Most people are unaware that boxing was a bare knuckle, illegal sport in the early days and that there were no set number of rounds to finish a fight do nobody really knew how many rounds there was going to be in a boxing match.
Both fighters would continue until one was knocked out or was injured so badly, that they wouldn’t be able to continue anymore. Nobody wore boxing gloves, nothing. These early day boxing rounds were bare knuckle.
One such infamous fight occurred in 1833 between James Burke and Simon Byrne. It is said to have lasted for 99-rounds and for little more than 180-minutes in totality.
Byrne eventually succumbed to his injuries that he received during the course of the match. It was that bad.
Thankfully, as the sport went legal, a set of rules were drafted that took into account the safety of both the players.
How Many Rounds did Boxing Matches Used to Last? – 15 Rounds
Professional boxing matches were initially set at 15-rounds.
That was until November 13 1982, when another brutal fight took place between Ray Mancini and Duk Koo Kim.
It led to Kim’s death, triggering widespread outrage over the supposed excessive duration of boxing matches and the toll that it takes on the fighters.
The judges and sports authorities figured out that having 15 rounds in a boxing match was still just a bit too much for fighters to endure. Having full on boxing matches go for 15 rounds is now a thing of the past.
How Many Rounds Do Boxing Matches Currently Last? – 12 Rounds
In the next few years after 1982 most title fights were shortened to 12-rounds. And that’s what’s being followed since then. The rounds being shortened from 15 to 12 was a good step in the right direction as 15 rounds was proving to be too much for fighters to take.
How Long Do Boxing Rounds Last?
Unless you have witnessed boxing matches of different classes and age groups, you’d be unaware of the exact duration that a round of boxing lasts.
That’s because there’s no one, universal length.
It differs across classes, calibers and age groups.
Rounds in Youth Boxing Matches
Youth boxing or Club level fights are quite popular in the boxing community, even though they rarely get coverage in the mainstream media. Despite the ‘Youth’ prefix attached to it, these fights are not just for teenagers.
There are fighters who are well into their 30s who participate in youth boxing matches. These guys have already learned how to box and know what they are doing. They are just not to the top level yet.
These bouts have different round durations depending on the age group of the fighters.
- Bantam weight for 8-10 year olds – There are three rounds and each one lasts 1-minute
- Juniors for 11-12-year olds – There are three rounds and each one lasts 1-minute
- Intermediate for 13-14 year olds – The rounds last 90 seconds.
- Junior Senior Olympics for 15-16 year olds – The rounds last two minutes
- Sub-Novice for 17-34-year olds – 3 Rounds that last 2-minutes
- Novice for 17-34-year olds – 10 rounds that last 2 minutes
- Open category for 17-34 year olds – 10+ rounds of 2 minutes each
- Masters category for 17-34-year olds – 10+ rounds of 3-minutes each
Rounds in Amateur boxing bouts
Amateur boxing bouts that are practiced at Pan American games, the Olympics, the Commonwealth games as well as at the collegiate levels, have just three rounds that last for three minutes each for men.
The rounds are two minutes long for women.
This might create a misconception that these fighters are unskilled or lack the experience of professional boxers. That’s completely untrue though. Even those these boxers are beginners they are still skilled, enough so to put on a good amateur competition round.
Amateur bouts are decided on the basis of points that are awarded for clean punches. And three rounds more than suffice to decide a winner based on points.
Rounds in Professional Boxing bouts
Professional boxing bouts are the longest among all calibers and age groups, and rightly so. When two fighters are competing for a championship, you’d expect them to be skilled and fit enough to go the distance.
While most heavyweight fights are set at 12 rounds of 3 minutes each, some promoters can also shorten the duration to 8 or 10 rounds.
It all depends on the fight and the promoters.
Why Did Boxing Shorten the Rounds from 15 to 12?
When Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini knocked out Duk Koo Kim in the 14th round, little did he know that he would be changing the sport forever.
Kim was taken out on a stretcher and later diagnosed with a subdural hematoma in his skull that the doctors attributed to one punch from Ray.
Despite an emergency surgery to save him, Kim passed away four days later.
There was a lot of outrage over the incident with experts weighing in from both sides.
One side opined that had the fight been truncated to 12-rounds, Kim would have been saved.
There were clinical studies as well that proved that the longer a fighter stays in the ring, higher the chances of them suffering fatal injuries. Add to this dehydration and severe fatigue that sets in at the later stages of a boxing match and you have fighters being pushed to the extreme.
But as we mentioned earlier, in a championship bout, you’d expect the fighters to have the conditioning and the endurance needed to survive for 15-rounds.
As far as the unfortunate fatality, it is a risk that comes with the game. Something that could have occurred in the 6th or even the third round for that matter.
There’s a raging debate with many former fighters like Frank Lotierzo demanding that professional bouts be restored to 15-rounds like earlier.
According to Frank, fighters often follow rigorous dietary restrictions to qualify for a specific weight class. Part of the restrictions is cutting their fluid intake which can cause dehydration.
Without supportive fluid around the brain, fighters are more prone to brain injuries.
It’s 28 years since the Kim-Mancini fight and medical science has progressed by leaps and bounds.
Could a fighter in a similar situation be saved today? Possibly.
Did dehydration cause Kim’s death or was it the additional time that he spent in the ring against a deadly opponent? We don’t know and we aren’t medical experts.
But we are all for longer fights as long as the fighters are safe and come out smiling at the end of it.
Tyson fought Biggs for 15-rounds in 1987. So did Holland when he took on Flores in 1997.
So it’s not that 15-round fights are not possible. It’s just that they aren’t held as commonly as they used to be.
Closing Thoughts – Does It Matter How Many Rounds Are in Boxing?
So, the duration of a boxing round depends on the type of match. Youth boxing matches have the shortest duration and they have very stringent rules about where and how the fighters can hit each other.
Amateur boxing matches are strictly regulated as well.
Professional matches are the most physically demanding with 3-minute rounds and just 1-minute of rest in between rounds. The rules are a lot more relaxed as compared to the other two classes.
Each boxing class has a different amount of rounds and each round is a different duration, but the real question is does the amount of round really matter? As long as we have at least 10 rounds and up for title fights then it is more about the fighters, the intensity, and just how good of a match up it is, not how many rounds the fight last.