The Fisticuffs Stance. Boxing Old Timers’ tell
If you look at any of the photos of really old time boxers, you will see that the all have the same stance. By today’s standards it looks weird as it does not appear to depict the sport, as do today’s various stances taken by the fighters. Usually, it’s the stance that says it all for the combatant. It is what can determine the odds offered. Odds that you can take advantage of if you open a betting account without limits today.
The (in)Famous Fisticuffs
For the modern boxer it looks senseless to stand with the hands low and the chin up. What they do not take into account is that this stance was based upon the rules of the time.
First of all, the boxers would not be wearing gloves. It may be unthinkable today, however, it is actually safer to fight without gloves than with. The reason is that the fighters do not their opponents head at full force. Consequently the risk of brain injuries is reduced, while the attacker avoids hurting their own hand as the head contains some of the strongest bones in the body.
Secondly, 19th-century boxers would normally fight many times per week without time limits (one match in 1893 lasted for 111 rounds). It is quite understandable why protecting one’s head was not as much of a concern as it is today. The circumstances dictated that blows to the head would be taken only when a boxer would have a chance for a clear shot to the cheek while avoiding any other part of the head.
Thirdly, before the Queensbury rules were introduced in the 1860s, while the rules for prizefights varied, they always allowed grappling. For example, as Sir Thomas Parkyns once described in 1793, a regular boxing match Included choking, eye-gouging, head-butting, punching, and other street fighting tactics.
Things changed in 1743 when Jack Broughton created the first formalized rules for boxing. He was inspired to do so after his victory over George Stevenson, who sadly suffered severe injuries and died a few days later. Distraught by the death of his opponent, he wrote the “Broughton Rules” hoping to minimize the more brutal aspects of the sport. His rules included clauses like no striking below the belt, no hitting an opponent when he was down and giving 30 seconds for a fighter to recover and continue before being declared defeated. However, Broughton’s rules still allowed grappling.
Based on all the above, fisticuffs is the stance that prioritizes keeping one’s distance from the opponent, usually by keeping the left arm outstretched. The extended hand could then be used both as a minor offensive weapon if the opponent tried to get close, as well as a teaser and a defense against jabs and glancing blows from afar. The right hand was held close to help defend against counter hooks and body blows in case the opponent managed to get past the left arm. Furthermore, it was always kept at the ready to deliver powerful blows. Any modern stance would allow an opponent easy access to grappling and the main body.
The End of a Golden(?) Age
After the introduction of gloves, thanks largely to the Queensberry rules, boxing evolved as a sport, and so did its forms. Boxers could now punch a lot harder without fear of hurting their hands, while the main focus became the head as it was now protected.
It is worth noting that while many old-timers could fight many times per week for years, and still retire in old age with perfect mental faculties, modern boxers fight a lot less and are much more prone to brain injuries.
Nevertheless, old traditions die hard and bare-knuckle boxing made a comeback as an official league in the USA back in 2018.
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