MUHAMMAD ALI (1942–2016)

Muhammad Ali, formerly known as Cassius Clay, began boxing at age 12 and won an Olympic gold medal atage 18. Hiswitty, confident attitude breathed new life into the sport. In 1964, he fought Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship of the world. Even though Liston used power, Ali was able to win the fightwith finesse and control.

At the age of 21, Malcolm X inspired Ali to join the Muslim faith. Ali was drafted in 1966 for the Vietnam War, but refused to serve because of his faith. Not only did this cause a public outrage, but he was stripped of his heavyweight title and his boxing license was suspended.

Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's syndrome due to repetitive trauma to his head. However, he still remained an involved public figure. During the 1996 Olympic Games, Ali ignited the Olympic Flame during the opening ceremonies. He is considered, by many, a legendary figure not only in the world of sports, but for how he faced adversity in life.


Boxers use hand and wrist wraps and boxing gloves to reduce the risks of injuries to their hands. This equipment also reduces the risk of injury to their opponents because punches cannot inflict as much damage when heavyweight gloves are used when compared to lightweight gloves or bare hands. A mouth guard is used to protect the teeth, gums, and jaws from injury.

Boxers use different stances while boxing. Three of the common ones are the upright stance, semicrouch stance, and full crouch stance. In an upright stance, the boxer stands with the legs about shoulder-width apart and the back foot one-half step in front of the front foot. A right-handed boxer will lead with the left foot and left fist, as both feet are positioned parallel, with the right heel off the ground. The left fist, held vertical about 6 in. (15.2 cm) in front of the face at eye level, will lead the punch. The right fist is held beside the chin, with the elbow held against the rib cage. Other boxers use semi-crouch or full crouch stances. In these positions, the boxer will lean forward (more with the semi-crouch than with the full crouch) and keep their feet closer together than in the upright stance.

Many different punches occur in boxing. Some of the more common ones are the:

Other common punches include short straight punch, cross-counter, and half uppercut.

The match consists of two people of similar weight fighting each other using their fists. In professional boxing, eight divisions, based on the weight of the boxers, are presently used: flyweight, up to 112 lb. (50.8 kg); bantamweight, 118 lb. (53.5 kg); featherweight, 126 lb. (57.2 kg); lightweight, 135 lb. (61.2 kg); welterweight, 147 lb. 66.7 kg); middleweight, 160 lb. (72.6 kg); light heavyweight, 175 lb. (79.4 kg); and heavyweight, unlimited).

Modern-day boxing is conducted by a set of rules called the Marquess of Queensberry rules, which were created in 1867. The rules are enforced by a referee who moves within the ring as the two fighters conduct their boxing match, sometimes called a prize fight and the fighters called prize fighters.

The prize fighters are prohibited from doing the following to their opponent:

Rules that are broken by a fighter may cause a warning by the referee—what is called a foul. The referee may also deduct points or disqualify the fighter. A foul that is deemed intentional by the referee may cause the fighter to be instantly disqualified. For instance, if the intentional foul occurs because of an illegal punch that causes an injury to the opponent, then it is likely to cause the offending fighter to be disqualified. An unintentional foul, such as holding an opponent due to slipping on the floor or accidently contacting the opponent's groin area, may result in a short period of time for the fighter to recover. An accidental foul that results in a

fighter unable to continue may result in a “no contest” where no one wins, or may result in a decision by the judges if sufficient rounds have been conducted.

The referee is responsible for controlling the conduct of the fighters and maintaining control of the match itself. Up to three judges are usually assigned to score each round, assigning points to each boxer based on the number of punches that hit an opponent, quality of the fighters' defense, number of knockdowns, and other related factors.

Generally, a boxing match consists of threeminute rounds. A minute interval is held between each round where fighters go to their assigned corners (typically at opposite corners of the square) to be given medical help and words of encouragement from their coach and staff. In addition, each boxer enters the ring from this assigned corner at the beginning of each round and must return to this corner at the end of each round. A professional boxing match will usually last from nine to 12 rounds (if necessary), while amateur matches often last only three rounds.

The winner of the match is decided by one of the four following means:


Boxing was a recognized sport as early as 688 B.C. when it became an Olympic sport within ancient Greek society. It was called “pygme” or “pygmachia.” The modern form of boxing originated in Europe, particularly within England of the sixteenth century where it was called prizefighting or bare-knuckle boxing.


Boxing is a physically grueling combat sport in which two people, either males or females, fight each other in order to win the match and claim the notoriety of having bested their opponent. In professional boxing a “purse” of money is also awarded to the winner.


Boxing is a physically grueling combat sport in which two people, either males or females, fight each other in order to win the match and claim the notoriety of having bested their opponent. In professional boxing a “purse” of money is also awarded to the winner.


In a traditionally male-dominated sport of the past, in the twenty-first century, women also compete in boxing. Anyone is able to box as an amateur, from as early as the adolescent years and up to being a senior. In most instances, youngsters are not allowed to box as an amateur until they are at least 11 years old, however, they can train at any earlier age.


Before boxers fight within the ring, they will prepare for their matches by training with punching bags and sparring partners. The punching bag is either a small, tear-drop-shaped bag or a larger heavy bag filled with sand or a synthetic substance. Other equipment used by boxers to prepare for fights are free weights, rowing machines, rope jumping, and medicine balls.

A typical boxing regiment for an experienced boxer may include the following:

A muscle with two attachment points: the biceps brachii in the upper arm and the biceps femoris in the back of the thigh.
Commonly called delt or shoulder muscle, the muscle that forms the rounded contour of the shoulder, the anterior part of the deltoid muscle flexes and medially rotates the arm at the shoulder, while the middle part abducts the arm at the shoulder.
Latissimus dorsi—
A triangular muscle located on the back.
Sometimes abbreviated the pec, another name for the chest muscle.
Abbreviated the quad, also called the thigh muscle.
The large muscle located along the back of the upper arm.


The goal of boxers (those that fight against another person) is to knock their opponent out (make them unconscious) or to injure them so badly that they are unable to continue fighting. Such a goal can sometimes cause a concussion in the short term and permanent brain damage in the long term. It can also cause death in boxers. According to the Journal of Combatant Sport, from July 2000 to November 2007, 8,626 deaths resulted from “bare-knuckle pugilism, amateur and professional boxing, and Toughman-style boxing,” as documented by the Velazquez Collection, which was compiled by American anti-boxing activist Manuel Velazquez (1904–1994). During this time, 751 deaths from boxing occurred in the United States.



Training in boxing (without actually fighting against an opponent) provides for a great exercise program for all muscle groups—providing for both good aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Performed under a regular workout schedule, boxing can lead to a great way to get into shape and stay there. When developing the skills needed for boxing, those who throw punches at a punching bag (or into the air) while moving their feet in synchronization with their arm movements become very well conditioned physically, with improved strength, power, coordination, and endurance. In addition, using such exercises traditionally used in boxing, such as skipping rope, running, calisthenics, sprints, and working out with the medicine ball, all help to improve the condition of the body, including most or all of the major muscles of the body such as the biceps, triceps, delts (deltoids), pecs (pectorals), quads (quadriceps), and lats (latissimus dorsi).

See also Age and exercise ; Arthritis ; Concussion ; Exercise .



Dumas, Andy, and Jamie Dumas. Knockout Fitness: Boxing Workouts to Get You in the Best Shape of Your Life. New York: Skyhorse, 2009.

Gorn, Elliot J. The Manly Art: Bare-knuckle Prize Fighting in America. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010.

Hauser, Thomas. Boxing is… Reflections on the Sweet Science. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2010.

Varlotta, Gerald P., and Barry D. Jordan, eds. Medical Issues in Boxing. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 2009.


Svinth, Joseph R. “Death under the Spotlight: Analyzing the Data.” Journal of Combatant Sport (November 2007). (accessed January 22, 2017).


American Council on Exercise, 4851 Paramount Dr., San Diego, CA, 92123, (858) 576-6500, (888) 825-3636, Fax: (858) 576-6564, support@acefitness. org, .

National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity, 1150 Connecticut Ave. NW, Ste. 300, Washington, DC, 20036, (202) 454-7521,, .

President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, 1101 Wootton Pkwy., Ste. 560, Rockville, MD, 20852, (240) 276-9567, Fax: (240) 276-9860,, .

SHAPE America, 1900 Association Dr., Reston, VA, 20191-1598, (800) 213-7193, Fax: (703) 476-9527, .

USA Boxing, 1 Olympic Plaza, Colorado Springs, CO, 80909, (719) 866-2300, Fax: (719) 866-2132, .

World Boxing Association, Av. Aquilino de la Guardia & Calle 47 Ocean Business Plaza, 14th FL., Office 14-05, Marbella, Panama, 0816-01091, (507) 203-7680, Fax: (507) 203-7681,, .

William A. Atkins, BB, BS, MBA

  This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.