College Boxing Explained

On top of being widely popular, football and basketball are the most televised American collegiate sports. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA ) backs the aforementioned sports and provides them with nationwide broadcasting. Boxing used to be an official NCAA sport as well, but it was discontinued in 1961 for various reasons. This guide gives a brief history of collegiate boxing and discusses boxing’s current governing body: The National Collegiate Boxing Association (NCBA).

History of College Boxing

The following sections provide a brief history of collegiate boxing, beginning from the early days of NCAA bouts and continuing through the establishment of the contemporary NCBA.

NCAA Boxing

Youngsters born within the last twenty years may have trouble understanding why boxing was popular throughout the better part of the 20th century. Professional boxing matches were the topic of conversation within local barber shops and even at family dinner tables.

Similar to professional boxing, amateur boxing also excited sports enthusiasts and drew a massive following. College boxing began in 1919 as boxers from the University of Pennsylvania and Penn State University squared off against each other. The NCAA then sanctioned the sport in 1937, and college boxing events attracted thousands of spectators. Over 200 schools were involved at one point in the early 1950s.

The popularity of collegiate boxing declined, though, as recruiting and scholarship lines were blurred and schools such as the University of Wisconsin dominated year after year. Questions of safety also began to arise. The final straw came in 1960 when Charlie Mohr, a Wisconsin boxer, died in the hospital after being knocked down in a bout. After his passing, studies showed that an undiagnosed aneurism, not boxing, might have caused Mohr’s death. Nevertheless, boxing was blamed for his death, and the NCAA dropped boxing for the 1961 season.

The Rise of the NCBA

Even though the NCAA discontinued boxing, a handful of schools on the West Coast continued boxing under a body known as the California Collegiate Boxing Conference. The Eastern Collegiate Boxing Association was created over a decade later, in 1973. West Chester University was the early powerhouse on the East Coast, and the school’s coaches established the NCBA in 1976 with the help of West Coast coaches from the University of Nevada, Reno.

The NCBA has continued to stand firm since its inception in 1976. There are currently around 30 American schools that participate in college boxing. The NCBA has broken up the country into three distinct regions. Each region has an annual tournament, and the best boxers from each region then advance to the NCBA National Championships Tournament. In recent years, the military academies — Air Force, Navy, and West Point — have consistently performed well on the national level.

Fun Fact

Military academies won 26 of the 35 team championships following the establishment of the NCBA in 1976. The U.S. Air Force Academy leads the pack with 18 of these 26 championships.

NCBA Rules

Schools that want to participate in the NCBA must present certification that it is in fact recognized as a college or university. After receiving the NCBA Institution Eligibility Certificate, the club must complete the USA Boxing Club Registration. USA Boxing is the official governing body of amateur boxing in the United States.

In order to compete, individual boxers must be full-time students at one of the accredited colleges or universities. Boxers complete the USA Boxing Athlete Application as well as the Prior Experience Waiver. Since boxers can only fight in a certain amount of non-collegiate bouts, the NCBA Executive Committee determines whether or not boxers with prior fighting experience are eligible to participate. Beginning with their first bout, boxers have four years of eligibility and are prevented from receiving scholarship money.

Unlike other amateur bouts that occasionally use 10-ounce gloves, the NCBA always uses 12-ounce gloves for competition. Matches consist of three two-minute rounds. In addition to individual champions, the NCBA also crowns a team champion based on performance at the national level. The rules, regulations, and scoring are generally aligned with those of USA Boxing.

College Boxing’s Goal

The NCBA teaches proper boxing skills and fundamentals, but it also provides boxers with the opportunity to become competitive student-athletes. Boxing and academics both require self-discipline and hard work, and success in one area often facilitates success in the other.

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