The earliest records of boxing are from Egypt in 3000BC, while it quickly became one of the cornerstones of the ancient Olympic Games in Greece from the 23rd Olympiad in 688BC. The very first champion was Onomastos Smyrnaios.
In ancient times, boxers protected their hands with leather, but as the Romans adopted the sport and included it in their rosta of too-the-death gladiatorial contests, these were replaced with a glove with metal studs, called a cestus.
Although boxing had been around since ancient times, it wasn’t until the 17th century in England that bare-knuckle boxing re-emerged into the public consciousness as a formal sport. In the late 1800s, the Marquess of Queensberry put together a basic set of more formal rules that form the framework of the sport to this day.
Over time, the popularity of boxing spread around Europe and over to the USA, ready for its return to the Olympic schedule.
Boxing wasn’t on the itinerary of ancient Olympic sports that made up the first modern Summer Games in Athens, Greece, in 1896 as it was considered "ungentlemanly, dangerous and practiced by the dregs of society".
Its worldwide popularity ensured that it was included in the 1904 Summer Games in St Louis, USA, though. Since then, it has been a regular fixture in the Olympic schedule, producing a number of great champions, including Hungarian Laszlo Papp, Cubans Felix Savon and Teofilo Stevenson and American Paul Eagan, who was also a Winter Games gold medallist in the bobsleigh in 1932.
Probably the most famous of them all, though, was Cassius Marcellus Clay, who won gold in the light heavyweight contest in Rome in 1960, and later went on to become perhaps the greatest professional heavyweight boxer of all time under the name Muhammad Ali.