Today every boxing enthusiast is aware of the fair play and sportsmanship in both professional and amateur boxing matches. Amongst other things they establish ground rules for the length of each round (3 minutes), prohibit the use of shoes with spikes and stipulate that if one contestant falls they are allowed 10 seconds to get back on their feet and resume the fight otherwise their opponent is declared the winner.
What isn't widely known is that the rules were introduced after a bloody and brutal gladiatorial fight in Farnborough, England in 1860 between an American boxer called John Carmel Heenan and a British boxer by the name of Tom Sayers.
Both sustained serious injuries in the first few rounds: Sayers suffered a blow to his arm which caused it to swell (it was later discovered to have been broken) and Heenan couldn't see out of his right eye. But they continued fighting until police arrived, alerted to an illegal bare knuckle fight, and the crowd dispersed.
Bell's Life (a sport newspaper) reported on April 22nd it was the best championship fight they had ever witnessed even though "the final round was merely a wild scramble." The boxers were rushed away from the scene to avoid arrest; with Heenan "obviously totally blind."
Within days questions were asked in the House of Commons about the encounter with MPs asking the Home Secretary about the law governing such events and calling it a disgrace that could two men have been allowed to pummel each other for two hours.
Over the next few years pressure mounted for the introduction of a stronger set of rules for the sport. They were drafted in 1865 by John Graham Chambers, an Oxford blue, and endorsed publicly by the Marquess of Queensberry. Published in 1867 they have remained in use ever since.
Sayers never fought again after his encounter with Heenan. The latter tried his hand at various jobs but gradually faded out of the limelight and ended his days in poverty. But he left a lasting legacy.
Read John Carmel Heenan's full story here on this website
Read about the Marquess of Queensbury Rules on Wikipedia .