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Ancient Greek Sport of Boxing May be Dropped from Olympics

Boxing Olympic Games Ancient Greece
Boxers on a Panathenaic amphora in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Credit: /Wikimedia Commons/

The ancient Greek sport of boxing may be dropped from the Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, recently warned.

Weightlifting and boxing are the “two problem children” of the Olympic movement” and remain at risk of being removed from the 2028 Los Angeles Games program, he said.

Bach expressed his deepest concerns about weightlifting, which has faced significant doping and governance issues, while it was made clear to boxing that it needed to continue making significant reforms following financial problems and the judging scandal at the 2016 Rio Games.

A third sport, the modern pentathlon, was also told to replace horse riding with a more inclusive sport if it wanted to be included in the LA Games.

Meanwhile, skateboarding, surfing and sport climbing are in the list of 28 sports for LA 2028 that have been submitted for approval when the IOC meets in Beijing in February.

“The proposed inclusion of these youth-focused sports is based on the significant contribution to the overall success of the Olympic Games of Tokyo 2020, their commitment to innovation and the partnership expressed by LA 28,” Bach said. “We are also recognizing the deep roots each of these three sports have in LA and in California.”

Boxing in the Olympic Games in ancient Greece since 688 BC

Boxing was one of the most popular sports at the Olympic Games in ancient Greece. It became an Olympic Games sport as early as 688 BC. Onomastos Smyrnaios was the first champion in Olympic boxing.

At the time, the god Apollo was regarded as the inventor and guardian of the sport of boxing.

Boxing, or Πυγμαχία, meaning “fighting with the fists,” in ancient Greece originated as a very tough sport, much harder than professional boxing as we know it today.

There are archeological discoveries showing that the ancient Greeks held boxing matches as early as in the Minoan and Mycenaean periods.

It is obvious that winning in such a sport required huge reserves of physical — and even mental — strength. Therefore, the few great boxers whose names have gone down in history were revered as superheroes.

The Spartan Ipposthenes was most likely the top boxer in ancient days in Greece, winning first place in five consecutive Olympic Games. This means that for 16 consecutive years he was boxing at the very highest level of this hard sport.

Diagoras of Rhodes, a one-time Olympic winner, four-time winner in Isthmia and two in Nemea, was over two meters (6 feet 6 inches) tall and boxed without twisting aside or ducking, making no effort to avoid the blows of his opponent.

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