Getting punched in the face doesn’t sound like a fun time, even if it is with a padded glove. Boxing is just as much of a mental sport as it is physical. But it can be boring because kicks and submissions are nonexistent. There are no piledrivers or over the top rope maneuvers.
Despite the absence of a theatric element, boxing is a mind game of endurance and strategy. The best boxers analyze their opponent’s facial expressions and stance to exploit their weaknesses and capitalize on them. Boxing is an aggressive dance. It flows like music with a buildup to the chorus.
According to Expert Boxing, focusing on counters rather than defense helps boxers find openings to take control of the fight. Reacting quickly without losing concentration will allow a boxer to endure all 10 rounds of fist throwing.
The natural human instinct is to flinch at a punch but fighters have to learn to overcome it, keep their eyes open, anticipate strikes and develop an automatic defense.
In most matches, each boxer has a physician in his corner. The physician’s job is to watch for warning signs that indicate the fighter has exhausted his mental and physical limit. A ringside physician’s judgement calls are subjective and not always accurate, which puts boxers at a high risk of brain injury.
According to Vincent Miele, West Virginia University neurosurgeon and ringside physician, the two most common boxing related deaths are from a rupturing of the veins between the brain and the skull or a buildup of water in the brain called cerebral edema.
BBC Health reported that a chemical called neurofilament light is released in the brain when nerve cells are damaged. It is four times higher in boxers after a fight and it can be up to eight times higher if a fighter is hit in the head 15 times or more. Boxers can heal from some injuries but brain tissue that is damaged can’t be repaired. According to the Washington Examiner, history was made in 2018 when the first sanctioned, professional bare-knuckle boxing matches were held in Wyoming. This is the first time in 130 years that bare-knuckle boxing has been recognized as a legitimate sport.
Surprisingly, bare-knuckle boxing may be safer and have less long-term detrimental health effects than traditional boxing. According to ESPN’s Nigel Collins, boxing gloves allow athletes to execute more powerful punches and throw head shots more often. Bare-knuckle boxers are more cautious about their punches to avoid breaking their hands. This results in less forceful blows and fewer shots to the head.
Although bloody and seemingly more barbaric, bare-knuckle boxing may be making a return in sports entertainment. Weather you choose to fight naked fist, padded glove or spectate on the sofa, there is more to boxing than bouncing around in a squared circle.