When did boxing go from 15 rounds to 12 and why?
These days we are used to watching boxing fights that go 12 rounds at most, however, not too long ago, championship fights went 15 rounds, and before that, there wasn’t any time limit at all. So, why were the rules changed?
Well, to understand that, we need to go back to the 1980s. Ray Mancini was an exciting American Boxer and on May 8, 1982, he beat Arturo Frias to win the WBA lightweight championship. Mancini defended his title once, and in the meantime, South Korean boxer Kim Duk-Koo was also climbing the ranks and became the WBA number one contender.
Both fighters faced off for the championship in an arena outside of Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas on November 13, 1982. Before the fight, Kim made news when he ominously stated, “Either he dies, or I die”
Well, that is exactly what happened. The fight started and remained competitive, with both competitors willing to take punches to land their own. The result was a brutal and grueling fight filled with injuries, starting with Mancini breaking his left hand in the 3rd round.
The fight continued at the same pace, and by the 11th round, both fighters had taken a lot of damage, which was clear from their bruised and cut faces. In the 14th round, Mancini came forward, throwing a left hook, followed by a straight right, which knocked Kim Duk-Koo down.
In an amazing feat of perseverance and sheer will, Kim managed to get up using the ropes, but the referee Richard Green called the fight off, recognizing that Kim wasn’t in any state to continue.
Kim Duk-Koo was carried out on a stretcher and taken to the nearby Desert Springs Hospital. The doctors discover that Kim’s brain had a subdural hematoma. After two and a half hours of operation, the doctors concluded that there was no way to save his life.
Kim Duk-Koo died on November 18, 1982, at the young age of 23.
His death was a very tragic event. Kim was engaged prior to his death and left behind a pregnant wife. His mother took her own life after three months of Kim’s death. The fight was nationally televised on CBS, therefore, Kim’s death was a very infamous event. It started conversations about Boxing regulation, and some people were even saying that boxing should be abolished.
This prompted the WBC to limit its championship fights to a maximum of twelve rounds, a move followed by the WBA and IBF in 1987. A month after Kim’s death, the Nevada State Athletic Commission introduced the standing eight count, which allowed the referee to call a knockdown if they see a fighter who is taking a lot of damage, sort of like a technical knockdown. The commission also imposed a 45-day suspension on any Boxer who lost via Knockout.
So, in conclusion, 15-round boxing matches ended because of the unfortunate death of Kim Duk-Koo after a brutal and intense fight that ended via KO in the 14th round. Moreover, the events surrounding the death of the boxer attracted a lot of attention, especially because the fight was for a world title and it was nationally televised. Therefore, to make Boxing safer, the length of fights was decreased to 12 rounds, along with several other changes in the rules and regulations of boxing.