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Evolution of the Punch Bag

Evolution of the Punch Bag

Boxing, in one form or another, has been around since the dawn of human history. The earliest evidence of boxing comes from a Sumerian relief in Iraq; dating as far back as the 3rd millennium BC. Pygmachia "fist fighting" has been around as early as the 8th century BC in Ancient Greece, and was first introduced as an olympic sport in 688 BC. Those early gladiators practised on punching bags called a korykos.

Boxing as we know it today can trace its roots all the way back to the prizefighters from 16th century England. In 1743 the first rules of boxing were introduced by Jack Broughton, a champion of the time. The Broughton rules encouraged the use of mufflers (early boxing gloves) to protect the hands of the boxer. Under these rules, a timed count was introduced. If a man went down and could not continue for 30 seconds, the fight was over. In 1865 the rules of boxing were refined further by Welshman John Graham Chambers and published in 1867. The 9th Marquess of Queensberry publicly endorsed the code and so the Queensberry rules, which still govern the sport today, were born. Major changes saw the introduction of the 3 minute round, ring size and fair sized boxing gloves were also introduced. Gentlemanly conduct was now also the order of the day.

A few years later in 1872 a patent was awarded by the US patents office to Simon D. Kehoe for a striking bag. This first recording of boxing training equipment chronicles the start of what is now a multi million dollar industry. Another pioneer in boxing training equipment was Mike Donovan, former middleweight champion in the bare knuckle era. "Professor Mike", as he was fondly known, used various objects to enhance his training, such as hanging a rugby ball from the ceiling and using it to work on his hand speed. Many boxing historians credit this as being the precursor for the speed ball and double end bag. His methods were so successful at honing his fighting skills that they have been widely adopted by countless champion boxers in the 100 years since his death.

Since the 1900's boxing has seen a huge rise in popularity as both a sport and a spectator event. It has gone from the days of fights being seen by a select few, to the global broadcasting phenomenon that it is today, with fights regularly being watched live by millions of people worldwide.

As the sport grew and gave many fighters a chance to escape poverty, so did the training methods and the equipment used to take these prospective champions from rags to riches. The boxing gym staples of the early to mid 1900's like the heavy bag, speed ball, double end bag and maize bag were supplemented towards the end of the century with more advanced variations. These new adaptations like the uppercut bag, angled heavy bag and freestanding bag have made it into the training routines of elite champion boxers and recreational boxers alike. 

 As boxers continued to become fitter, faster and stronger going into the 21st century, understandably the equipment used to train them evolved too. Advancements in technology and materials saw additions like the Aqua Bag, a take on the tear drop heavy bag. Rather than the usual filling of sand, rubber or textiles, the Aqua Bag is filled with water to minimise stress on the joints while striking. Shortly after Sparbar introduced their take on the freestanding bag. Sparbar's unique rotating bar saw moving parts for the first time, calling for greater head movement, blocking and hand-eye co-ordination. In 2020 Connelly Sports launched the Enigma Punch Bag, an orbicular bag with a target ball attached in the middle. The bag is made lighter, for a greater range of movement, and the unique shape allows the fighter any combination of punches. No more standing still throwing straight rights and hooks, the Enigma's distinct spinning action requires the fighter to think on their feet. Therefore foot movement finally becomes essential when doing a bag workout. Unlike other bags the Enigma will hit back, blocking shots and being mentally sharp are now vital when working with the Enigma.

It's an exciting time for boxing, the 21st Century has seen the sport soar in popularity and it's encouraging to see the advancements in Simon D Kehoe's striking bag of the 19th Century. I, for one, am looking forward to working on the next development to further enhance and enrich the training of the sportsmen and women, who's dedication to excellence I greatly admire.