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What are the Marquess of Queensberry Rules?

By Rebecca Partington
Updated May 23, 2024
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The Marquess of Queensberry rules are the rules that govern the sport of boxing. The rules got their name because their author, John Graham Chambers, British Amateur Athletic Club member, was sponsored by John Sholto Douglas, the ninth Marquess of Queensberry. The rules were published in 1867 and supplanted the London Prize Ring rules, which were published in 1743. However, the first prize fight using the new Marquess of Queensberry rules did not happen until 1885.

These boxing rules are important not only because they are the modern amateur and professional rules, but also because before the rules were implemented, professional boxing was illegal in England. Before the Marquess of Queensberry rules were developed, boxing was widely viewed as a sport of the lower classes in England. However, the new rules made it more socially acceptable for members of the upper classes to enjoy the sport. Chambers' rules emphasized technique and skill, while boxing under the former rules was notorious for the brawling that occurred during and after matches.

The Marquess of Queensberry rules contain 12 separate rules but can be summarized as follows. The first thing to note is that the Marquess rules are essentially an addendum to the revised London Prize Rings. That is, where the Marquess of Queensberry rules are silent, the revised London Prize Rings are to govern.

Much of the rules govern the play itself. Wrestling and hugging is not permitted. Only the two fighters, other than the neutral referee, are allowed in the ring during the rounds which are to last three minutes each, with one-minute breaks in between. Fallen fighters, fighters on one knee, and fighters hanging on the ropes have 10 seconds get back on their feet otherwise the referee may call the fight in the favor of the other fighter. If a fighter in one of these states is struck by the other, the fallen fighter will be declared the victor. If there is some unavoidable interference making completion of the fight an impossibility, the referee is required to name a place and time for a rematch unless the fighting parties agree to a tie.

In addition to the rules of play, the Marquess of Queensberry rules also govern some of the logistics of the fight. The fight is to take place in a 24-foot square ring or something close to that size. Gloves are required to be new, of appropriate size, and best quality, and if that glove malfunctions in some way, it's replacement must meet the referee's approval. The fighter's footwear may not contain springs.

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