Boxing has a long documented history dating back to Egypt in 3,000 BC. It was then introduced to the Greeks and became part of the Olympic Games in 7BC. It wasn’t until the 1800s however that amateur boxing began to emerge as a sport, first in the United Kingdom and then America. Boxing has a unique link with tattoos and the majority of professional boxers have tattoos — many of them extremely prominent. So why are tattoos and boxing intrinsically linked?
It’s all about attitude
Boxing isn’t always just about the fight — there is often a great amount of pre-fight banter. For instance, Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor have had some particularly exciting conflicts out of the ring. Sometimes these antics are there to entertain the crowds, but they also have a higher purpose: to intimidate. They are a way to psychologically attack the opponent by attempting to show that you are more aggressive, more assertive and stronger. Having tattoos is another way that people show their attitude and try to intimidate - the bigger the better. If you can endure the pain of getting inked, then a bit of boxing ain’t no thing.
The 'hard' image
It may come as no surprise, but there is a social element to having tattoos. In one study, participants were shown photographs of men and women, some with the tattoos digitally removed. The images of people with tattoos were considered to be more negative and even deviant. The women with tattoos were perceived to be independent and strong. This goes to show that there is a certain stigma that is attached to tattoos. Although attitudes to having tattoos have relaxed somewhat, particularly in the workplace, the general consensus is still that people with tattoos are tough. For boxers, having tattoos certainly perpetuates this image and could even help to give them a psychological advantage over their components.
A work of art
The average competitive boxer spends 25 hours a week training in the ring and working out in the gym. They are extremely dedicated to improving and maintaining their fitness levels. Building muscle and creating definition is not just a necessity for boxers, it is an art form. Boxers take extreme pride in the way that their bodies look and perform — and so they should. Getting a tattoo is also part of this self-expression. It is a way of using the body as a canvas to display what you are passionate about and who you are. This is why so many competitive boxers have tattoos that are symbolic; they represent the image of self.
Famous boxers with tattoos
Mike Tyson has a memorable tribal tattoo adorning his face, but it is the portraits on his body that are actually worth noting — Chairman Mao, Arthur Ashe and Che Guevara. It is clear that Tyson considers himself somewhat of a rebel if he is to be judged by the artwork on his body. Diego Corrales’ tattoos were a little rough around the edges, but most memorable was the black panther on the right side of his chest. It said a lot about Chico’s personality and certainly his style in the ring. You can’t talk about boxers and tattoos without mentioning Ricky Hatton’s artwork. The giant “Hitman - Pride in Battle” across his back has the attitude and ego of a London gangster and certainly shows how Hatton feels about his boxing career.
The history of boxing and tattoos are very much intertwined. For a boxer, their tattoos are a unique form of self-expression and send a message to anyone that steps into the ring with them.
These articles are submitted by guest writers and sites. They aren't submitted by the usual folk behind Asian Boxing and don't fall in line with our editorial stance, giving a fresh view on various boxing issues from the Asian boxing scene.