What Are The Rules of Boxing?

What are the Rules of Boxing

Boxing has many rules used to govern the sport in order to make it fair, safe, and competitive for fighters. As a combat sport, the nature of boxing can put its competitors in serious danger without specific rules to control the match. Rules include restricting the type of strikes competitors can use, where they are allowed to hit opponents, fouls, and other match procedures. The rules of boxing can vary depending on the jurisdiction in which the fight takes place and whether it is an amateur or professional boxing match.

There are a few universal rules that are extremely important to the sport and are generally accepted in all boxing matches. These rules apply only to boxing matches and not to similar combat sports such as kickboxing or MMA.

Commonly accepted rules for boxing include:

  1. Fighters may not hit below the belt, trip, hold, kick, headbutt, bite, push, or spit on opponents.
  2. You cannot strike with your head, forearm, or elbows.
  3. You cannot hit with an open glove, wrist, or backhand, only closed fist punches.
  4. Fighters may not strike their opponent in the back, back of the head, neck, or kidneys.
  5. You cannot hold and use the ropes to gain leverage for a punch.
  6. When the referee signals for a break, fighters must oblige, take a step back, and refrain from throwing punches.
  7. You cannot hit an opponent once they are knocked down.
  8. A “floored” boxer has 10 seconds to get up before being declared the loser by knockout.
  9. Boxers hit with an accidental low blow will be given a specified amount of time to recover (usually 5 minutes), if they are unable at the end of their time then they are disqualified.
  10. All bouts are scored by three judges.


In boxing, breaking the rules is called a foul and can have varying consequences. A foul can result in a warning, point reductions, or even disqualification. If a fighter commits a foul that injures the opponent and makes them unable to compete, the fighter who committed the foul will be disqualified. If a fighter commits a foul that injures their opponent but the fight continues, the referee may signal the judges to automatically deduct two points from the fighter who committed the foul.

Amateur Versus Professional Rules

Boxing is a sport practiced by amateurs and professionals alike. While many core rules remain the same, some rules for each bout can vary based on the skill level of the fighters. The differences between amateur and professional boxing rules are summarized in the table below.

Skill Level AllowedBeginner to experienced boxersExperienced boxers only
GearMouthguard, gloves, headgearMouthguard and gloves
Number of RoundsUsually 2-3 roundsUsually 4-12 rounds
ScoringJudged by the number of hits landed. Generally computer- counted.10-point system
Compensation No compensationCompensation for participation, win bonuses, sponsorships, etc.

Skill Differences

The skill difference between amateur and professional boxing is clear. Most amateur bouts will feature beginner to intermediate boxers. However, some “amateur” competitions such as the Olympics can feature very skilled and experienced boxers. On the other hand, in professional boxing, you almost always see top-notch boxers.

Gear Differences

In amateur boxing, most participants will be required to wear mouthguards, gloves, and headgear. In some cases, amateurs will wear additional gear such as shin pads or rib guards. In professional boxing, the fighters will only wear mouthguards and gloves as protection.

Scoring Differences

Scoring is perhaps the biggest difference between amateur and professional boxing. The two skill levels are scored in two very different ways. Amateur boxing is judged based on the number of strikes landed comparatively. This means the fighter that lands the most punches usually wins.

Professional boxing, on the other hand, uses a 10-point system to judge bouts. The 10-point system is based on who wins the most rounds, with the winner receiving 10 points and the loser receiving nine. In rare situations where one fighter dominates, or a foul is committed that results in point deductions, the losing fighter could receive eight points for the round.

Compensation Differences

Another significant difference between amateur and professional boxing is the compensation fighters receive. Amateur boxers do not receive compensation for fighting, as they are fighting for experience or simply a love for the sport. Professional boxers, however, almost always receive compensation for their bouts. Professionals are paid for sponsorships, participating in the fight, win bonuses, and more. Some of the best professional boxers can earn millions of dollars for just a single fight!


The end of a boxing match is the climax of the event, in which one of the competitors is deemed the winner of the bout. This can happen in a few different ways, including split decisions, unanimous decisions, and knockouts. 


Decisions occur when the outcome of a boxing match is decided by the judges. There are three main types of decisions, which are named for the number of judges who agree on the outcome of the match. These three types of decision are:

  • Unanimous Decision: All three judges decide in favor of one fighter. Generally meaning that one fighter dominated the bout. The fighter that was deemed the winner by all three judges wins the match.
  • Majority Decision: Two judges decide in favor of one fighter while the other judge rules the bout a draw. The fighter that received two winning decisions wins the match.
  • Split Decision: Two judges decide in favor of one fighter, while the third judge decides in favor of the other. The fighter that received two winning decisions wins the match


Knockouts occur when one fighter ends the match as a result of physically dominating their opponent, either by incapacitating them or exhausting them to the point where they cannot keep fighting. The two main types of knockouts are:

  • Knockout (KO): One fighter is deemed the winner because their opponent was knocked unconscious and is no longer able to fight. The fighter that knocked out their opponent is deemed victorious.
  • Technical Knockout (TKO): When the referee decides one fighter is no longer fit to continue, despite not being knocked unconscious. The fighter that was deemed unable to continue loses the fight, and their opponent is deemed the winner.


Draws occur when a fight is judged to be an even contest, where neither boxer is at an advantage over the other. The four main types of draw are:

  • Split Draw: Each judge decides differently. One decides in favor of one fighter, the second decides in favor of the other fights, and the third rules the match a draw. The fight is ruled a draw.
  • Majority Draw: Two judges scored the fight as a draw, while the third scored in favor of one of the fighters. The fight is ruled a draw.
  • Unanimous Draw: All three judges have scored the bout as a draw. The fight is ruled a draw.
  • Technical Draw: When the judges cannot determine the winner after a headbutt. The fight is ruled a draw.


Technicalities refer to special situations that end a match in unusual ways, either by a fighter being eliminated from the match for misconduct, a fighter conceding, or a referee deciding to call a match in progress. The three main types of technicalities are:

  • Disqualification: Either one or both fighters is eliminated from the fight due to repeated rule violations. There are two options for disqualification. Option 1: The fighter violating rules repeatedly is disqualified and their opponent is named the winner. Option 2: Both fighters are disqualified for repeatedly breaking the rules, and the fight is deemed no contest.
  • Submission: One fighter decides to surrender to the other. The fighter who submits is automatically declared the loser.
  • Referee Technical Decision: One fighter or his corner opts to end the fight in between rounds. The side who opts to end the fight is deemed the loser.

Boxing Rules Summary

  • Amateur boxing matches last two to three rounds.
  • Professional boxing matches last for up to 12 three-minute rounds.
  • There are one-minute rest periods in between rounds.
  • Amateur boxing is judged on the number of strikes landed.
  • Professional boxing is judged based on a 10-points system.
  • Fighters get points deducted for minor fouls throughout the fight.
  • If a fighter commits a foul that ends the match, they are disqualified.
  • If one boxer is knocked out or cannot continue, his opponent wins.
  • If there is no clear winner, the judges vote on which boxer deserves the win.
  • Judges may decide to favor one winner or declare the match a draw.


What is the objective of boxing?

The objective of boxing is to hit your opponent and avoid getting hit yourself. Another way to look at the objective of the sport is to knock out your opponent before they knock you out. Boxers will earn a point advantage from the judges for dominating a round by successfully striking their opponent more than the opponent was able to strike them, or for knocking down the opposing fighter. A complete knockout or TKO (technical knockout) automatically ends the fight.

How many rules are there in boxing?

All included, there are over 30 rules in the sport of boxing. There are numerous rules that govern the sport of boxing. These rules control the type of strikes competitors can use, where they are allowed to hit opponents, fouls, and other match procedures. Even the judges have rules for how to properly score each round. The rules can vary for boxing matches in different jurisdictions and at different skill levels. 

What are some common rules in boxing?

There are some universal rules generally accepted across the entire sport. For example, it is forbidden to kick, knee, trip, headbutt, bite, or spit on opponents in boxing. Boxers are not allowed to hit below the belt or in the back area. The fighters must break, take a step back, and withhold throwing punches if the referee signals for a break.

Are you allowed to kick in boxing?

No, fighters are not allowed to use kicks, knees, or trips in traditional boxing matches. Boxing is solely focused on striking with the hands and defending against it. Throwing a kick in a boxing match will be called a foul and result in a warning, possible point reductions, or even disqualification. However, in kickboxing (a discipline very similar to boxing) kicking and other techniques are allowed.

Where are you allowed to strike your opponent in boxing?

In boxing, fighters may strike the opponent in the head and upper body. Boxers are only allowed to strike their opponent with a closed fist punch, not with an open hand or backhand. It is against the rules for boxers to hit their opponents below the belt, in the back or kidney area, the back of the head or neck, or while they are on the ground.