English Schoolboy Boxing
For many years, boxing was a very popular activity among a good many English boys. It was by no means unusual for a lad to be coached by his father, to spar with friends and to box with a fellow classmate as part of his PT curriculum. It also drew the interest of boys from all walks of life; from the streets of the East End through to the elite public schools, many English schoolboys took pride in being able to box with their peers and it was seen as part and parcel of a young lad's road to eventual manhood.
In some cases, schoolboys were likely to carry on with their boxing once they were called up for their national service and, at the age of 19, stepped into an army boxing ring with proper fighting gloves and a drill sergeant who would referee, fully expecting to see a proper contest between two grown men.
With boxing, boys learnt the importance of the Queensbury rules and the need for etiquette and fair play in the ring. These rules reflected the values of wider society and encouraged the concept of the English gentleman boxer who showed courage in the school ring or when sparring with friends, preferred to rely on his own mettle, yet who held to the notion of fair play towards his opponent.
In many respects, boxing is the English answer to the martial arts. It had its own code of conduct that was inextricably linked with this sport of self defence. Boys learnt to rely on their own mettle, to learn a disciplined approach towards their boxing technique, to have c
ourage before a worthy opponent and to avoid foul play even when in danger of being carried away by the heat of the moment; something that can be a problem for boys when engaged in a more spirited bout.
I remember attending boxing tournaments at my brothers' school and sitting next to my mother, both us feeling immensely proud to see my brother enter the school ring with his boxing gloves on and ready to touch gloves with another equally courageous lad. In many ways it was a privilege to see two young lads upholding the very best of English boxing and learning to stand up and hold their own in the ring where they had nobody but themselves to rely on.
My mother always taught her sons that 'when a two boys enter the ring, it is of little importance who wins and who loses. What matters is that the pair of them leave that ring having learnt to be proper men'.
--Author unkown to me.