The earliest known depiction of boxing comes from a Sumerian relief in Iraq from the 3rd millennium BC. Later depictions from the 2nd millennium BC are found in reliefs from the Mesopotamian nations of Assyria and Babylonia. A relief sculpture from Egyptian Thebes (c. 1350 BC) shows both boxers and spectators. In Ancient Greece boxing was a well developed sport and enjoyed consistent popularity. In Olympic terms, it was first introduced in the 23rd Olympiad, 688 BC. Boxing was a popular spectator sport in Ancient Rome, too. The Roman form of boxing was often a fight until death to please the spectators. Records of Classical boxing activity disappeared after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
The first documented account of a bare-knuckle fight in England appeared in 1681 in the London Protestant Mercury, and this is also the time when the word "boxing" first came to be used. Contests in that time, in addition to fist fighting, also contained fencing and cudgeling. In 1681, the first recorded boxing match took place in Britain when Christopher Monck, 2nd Duke of Albemarle engineered a bout between his butler and his butcher with the latter winning the prize. The first boxing rules were introduced by champion Jack Broughton in 1743. From the start boxing was a professional sport, boxing bouts were motivated by money, as the fighters competed for prize money, promoters controlled the gate, and spectators bet on the result.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, most professional bouts took place in the United States and Britain, and there were title fights at each weight. The "title fight" has always been the focal point in professional boxing. Promoters who could stage profitable title fights became influential in the sport, as did boxers' managers. In 1891, the National Sporting Club (N.S.C.), a private club in London, began to promote professional glove fights at its own premises, and created nine of its own rules. The British Boxing Board of Control (B.B.B.C.) was first formed in 1919, and was re-formed in 1929 after the N.S.C. closed, and continued to award Lonsdale Belts to any British boxer who won three title fights in the same weight division.
In the first part of the 20th century, the United States became the centre for professional boxing. It was generally accepted that the "world champions" were those listed by the Police Gazette. After 1920, the National Boxing Association (NBA), began to sanction "title fights." The NBA was renamed in 1962 and became the World Boxing Association (WBA). The following year, a rival body, the World Boxing Council (WBC) was formed, and that was the end of universally recognised champions, as the WBC and WBA began to recognise different champions and top contenders. In 1983, the International Boxing Federation (IBF), was formed, and in 1988, another world sanctioning body, the World Boxing Organization (WBO), was formed.