There are many strange terms in sport. Where the term bogey comes from in golf, why the item hit in badminton is called a shuttlecock and many more. While most of these questions have a root in the very foundations of the sport they have long been lost to the average sports fan and become a mystery. One of the strangest terms in sport is in the sport of boxing. Why do we watch men fight in a square and call it a ring?
It all dates back to the very beginning of the sport. Boxing started in much less regulated ways. People would fight with crowds surrounding them surging forward as the intensity grew. The rules then were far more relaxed than they are now. Anything was allowed and dying from boxing injuries was not an unusual occurrence. The mobs that came to watch and bet on fights got as close as they could, forming a circle around the opponents. In an effort to show the audience where they could stand and where they couldn’t a makeshift ring was often drawn in the sand around opponents.
One of the issues in boxing was that spectators always came too close and some interfered. In an effort to reduce audience participation a rope partition was introduced. However, it wasn’t until Jack Broughton nearly murdered an opponent that the rules began to change. Broughton fought George Stevenson in 1743 and Stevenson was beaten so badly that he died days after the fight from his injury. Broughton was devastated and didn’t want the sport to continue in the manner it was. Changes were needed.
Almost a century later those same rules were made official by the London Prize Ring Rules in 1838. They stipulated that “the ring shall be made of ….and shall be four and twenty feet square”. With this terminology now in the official rule book, the ring would last forever. While it makes no sense to call a square a ring it is a reflection of the evolution of the sport.
To this day the area that boxers fight in is often called the square circle. The square was brought about mainly to allow space for men to have corners to rest in between rounds and for their team to stand with water and towels. MMA fighting has now started to make the octagon ring popular as well. What it ends up being called in years to come, only time will tell.