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Boxing is listed as one of the top-10 most popular martial arts in the world

How a winner is decided Weight categories
Stoppages Equipment


Objective: Two boxers use only their gloved hands to land punches on their opponent. Bouts are decided by points, a knockout (KO), or a stoppage.

Note: Unless otherwise specified, description here refer to amateur boxing. Professional boxing has several different governing bodies with differing rules. See Links for details.

Points are scored when the boxer hits the opponent on the front or sides of the head, or anywhere on the body above the belt. The knuckle part of the glove must make contact to count.

At the start of the bout, everyone, except the referee and the two boxers, must leave the ring. The opponents shake hands and wait in their separate corners until the round starts.

Rules vary for the different governing bodies in boxing. Amateur boxing matches can last for five or six rounds of two minutes each, or three or four rounds of three minutes each.

In professional boxing, title contests last twelve rounds of three minutes each, eliminator contests last for ten or twelve rounds of three minutes each, other contests can be over six rounds of two minutes each, or six, eight, or ten minute rounds lasting three minutes each.

In all contests, there is a one minute break between rounds.


How a winner is decided

Knockout / Count-out

When a boxer is knocked to the floor, the opponent is sent to a neutral corner by the referee. The referee will count out loud up to ten. If the boxer who has been knocked down does not get up, a knockout is declared and the opponent wins.

There may also be a standing count in amateur boxing. If a boxer remains upright, the referee may begin the count for the knockout if the boxer looks unable to continue. This rule is in place as a safety measure for boxers.

The term knockout does not have to mean literally knocked unconscious.


The winner may be decided by who has landed the most fair punches, or by points awarded by judges.

In both amateur and professional bouts, there are a number of judges by the ring (the number can vary according to the organisers, often five), who will use computer equipment to judge when a fair punch has been landed. The winner is the boxer who has landed the most fair punches.

In amateur boxing the winner of a round gets 20 points, and the opponent proportionately fewer. if the boxers have fought an equal round, they both get 20 points.

Auxilary points (three to one full point) are awarded for scoring punches. They can also be awarded at the end of a contest for attack, defence, leading off, or style.

In most professional matches, points are awarded up to 10 for a round. In both amateur and professional boxing, draws are permitted if both boxers have scored equally.


A bout may be stopped before time for several reasons.

- Disqualification

- Retirement

- Stoppage by the referee


If a boxer persistently breaks any of the following rules, they will first be given a warning, with loss of points, then disqualified after three warnings. The opponent would win automatically.

- Punching outside target areas - below the belt, back of the neck, kidneys.

- Pivot or backhanded hits

- Hitting with the side of the hand, wrist, elbow, head, inside of the glove

- Excessive bodily contact

- Repeatedly ducking below opponent's waistline

- Failing to step back from a clinch when ordered to 'break'

- hitting on the break

- Deliberately punching an opponent when they are on the floor or falling

- Holding onto the ropes for defence or attack (injuries do not count)

In addition, the referee may rule anything as a foul that is deemed to be outside the rules.


In this case, this does not mean literally the end of the career, but if the opponent or their team feels they are unable or unwilling to continue, they can retire from the bout. The opponent would automatically win.

Stoppages by the referee

The referee may stop the contest if they decide that one or both boxers are unable to continue.


There is a referee, five judges (three in professional boxing), and a timekeeper. This can vary slightly, but there will always be a referee. There may also be 'seconds' for the boxers, to assist the boxers with water, towels and medical aid, and so on.

Weight categories

These apply only to amateur boxing. Different professional bodies use different divisions to measure weight. Contestants weight in, naked, on the day of the bout.

Amateur boxing weights
Division Weight
Light flyweight up to 48 kg (106 lb)
Flyweight 48-51 kg (112 lb)
Bantamweight 51-54 kg (119 lb)
Featherweight 54-57 kg (126 lb)
Lightweight 57-60 kg (132 lb)
Light welterweight 60-63.5 kg (140 lb)
Welterweight 63.5-67 kg (148 lb)
Light middleweight 67-71 kg (157 lb)
Middleweight 71-75 kg (165 lb)
Light heavyweight 75-81 kg (172 lb)
Heavyweight 81-91 kg (179 lb)
Super heavyweight Over 91 kg (201 lb)


The ring

The ring is actually square, a minimum of 4.9 metres (16 feet) and a maximum of 6.1 metres (20 feet) square.

It has four corner posts and a floor covered with felt, rubber, or other approved material. There are three or four coloured ropes between 3 and 5 centimetres (1.5 inches) thick around the ring, tied to the posts, at heights of 40 centimetres (1.3 feet), 80 centimetres (2.6 feet), and 1.3 metres (4.3 feet).


Amateurs wear shorts and vests, professionals wear shorts only. In many amateur competitions, one boxer will be dressed in red, and the other in blue.

All boxers wear boots, a gumshield to protect the teeth, tape over the hands and a protector around the crotch. The gloves are well padded and weigh 284 grammes (10 ounces). Amateur boxers wear headguards too.

Amateur boxers are allowed up to 2.5 metres (8 feet 4 inches) of soft dry bandage. Professional boxers are allowed up to 5.5 metres (18 feet 2 inches) of soft dry bandage. This is for protection of the hands. Tape must not be put over the knuckles.


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