Boxing is one of the oldest and most popular sports where fighters compete inside a raised platform called a “Ring” shaped in a square. This makes many people wonder, why people call the boxing combat area a ring if it is shaped like a square.
Back in the early days of boxing, athletes fought inside a drawn circle on the ground or a “ring”, which represented a fighting area. The first major change came over 2000 years later in 1743 with the birth of “London Prize Fighting Rules”, when the initial design of the square ring emerged.
But the first squared boxing platform actually got introduced in 1838. Though the shape of the fighting area changed, the name “boxing ring” remained.
Let’s take a detailed look at how boxing fighting area evolved through different eras, and learn more about the sport of boxing.
Ring vs. Square — Linguistic differences
If you look at the dictionary, the word “ring” is defined as a circular line, object, or figure. A Square, on the other side, is defined as a flat shape with four sides of equal length and four angles at 90 degrees.
Both ring and square have different meanings in everyday lives. But in the context of boxing as a sport, people tend to mix these two terms with one another as both basically represent the fighting area in which boxers compete.
A ring-shaped fighting area was used during the early days of the sport, while the square-shaped platform is used in modern boxing.
Why people still refer to it as a “Boxing ring” if it is shaped like a square is a very popular question, and the answer lies in the sport’s history.
The History of a Boxing Ring
Boxing is one of the oldest sports, and the answer to why people still use the term “boxing ring” lies in its long history. The earliest records of the sport go all the way back to ancient Egypt, over 3,000 years BC. While exploring caves, scientists have discovered many drawings showing two people “fighting”. These people had their hands wrapped and wore a cloth similar to modern boxing shorts, and shoes.
As an established sport, boxing emerged in Ancient Greece in the 7th century BC. It debuted at the famous 23rd Olympiad, organized in 688 BC, and the early rules were much different than the modern ones, or more brutal to be more specific. But one of the key differences was the fighting area.
The ring-shaped fighting area
Back in the early days, boxers fought inside the drawn circle on the ground called “Ring”. There was no elevated platform, ropes, and boxers needed to be careful not to step out of the drawn circle. Naturally, people started calling the fighting area a “boxing ring”, because the term “ring” is a synonym for “circle”.
Boxers continued to compete in a drawn circle in many shapes and forms for centuries. In England, for instance, they even had fighting pits made out of bales of hay placed in a circle. In fact, the first concept of a squared boxing platform first appeared in the 19th century, almost 2,500 years after boxing debuted in the Olympics.
The square-shaped fighting area
It all began with the birth of “The London Prize Ring Rules” in 1743. At the time, Jack Broughton started working on formalizing the boxing rules and making drastic changes in terms of safety. And one of the key safety measures was related to the fighting area.
Broughton wanted to change the concept of a drawn ring and separate boxers from spectators. He insisted on an elevated platform shaped like a square. Although a practical and innovative solution, the concept would come to life almost a century later. In 1838, the Pugilistic Society came out with the first-ever square boxing ring concept. The design was way different than the modern one, but the concept was the same.
The shape of the fighting area was completely changed, but the name “boxing ring” managed to survive because it was so ingrained in the boxing vernacular. And we can all agree, saying “boxing squared circle” sounds a bit odd.
The Modern Boxing Ring
The modern boxing ring shaped as a square first appeared in 1838 and it has been around ever since. The initial version of a modern ring was much different. It was an elevated platform, 7.3 meters in diameter, with four posts in each corner connected with two ropes. This was a simple design that would go through many changes in the following century.
The modern boxing ring is a raised platform that consists of four main components — ring, ropes, canvas, and the platform. The shape of the platform is standardized. But the exact size varies between different organizations and governing bodies. The following are the dimensions of a standard boxing ring.
Fighting area — is generally between 16 and 24 feet (4.9 and 7.3 m) to a side between the ropes. There is an additional 0.61m extending outside the ropes.
The platform of the ring — is a metal frame raised around 3 to 4 feet off the ground (0.91 to 1.22 m). It is covered with boards made out of hard word (double suspension floor in some cases), 1 inch of padding, and topped by stretched canvas made out of cotton.
The ropes — each of the four ropes are made out of steel wire placed in a safety cover to prevent possible injuries like cuts. Each rope is around 1 inch (25mm) in diameter. The first one above the canvas sits at a height of 18 inches, while the other three are at 30, 42, and 54 inches (0.46, 0.76, 1.07, and 1.37 m).
The posts — boxing ring has four posts with each one connected by four ropes. The posts rise around 5 feet from the canvas (1.5 m) covered in lather and cushion PUR.
The weight — of the entire boxing ring is approximately 1800 kilograms (4000 pounds).
One of the main issues with boxing rings is the lighting. The events are usually held in closed arenas and boxers need to be able to see clearly in order to compete in a fair and safe environment. The problem is — powerful lighting emits a lot of heat. So the designers and production team must be extra careful to emit as less heat as possible but maintain good lighting.
Why Boxing Ring Is Square?
The two main reasons why are: the cost of construction and the safety of the athletes.
Back in Ancient or even medieval times, people didn’t have the advanced technology or time to produce circular objects as we can in modern times. It was especially hard to create an elevated boxing circular platform. There were no 3d laser-cutting types of machinery, automatized factories, etc.
Plus, boxing was just a form of entertainment, not a mainstream sport like today. As a result, they went for the simplest solution, a drawn circle line on the ground called a “ring”.
While working on “London Boxing Rules”, people like Jack Broughton wanted to improve the safety of the sport. In terms of the fighting area, they wanted to separate the fighters from the crowd surrounding the circle. Thus, they needed some type of raised fighting platform, and the easiest one to construct was a square-shaped one. And in general, it is much easier to construct square objects than ones shaped in a circle.
Also, the squared boxing platform provides more support and suspension and is sturdier. It also has four angles which add to the dynamic of the sport.
The Boxing ring is synonymous with combat sports. It is even utilized by other combat sports such as kickboxing, Muay Thai, and even MMA.
Related: Boxing Gloves Vs. Muay Thai Gloves
The reason why it is called a “ring” despite being shaped like a square is an interesting phenomenon. The main explanation is — people simply had a hard time transitioning from describing the fighting area from ring to square. The society spent almost 2,500 years using the term “boxing ring” and it got stamped deep into the boxing vernacular. So deep, in fact, that it will probably never change.
The term “boxing ring” is a part of boxing as a brand, and changing it to “Boxing Circle” or “Boxing Square” would have a negative impact on the sport. Try it saying it yourself to hear how odd it sounds.
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