Boxing Rules And Regulations

The Rules of Boxing

What are the rules of boxing? Boxing is a sport in which two opponents attempt to punch each other inside a square ring. While this may seem very straightforward, there are a lot of specific rules that keep the match progressing fairly. Unlike other sports, there is no dominant official governing body of boxing. Various boxing competitions use slightly different rules, but many general regulations are common throughout every level. Get ready to learn about the rules of boxing.

Many of the rules of boxing are implemented before the actual fight begins:

Weight Classes

All boxers must compete against opponents within their own weight class. This is because being heavier in boxing is a very large competitive advantage.

There are up to 17 different divisions of weight that fighters compete in. These divisions range from minimumweight (up to 105 lbs) to heavyweight (over 200 lbs). Some competitions have fewer weight classes than others.

Before the match, the boxers are weighed in order to verify that they are in the right class. This is known as the "weigh-in," and it often happens the day before a scheduled fight.


Originally, all boxing was done without gloves. This is known as "bare-knuckle boxing" and is much rarer in today's game.

Boxing gloves must be between eight and 10 ounces, depending on the weight class of the fight. Heavier bouts will require heavier gloves.

Match Rules

During the match itself, there are rules to prevent certain types of hits, determine what happens during a knockdown, and correctly score a match

Illegal Punches

The legality of a boxer's punch is up to the match referee's consent. However, some punches are universally illegal. These include:

  • Punches that are not straight-on (leading with the knuckles)
  • Punches to certain parts of the body
  • Punching an opponent while they are knocked down
  • Punching an opponent immediately after a clinch
  • Punches that are thrown while holding onto anything

Hitting an opponent illegally may result in:

  • Point deductions
  • Disqualification

Remember, different referees will interpret and enforce these rules differently.

Knockdown Rules

When a boxer is knocked down, there are specific rules to ensure the match continues and that the boxer is safe. These include:

  • The 10-count rule: Once a boxer is knocked down, the referee will count out 10 seconds (this is called "the count"). The downed boxer has to get to his feet by the end of the count or else the fight is ruled as a knockout (K.O.) win for the opponent.
  • A boxer may not be hit while knocked down.
  • If a boxer is somehow knocked out of the ring, they have 20 seconds to get back inside the ring and on their feet.

If a round ends during a count, the downed boxer may be allowed to continue next round. This is known as being "saved by the bell," and only applies in specific competitions.

Additionally, a boxer may be removed from the match if the referee believes they are unable to continue (even if they are not knocked down). This is known as a "T.K.O." and technically counts as a knockout.


Each boxing match has multiple rounds. Matches may consist of anywhere from three to 15 rounds, but most matches will have 12 rounds. Each round lasts three minutes, although some competitions have two-minute rounds. Since there is no official boxing authority, the specific rules of a fight are determined by each competition. Rounds give each boxer a chance to rest and regain strength before the next round.


There are typically three judges for a boxing match, although different competitions may have two to five judges. The judges give each boxer a score out of 10 after every round. In most high-stakes matches, the more dominant boxer will receive a 10, and the other a nine.

If a match reaches its end and neither boxer is knocked out, the result will be determined by the judges. This result is called a "decision".

The judges' scores may be inconclusive and result in a draw. This is known as a "split decision". The circumstances required for a draw are:

  • If all three judges give both fighters the exact same scores.
  • If two judges give both fighters the exact same score (regardless of the third judge's score).
  • If two judges give winning scores to different fighters and the third judge scores it as a draw.

Although it is the job of the judges to score the fight, only the referee may officially stop a match for any reason. This rule was created to prevent match fixings.