Literature suggests that boxing got its official start in ancient Greece during the 23rd Olympiad in 688 BCE. Throughout the years, its popularity rose and fell according to world events and evolving religious beliefs. Today, boxing is accessible and practiced in several countries.
Modern boxing started in London during the bare-knuckle era and quickly spread to other countries. Now, countries such as the United States, Mexico, Russia, Japan, and Cuba all enjoy boxing as a professional competitive sport. Competitions between countries are held in the Olympics as well.
The history and culture of boxing in several countries contribute to many countries’ sporting events. Let’s take a look at the 16 countries where boxing is popular.
1. United States
The United States, which is home to the Mecca of boxing (Las Vegas), is the most prosperous country in boxing. The nation claims more world boxing champions than any other country. The USA is home to such boxers as Sugar Ray Leonard, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. The United States boxing records appear unbeatable; they have produced over 430 world champions. While it may appear that boxing is losing popularity in the United States, the US will not lose its heavyweight title boxers anytime soon.
Mexico may have a huge soccer following, but boxing comes in at a close second in sports popularity. They have produced over 200 world boxing champions over time. Some of the best champion boxers that came out of Mexico include, Salvador Sanchez, Ruben Olivares, Julio Cesar Chavez, and Erik Morales. To a certain degree, Mexico rivals the United States in boxing popularity due to the high quality of boxing champions.
3. United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is very similar to the United States in terms of its boxing history and popularity. Modern boxing got its start in England, including the Queensberry rules, which shaped boxing into what it is today. Many great European boxers come from the United Kingdom, including Scotland and Wales. The UK has produced some of the highest quality boxers globally, including Jimmy Wilde, Lennox Lewis, Bob Fitzsimmons, and Anthony Joshua.
Ever since the Soviet Union fell several decades ago, Russia began producing top-notch boxers, including Kostya Tszyu, Dmitry Bivol, Sergey Kovalev, and Nikolai Valuev. While there may not be very many boxers coming from Russia yet, momentum is building in the boxing world, and they are on track to produce several world champion boxers.
Japan is among the top countries where boxing is widespread, and for a good reason. When considering the 4 leading global boxing organizations, Japan accounts for over 100 world champions. Between the 1960s and 1970s, Japan had a golden age of boxing, with five world champions at one time. Today, several TV stations air boxing shows featuring high-level boxers, while many media outlets specialize in boxing topics.
Cuba only entered the boxing arena in the 1970s, but its competitors quickly became a force to be reckoned with. Over the years, the nation has won many Olympic boxing medals, making them second on the all-time medal list, just behind the US.
While Cubans were able to box starting in 1909, Fidel Castro banned professional sports in the 1960s (which was lift five decades later). Nevertheless, this didn’t stop managers and competitors from still competing. They formed amateur leagues to keep up with the competition and stay in shape. Competitors battled for sport rather than compensation, which led boxers to travel abroad to compete against other countries.
7. Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico doesn’t produce many boxers, but the ones who come from that little island are championship material. The country is the only one to bring out a champion in every division, with about 60 world champions, including Wilfredo Gomez, Carlos, Pedro Montanez, and Esteban DeJesus, who defeated Roberto Duran while in his prime. Besides, Boxing fans in Puerto Rico have a healthy and strong love for the sport, which makes it an excellent environment to produce champion boxers.
If the name Manny Pacquiao seems familiar, it should. He is one of the greatest boxers of all time and has supported the Philippines’ boxing growth. Fighters such as Flash Erode, Brian Vilora, and Nonito Donaire dominate the international boxing scene in many different divisions.
According to BoxRec, they have over 40 world champions; certainly, their future in boxing is robust.
In the early 1900s, the United States saw many Irish immigrants rise quickly through the boxing ranks. Modern boxing was brought back to Ireland by Irish-American boxers when Ireland finally got into the ring. Before they participated in contemporary boxing, however, Irish boxers boxed bare-knuckle style, which is still part of Irish underground culture. Some of the best Irish boxers ever are Jimmy McLarnin, Jack Dempsey, Steve Collins, Barry McGuigan, among others. In Ireland, boxing is one of the leading professional sports that attracts many fans each year.
While, compared to the previous countries, Ukraine has not produced too many champion boxers, they have quite a promising boxing future. Once the USSR fell, Ukraine boxers began competing in bouts around the world. Some of the best Ukrainian boxers are Louis Kaplan, Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, Vyacheslav Senchenko.
Boxing is among the most popular sports in Uzbekistan. The sport is, undoubtedly, a source of national pride. Although the country started to participate in the Olympic Games in 1994, they have already seen great success. Followed by wrestling, boxing is the sport that has brought the most Olympic medals. Therefore, it’s fair to say that Uzbekistan is a nation of warriors.
Argentina is one of the only countries in South America to claim elite and top-notch boxers, such as Carlos Monzon, Nicolino Locche, Pascual Perez, and Victor Galindez. Founded in 1920, the Argentina Boxing Federation is responsible for promoting and supporting the sport across the nation. Although boxing is not near as popular as other sports, like soccer or basketball, it still has a rich tradition and a strong following.
In 1933, Kazakhstan, which back then was part of the USSR, started in the boxing arena when their schools began to include boxing classes for kids. It took many decades before they saw the fruits of their efforts. In 1980, the country won its first two boxing Olympic medals.
One of the nation’s best boxers is Gennady Golovkin (aka “Triple GGG” or “GGG”). Golovkin has won the middleweight world championship twice. Following his footsteps, there are thousands of people who actively engage in both professional and amateur boxing.
Boxing has always been popular in Venezuela; the sport accounts for a little less than half of the country’s total Olympic medals. In the country, they have a street boxing program that was started to keep youth off the street and out of trouble. As a result, many kids are encouraged and want to join the Olympics boxing categories someday to bring home more medals. The program develops discipline and self-confidence in young people who otherwise would not have good stories.
15. Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic has produced some great professional boxers in the last century, including Carlos Cruz and Jose’ Kelvin de la Nieve. Their talented fighters placed in every category, including heavyweight, light heavyweight, cruiserweights, and flyweights. Fighters from the Dominican Republic are up and coming, and should hit the international boxing scene very soon.
16. South Africa
Boxing in South Africa started in the 19th century when miners and financiers were attracted to the gold mines and diamond fields, who brought the love of boxing with them. The country produced 49 world champions between 1927 and 2001, among them being Vic Toweel in 1950.
Professional boxing champions peaked in the 1990s when the country boasted multiple world champions in the latter part of the decade. After that, the number of champions started to decline due to other countries producing better champions.
All in all
Professional boxing has always been popular in several parts of the world, and it most likely won’t change soon. Once a great sport only in ancient Greece and Rome, it has become quite popular all over the world, with professional and amateur bouts held several times a month or more.
Boxers in many countries compete internationally and locally, and when they are at the top of their game, they can make a decent living through sponsorships and endorsements. Boxing fans are attracted to the sport because it is combative and aggressive, and makes for entertaining drama.