If you think you are going the distance when training on your kickboxing bag, you should check some of the longest matches in boxing’s history. Before boxing rules reached today’s form, fights were going on for multiple hours or a great number of rounds. Records are stating that some fights lasted for more than 5 or 7 hours. Not only the duration of these old fights is impressive but the number of rounds is also astonishing since some fights contained more than 250 rounds.
Longest fight with gloves
The fight took place on the 6th of April 1893 and lasted for 7 hours and 19 minutes. The Olympic Club in New Orleans was chosen by the promoters to host the contest for the lightweight title of the South. The fighters that went the distance were Andy Bowen and Jack Burke.
About the fighters
Jack Burke was less experienced than Bowen despite being Texas’s lightweight champion. He was not supposed to be in this record-breaking fight, but the first opponent dropped out of the fight. Jack Burke was his trainer so he took his place. He was only 24 years old when the fight took place and some boxing fans said that he was not ready for such a violent fight.
Andy Bowen was known for his unathletic constitution and during his fights, he would have taken 3 or 4 punches before landing one successful shot. He weighed 134 pounds, almost as much as Burke so none of these fighters had a weight advantage during the bout. Bowen was experienced in long fights as he had fought a 43-round match against Charley Johnson in 1890.
The stakes might have been higher for Andy Bowen as the fight was held in his hometown. Local people used the fight to prove the community’s respectability. No fights would take place on that Sunday, the crowds would not be served alcohol, and a small percentage of the collected sum would be given to charity.
How the fight went on
On the 6th of April 1893, both fighters entered the ring hoping for the best. But none of them and probably nobody from the audience would have guessed that the bout would finish on the next day. They entered the ring around 9 pm and the match ended around 4 in the morning.
Burke was known for liking to taunt his opponents and gained the advantage in the first rounds of the fight (each round lasted for three minutes). He even managed to make Bowen stagger in round 25. But Bowen’s toughness was notorious („Iron” was one of his nicknames) and in round 48, using a furious attack, he sent Burke to the floor. However, Burke was saved by the bell as time expired before he was counted out.
Boxers got severely injured
Further in the fight, Burke felt that both of his hands were completely broke. It was the natural consequence of constantly punching a man who kept moving toward him. From that moment, his offense became severely restricted. The fight turned into a resistance contest. Each fighter was counting on sheer will in order to take the belt home.
Having their arms heavily damaged, they lost their violent attacks and the match started to look clumsy. Some spectators started to chant „home, sweet home”. After midnight, a lot of them started to leave as they considered the championship match was no longer worth seeing. It was early in the morning and the fight was still going on.
Spectators that came in after dinner were now ready to leave for breakfast. Bowen and Burke were still in the ring, fighting for the win. Neither of them was willing to give up the fight and the champion’s belt. But now their fighting strategy consisting in keeping a safe distance and waiting for each other to quit.
How the fight ended
After the 108th round, referee John Duffy observed that both fighters were on the brink of collapsing into the ring because of exhaustion. Not only the fighters were tired since some of the spectators fell asleep in their chairs.
The referee decided that he will let the fight go on for two more rounds. If there would be no winner after the 110th round, the fight was to be declared as a „no contest”. The 110th round ended and there was no punch thrown or winner so John Duffy announced the result of the fight to be a no contest.
The fight was ruled as a draw
Later, it was explained that it was, in fact, a draw. He thought that announcing the fight as a draw would make people ask for their money back or a rematch as they paid to see a winner. Those boxers had been fighting for 7 hours and 19 minutes and it was discovered after the bout that during this time, they had lost 10 pounds each. Furthermore, Burke broke every bone in his hands and was bed ridden for 6 weeks after the fight.
The winning prize for this championship match was $2500 but the fight ended as a draw. So the referee John Duffy suggested to split the prize money between the two fighters. After this legendary fight, Burke continued his boxer career for several more years.
After fighting 110 rounds, Bowen fought again just 8 weeks later in a match with 85 rounds. The following year, Bowen was 27 years old and a fight against George Lavigne was deadly for him. In the 18th round, Bowen hit the hard ring surface and fractured his skull.
Most rounds in a boxing match
Until it was decided that a boxing round will last 3 minutes, bouts were way more violent. One of the reasons is that there would be no regulated time-outs for fighters to catch their breath and get medical attention. Instead, a round would be over whenever there would be a knockdown.
The grounded boxer would have 30 seconds to be back on his feet and into the center of the ring. As you can imagine, some of the fights would go on for a long time or for a larger number of rounds since there would have to be a knockout for the bout to end.
Patsy Tunney and Jack Jones
These rules favored a very long match between Patsy Tunney and Jack Jones. The fight took place in Cheshire, England sometime in 1825 (almost 40 years before the Marquis of Queensbury rule). After 276 rounds, which took almost four and a half hours, Jack Jones managed to defeat Patsy Tunney.
After such a long and violent fight, even the defeated boxer was probably happy that the bout was finally over.
The title fight with the most rounds
Arthur Chambers started his professional boxing career in 1864 after he served in the Queen’s Royal Navy. He became the lightweight champion in 1872 after defeating Billy Edwards in the 26th round. Chambers decided to retire after he had the middle finger on his left hand amputated but came back to a historic fight after just 2 years.
His opponent was Johnny Clark, a fighter from Ireland. As a young man, Clark traveled across the country to perform in public as a clog and jig dancer. During his travels, he met a lot of skillful boxers so he became interested in pugilism. He turned pro, held boxing exhibitions all over the country and even started his own boxing school.
As a fighter he was successful, defeating great boxers such as Edward Toohey, Mike Haley, and John Tully. He managed to defend his lightweight title twice before stepping into the same ring with Arthur Chambers.
The title fight
The bout considered by many boxing enthusiasts to be the first great lightweight championship fight in history took place on March 27, 1879, in Chippewa Falls, Canada. As the fight was going on, none of the boxers was willing to lose the bout and the title. So they kept switching blows, knocking down one another and getting stitched between the rounds.
Even though both fighters were seriously hit, with swollen faces and numb hands, the referee allowed the fight to continue. In the 136th round of the fight, John Clark couldn’t take any more punches and was knocked out by Chambers.
These motivated fighters had been punching one another for 2 hours and 23 minutes. Also, the bout established a new record for the longest boxing match between international fighters.