Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Kaleigh. Kaleigh Wonders, “Why is a boxing ring square?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Kaleigh!
Have you ever noticed how each sport has a unique name for the surface on or structure in which it's played? Basketball is played on a what? A court! Football is played on a what? A field! Hockey? A rink! Soccer? A pitch?
What about boxing? If you said a boxing ring, you're correct! But isn't that an odd name? Think about what comes to mind when you hear the word "ring." You might think of a ring that you wear on your finger. Regardless of what comes to mind, it's certainly one shape: round.
If you've ever seen a boxing match, though, you know that boxing rings come in one shape: a square. So how did we come to have boxing rings that are square instead of round?
The truth is that no one really knows for sure. Historians, however, think that the term boxing ring evolved over many years along with the sport of boxing itself.
People have been pummeling each other with their fists for thousands of years. The earliest fights were likely necessary for survival when food and resources were scarce. Over time, fighting evolved into an informal hobby people engaged in for sport to prove their toughness or to settle disagreements.
The earliest fights were fierce, bare-knuckled brawls with no rules. Spectators would gather around the fighters, naturally forming a circle or ring around them to maximize the viewing area around the fight.
Eventually, fighters began to battle inside roughly-drawn circles on the ground to establish some basic boundary to keep the fight contained to a manageable area. The term "ring" likely came to be used for these fighting circles.
Often, spectators forming a ring around fighters would hold up a rope to create a boundary that would keep fighters in the ring and also keep spectators from interfering with the fight. Eventually, the brutality of fist fighting without rules inspired Jack Broughton, an English bare-knuckle fighter, to create a set of rules for boxing.
Broughton's rules became the standard for the sport of boxing for nearly a century. Finally, in 1838, the Pugilistic Society introduced revised boxing rules along with the first square boxing ring. It was 24 feet on each side and featured ropes along the sides to maintain a solid boundary to fight within.
Despite its square shape, the term "ring" was still used, since it had become so ingrained in boxing lingo over hundreds of years. Some people are curious as to why the Pugilistic Society chose a square shape rather than a traditional circle.
The answer lies in the fact that squares are easier to construct and tend to be sturdier and offer greater flexibility and support. If you think about it, it makes sense. Compact discs and pizzas are round. However, you won't find any round CD cases or pizza boxes. They're all square!