T Nation

Is Boxing a Gentlemens Sport?



In light of the recent Hw clash between De-Rock Chisora and Vitali Klitschko, involving the spitting, slapping, brawl etc. I can't help but read about how it has tarnished the image of boxing. Chisora's behaviour was shocking, true. But I've heard the term "boxing is a gentlemens sport" thrown around on numerous occasions.

I'm 20 so do correct me if I'm wrong as I understood many will have been watching for decades.
What I have seen has shown me that Boxing is anything but that. I have a great appreciation for the sport, but to title it as a gentlmens sport seems completely inaccurate.

Maywhether, Tyson, Holyfield, Hatton, to name a few, have all involved in unsightly incidents in and out of the ring.

To contradict that however, the way the Klitschkos, Pacquiao and a few others conduct themselves is very admirable.

But still fighters are fighters first and foremost and boxing is therefore not a gentlemens sport.

Right? Or wrong?


Uhh not to seem like a cunt, but: who cares? I don't think anyone is referring to the character of people when they use that term. They are referring to combat with rules, boxing as opposed to a unregulated street brawl. Other than that all I can say is people use a lot of dumb terms that have no basis in reality.

You can't expect to have a sport that pays people to be ultra competitive and ruthless in the ring and not expect to have a few bad eggs make it to the top. A lot of great fighters aren't necessarily the nicest people. Also consider that a lot of these guys at the top grew up in terrible conditions in ghettos/low income housing and had to deal with violence at a very early age, which instills personality problems that are hard to beat.

Mike Tyson is an intelligent and generally affable guy - with a set of deep rooted anger and trust issues that are a result of his childhood. Put yourself in his shoes, and imagine what kind of mental state you'd be in after your country decided to lock you up for a crime you believe you did not commit. Hence the stark contrast between post jail Tyson and pre-championship Tyson in the way he acted.

Mayweather isn't even that bad to be honest. People like (and I'm guilty of this myself) to attack his character because he's arrogant and loud-mouthed, but when's the last time mayweather was involved in assaulting someone for saying something he didn't like? Plenty of other boxers are guilty of worse. Besides the dude personally invests in a number of charity programs and helps out a lot of young fighters. With regards to the Ortiz fight, IMO first of it's questionable, and secondly even if it was a blatant cheap shot, ortiz fucking deserved it. Everyone pops off at FMJ for throwing a hook after they touched gloves (for 3rd time, how many times do you need to touch gloves wow) but everyone also conveniently forgets Ortiz tried to ram his head into mayweather's just moments before.


To be honest the charater of certain fighter is understandable. I aren't looking to debate whether Tyson, Maywhether or whomever is justified in their actions.

Fighters are fighters, and like you say it is ultra competetive and ruthless, when exposed to this enviroment, fighters will react with snap judgements.

I was merely curious if I was correct, that when people say "(Insert boxer name) has let the sport down, this is a gentlemens sports" - I am justified in completly disputing this.


I think part of the problem is that you can't form a worthwhile opinion based on the few guys at the top, who get the glitz and glamour. Bear in mind that here in the UK, there are over 800 pros, and several times that many people competing in the amateurs. The more accurate picture, whatever it is, can only be formed by looking at the sport of boxing as a whole.

I am of the opinon that boxing breeds dignity, self-respect, and humility in most guys who are involved in it. All qualities I would say made someone a gentleman. In every one of the amateur gyms across the country, coaches give their time for free, every night, plus weekends for fights, on top of working demanding jobs. These guys are diamonds, and they are the men (and occassionally women) who have great influence on the young guys who come through their doors. I have lost count of how many times we've had kids come into our gym who have been in and out of young offenders institutions, or even older guys who've done proper time, and have had their lives given direction by these old gents. When you see guys who'd stab you for looking at them too long turn into respectful, humble young men, you can't help but feel that it is a special sport, that is unique in giving you the chance to become a gentleman. At the end of the day, boxing provides you with the opportunity to take some wonderful characteristics, and find the opportunity to find out what kind of person you are. I've personally always felt that it is one sport where it isn't just about winning or losing, how you fight, and how you carry yourself in the ring is just as important. Most of the guys i know who box with me aren't worried about getting hurt, or losing even, but are more worried about not doing themselves justice. I think that is quite a powerful indicator of the qualities that boxing instils in people.


This is beautiful, and I'm glad you have a gym like that.


I have thoughts on this.. .I can't enunciate them at this moment. Tomorrow I will write about this.


Succinct, articulate, and passionate. Well written.




I will echo the sentiment of Londonboxer from my personal experience.

I came from a point sparring background before I started boxing. Alot of those kids/coaches/parents were whiny bitches with a huge chip on their shoulder and some were downright dirty. The arrogance and other nefarious attributes were frustrating.

I joined a ghetto ass boxing gym. What I found were trainers/fighters that were people from rough around the edges blue collar low income lifestyles. They had Character though. Yes, some fighters were ghetto thugs with questionable antics, but on a whole they didnt last long. Those that did, generally reformed their attitudes.

In a good boxing gym, successful people have to live a very clean, dedicated lifestyle. That sport put alot of character and personal growth into me. I wish it was alot more popular among todays youth, because frankly, they need it to become MEN instead of the man-children that populate alot of developed nations.

I went to see my friend fight in the Golden Gloves this past weekend. This was the first ammie boxing card that I was a spectator at instead of a combatant. All of the fighters showed tremendous respect for one another and the opposing coaches. I do not see that sort of sportsmanship and humility among more popular youth sports.


x2 on 666Rich & LondonBoxer.

My experience has been the opposite of ScreenWatcha's, though frankly I couldn't even understand some of what he was trying to write.

Some time ago I was discussing with my coach the differing attitudes that seem to prevail in different styles of training. He made the point that in person boxers tend to be humble and polite but confident, because they get punched in the face a lot. What he meant was that being punched, particularly in the face, breeds humility (because some dude just totally punched you in the face), but also confidence because you learn how to take punishment & keep going.

I'm not saying all boxers are gentleman. Some people can take any situation and use it to become a bigger jackass.

But I do believe that participating in an activity that forces you to face your own fears, learn self control under fire, fight through pain and exhaustion, and do it all over again the next day brings out the best in far more people than it subverts.


To be quite plain, no, it is no gentelmen's sport, and it never has been. It's not filled with gentlemen, or for that matter, good men - guys in the boxing business (not really talking about the fighters as much as EVERYONE ELSE involved in the sport) are kind of the biggest pieces of shit and the shadiest motherfuckers that you'll ever meet.

I mean, c'mon. It's organized fighting. This is the hurtin' business. It's dominated by those in the lowest class, and the immigrants, the derelicts, the kids from the projects, and the guys who got nowhere else to go who aren't smart enough to do something else.

Don't get me wrong, there are gentlemen in the sport - guys like Jack Dempsey (when he was older) and Manny Steward come to mind. I know fighters that are the nicest guys in the world, and would give you the shirt off their backs if you asked for it.

But of course, there's been a million champs that are total pieces of shit. Sugar Ray Robinson - greatest fighter of all time. Good guy? Character model? Hardly.

Others, like Jack Johnson, Sonny Liston, Mike Tyson, and Roberto Duran were the furthest thing from "gentlemen" that you could ever find. They were brutal killers, rough-and-tumble guys who grew up in the gutter and came up the hard way and took what they wanted.

For a lot of fighters, if they didn't fight, they'd have ended up in jail. A lot of fighters DO end up in jail. More than their share have legal problems and end up with assault charges, alcohol problems, ten kids, no income, and barely get by.

Now, I agree with Londonboxer in part - as far as guys in the lower ranks go, they're often pretty laid back, and they do have a humility about them that comes from taking beatings. But if they're good - really good - sometimes that can fade with success. So it's not an absolute.

But I do see a lot of respect, a lot of learning, a lot of good stuff being taught to kids that, if not for boxing, would have never learned the value of work, of putting in your hours on the grind to get what you want. But boxing is so brutal that not many people stick with it anymore unless they have to, so I wonder how much of that really sinks in. For those who have stuck with the sport for any length of time, however, I think that it does.

But one thing I will say - if a trainer sees that you love the sport, like really love the sport, more often than not they'll help you out no matter what. I'm getting trained for next to nothing from a former pro just because he loves boxing, and he sees that i love boxing, and that's all that's important.

It's funny, because you'll never hear a boxing trainer start preaching about all that shit about "respect" and "walking the right path" and "tradition" and all that other bullshit that TMA teachers spout... but they're the ones willing to train you for free, and are really living that martial arts ethos, while the TMA teacher is robbing the shit out of you for some fake art by making you pay $20 for a belt test and every little promotion costs money.

But in the end, boxing is no different than anything else. There's some purely great people, and there's more than a fair share of total pieces of shit in this business. But mostly there's a lot of people like me (and many worse) - and I'm no fucking gentlemen.

It's a lot of guys with questionable morals who have done lots of bad shit in the past but found a love of the art that's kind of straightened them out or at least given them some sort of rock to fall back on that's there no matter what.

And, like most people in the lower end of the economic scale, if they friends with you, and if they respect you, they'll never forget you, and they'll do anything for you. They got your back.

If not... watch out.


Nice post. Thanks for contributing.


Some interesting points and I thank you all for your stories and taking the time to post.

I think I'm set now in my opinion that boxing isn't a gentlemen's sport.

Some people involved with boxing do some wonderful things outside the ring and some people do some unspeakable things outside the ring. But in the ring - I'm yet to see many gentlemenly act.

There just isn't way to punch a man in the face in a gentlemenly manor. Your in there to hurt your opponent, every (good) fighter who steps in the ring wants to KO their opponent.

For me its not a few guys at the top, its 90% + of the fighters at the top. When you think of the greats of the sport: Tyson, Holyfield, Maywhether, Ali, Sugar Ray, Jack Dempsey etc etc. (No need to critique the list if I missed a fighter, this was just an example and I've missed a) - all involved in controversies - some far more serious than others obviously.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IUGfSZrdVk - Maywhether giving his opinion.


Ok, I missed more well behaved fighters like Lewis, Sugar Ray Leonard, Manny, Calzaghe etc. But I still maintain my stance.


Wait, what do you mean that in the ring, you've yet to see a gentlemanly act? Most of these guys are at their best behaved WHILE INSIDE THE RING.

It's when you get them out and give them long stretches between fights that the trouble brews.

Is english your first language? You're not communicating well.


Floyd Mayweather Jr. springs immediately to mind on this. I cannot remember ever seeing him strike a legit foul in the ring. Can you? Even when he does things people bitch about, the shot on Gatti or more recently the KO of Ortiz that prompted the shit show in GAL, he is by the book. It is OUTSIDE the ring where he seems to show a lack of character.

In it he plays by the rules and always comes in in shape, at weight, etc.

The OP is posting from England. The joke about N. Americans and the people of the British Isles being "separated by a common language" may be appropriate.


Robert A


I was always under the impression that the historical context for the "gentleman's sport"/ "gentlemanly art" descriptors attached to boxing had to do with its origins from fencing/dueling.

Essentially boxing provided a way to settle honor disputes without going to swords or pistols. Additionally, it was taught at first side by side with sword and stick to paying members of upper class/aristocracy/gentleman.

Similar to a French Salle for sword work or any of the Spanish or Italian schools for longsword/rapier it was the purview of those with enough money to dedicate the time to its study. I think by the time it became a true spectator sport (which happened during the career of its first champ James Fig) the idea that boxing was strictly the purview of gentleman was already on the wane.

Then we have the transition from London Prize Ring rules to modern, gloved rules. These are often described as Marquis of Queensbury rules, after the Marquis of same name who endorsed them. So we are still seeing a close association between "gentleman" and boxing but not the implicit relationship that the boxers themselves are gentleman.

In fact, by this time it was pretty common for the fighters/sportsman to hail from "lower" classes than the gentry who supported the fighters and matches. An extreme example would be the career of Tom Molineaux who was a slave in North America who was pitted in boxing matches against other slaves by his master.

I am certain his literal owner would not have referred to Molineaux as a gentleman. Molineaux earned enough boxing to buy his freedom and have a brief career in Europe and Great Britain. So boxing being "a sport for gentleman" may be similar to horse racing being "the sport of kings".

We should also note that since boxing is a learned behavior it implies a type of education as opposed to instinct. This would have brought associations of the upper class/aristocracy along with it in the 1700's-1800's. Now with Great Britain and much of the world viewing basic education as a universal, that is no longer the case.


Robert A



I always enjoy the clarity you bring to discussions.


Not sure how to address this.

I acknowledged that out of the ring most the controversy happens.

In regards to in the ring, surely I don't have to point out all of the bending of the rules?

English is my first and only language.


But that happens in EVERY sport, not just boxing. Hell, anything and everything that could be considered a competition has this - from politics to the stock market to competitive swimming.

Every thing has the set rules, and then what's allowable just past those rules. Generally, most boxer work well within those set rules, and those that don't still do things that are "acceptable" even though they're not written out.

It's the rare fighter, the Bernard Hopkins or the like, that truly breaks the rules to the point where one could consider it a real problem.