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    ‘Science’, ‘wind’ and ‘bottom’: eighteenth-century boxing manuals

    Day, Dave (2012) ‘Science’, ‘wind’ and ‘bottom’: eighteenth-century boxing manuals. The International Journal of the History of Sport, 29 (10). pp. 1446-1465. ISSN 0952-3367

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    The eighteenth century witnessed the emergence of a plethora of sporting professionals, many of whom were involved in developing training and coaching practices. Teaching the skills, the ‘science’, of boxing became an important source of income for professional fighters while some practitioners also developed careers as trainers, normally operating on behalf of the wealthy ‘amateurs’ who retained professionals in order to make profitable wagers. These practices were described in some of the early instructional manuals of the period, notably a detailed analysis of wrestling by Parkyns in 1713, who considered technique, fitness, and diet, and by Godfrey in 1747 who included a seminal section on boxing in his A Treatise upon the Useful Science of Defence. The proliferation of boxing manuals in the last quarter of the century reflected both a revival of interest in the sport and a desire to record the essential elements of this martial ‘science’ since it was only now that contemporaries believed a full understanding had been achieved of the importance of ‘wind’ (endurance), ‘bottom’ (courage), and ‘science’ (technique). This paper explores a number of texts where authors discussed these essential components of boxing performance and highlights the longevity of their methods of athletic preparation.

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