The Rules of Boxing

The rules of boxing can vary depending on whether it’s amateur or professional, and they can be different between jurisdictions.

What’s certain, however, is that a violation of boxing rules is considered a foul and will result in a points deduction, warning or disqualification by the referee.

The fight, or bout as it is also known, is overseen by a referee and participants fight over a series of one to three-minute intervals that are called rounds.

There could be a winner before all the rounds are completed if a referee decides an opponent is incapable of continuing, or they are disqualified or they resign. If the fight reaches the end of all its rounds with both participants still standing, the judges’ scorecards determine the winner.

So what rules must all boxing participants know?

  1. There must be no hitting below the opponent’s belt and no holding, kicking, tripping, wrestling, spitting on, headbutting, biting or pushing opponents.
  2. No hitting with the wrist, the inside of the glove, an open glove, the side of the hand or back of the hand.
  3. No hitting your opponent with your head, shoulder, elbow or forearm.
  4. You’re not allowed to punch someone while holding onto the ropes of the ring to get more leverage.
  5. Punching your opponent’s back, the back of their neck or head, or their kidneys is not allowed.
  6. If the referee breaks you from a clinch, you have to take a full step back. Immediately hitting your opponent isn’t allowed. It’s called ‘hitting on the break’ and is illegal in the game.
  7. You’re not allowed to hold your opponent and hit them simultaneously.
  8. No ducking down so low that your head is below the beltline of your opponent.
  9. You’re not allowed to spit out your mouthpiece on purpose in order to rest.
  10. If you manage to ‘floor’ your opponent, no hitting them when they’re on the canvas.
  11. If you’re floored by your opponent, you have up to 10 seconds to get back on your feet.
  12. If you manage to score a knockdown of your opponent, you have to then go to the furthest neutral corner while the referee makes the count.
  13. If a boxer is hit with an accidental low blow, they have a maximum of five minutes to recover. If they can’t recover within this time frame, they will, unfortunately, be knocked out.
  14. Usually, if you get knocked down you cannot be saved by the bell in any round, although this depends on your specific jurisdiction’s rules.
  15. If a boxer commits a foul that causes their opponent to be injured badly enough to end the fight immediately, the boxer who committed that foul is disqualified.
  16. If the foul causes an injury but the fight goes on, the referee will order the judges to deduct two points from the boxer who committed the foul (and caused the injury).
  17. Any boxer that gets knocked out of the ring gets a count of 20 to get back in and on their feet. Assistance is not allowed.
  18. Some jurisdictions may allow the standing eight-count or the three knockdown rules.
  19. If an unintended foul causes the fight to end immediately, the fight is ruled a ‘no contest’ if four rounds have not yet been completed. Obviously, if the fight was scheduled for four rounds, then three rounds must have been completed, and so on. If four rounds have been completed, however, the judges’ scorecards are tallied up and the fighter who has the most points will be awarded a technical decision. If the scores happen to be even, it will be ruled a technical draw.
  20. Some jurisdictions say only the referee can stop a bout.

Famous boxing matches

Considered one of the biggest upsets in boxing history, Anthony Joshua lost to Andy Ruiz Jr in June 2019 after the referee declared a technical knockout in the 7th round. Joshua lost all four of his heavyweight titles to Ruiz, although he won the rematch in December via unanimous decision.

Muhammad Ali, nicknamed “The Greatest” and widely regarded as one of the most celebrated sports figures of the 20th century, had many memorable matches throughout his career. Some of these include his TKO win over Sonny Liston (Round 7) and his TKO win over Joe Frazier (Round 14) in 1975. He’d previously lost to Frazier in 1971.