxer.”
For most of the 20th century boxing attracted huge fan and media attention in the United States. Some boxing champions became legendary, larger-than-life figures, such as Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, and Mike Tyson. Criticized to varying degrees throughout its history for its violent nature and high injury rate, boxing has somehow always managed to survive—and even thrive—as a sport.