Get Inspired: BOXING

One of the most prestigious events in Olympic history, a number of great boxing champions have made their name at the Games: Hungarian Laszlo Papp, the great Cuban Felix Savon, and the USA's Oscar de la Hoya.

Probably the most famous of them all, though, was Cassius Marcellus Clay, who won gold in the light-heavyweight contest in Rome in 1960.

He later went on to become perhaps the greatest professional heavyweight boxer of all time under the name Muhammad Ali.

London 2012 hosted another momentous step in the history of the sport as women competed in Olympic boxing alongside their male counterparts for the first time.

Why is it good for you?

As boxing provides intense cardiovascular exercise, it is an efficient way to improve the strength of your heart.

One hour on a punch bag would burn approximately 354 calories, an hour's sparring would burn approximately 531 calories and an actual hour-long fight would burn approximately 708 calories. Some clubs also offer sessions that are more fitness-based than actual boxing.

The US-based Centres for Disease Control Prevention reported that boxing provided the best mixture of exercise for people whose goal is to decrease their risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis and cancer.

Training sessions are an excellent way to develop communication skills and learn to work effectively with other people. Clubs also offer a variety of social events beyond simply taking part in the sport.

Get involved

Boxing is a dynamic sport that teaches physical and mental discipline, and the best way to get started  is to join a local club.

Olympic weight divisions

Men: Light fly (49kg), fly (52kg), bantam (56kg), light (60kg), light welter (64kg), welter (69kg), middle (75kg), light heavy (81kg), heavy (91kg), super heavy (+91kg)

Women: Fly (51kg), light (60kg), middle (75kg)

To ensure safety, it is vital all contact sessions are overseen by a qualified coach and you buy the correct equipment before you start.

Beginners will need gloves, gum shields, head gear, boots and shorts, with easy access to punching bags also essential.

The Amateur Boxing Association's club finder  can help you locate your nearest centre in England, while in Wales you can contact the Welsh Amateur Boxing Association  by calling 01446 794 444.

The Amateur Boxing Association of Scotland  and Irish Amateur Boxing Association  websites also contain further information as to how you can get involved.

As it involves high-energy exercise, leisure and sport centres, gyms and universities throughout the United Kingdom offer boxing-based sessions which allow people who want to avoid full contact to partake in the sport.

More on the GB Boxing website 

History

The history of competitive fist-fighting dates back thousands of years, with the earliest records of boxing in Egypt in 3000BC.

Great Olympic moment

Cassius Clay wins gold in 1960

Cassius Clay - who later became Muhammad Ali - won the light heavyweight gold medal in 1960. The 18-year-old won a unanimous decision over Zbigniew Pietrzykowski of Poland.

Boxing was one of the cornerstones of the ancient Olympic Games in Greece from the 23rd Olympiad in 688BC. Pugilism, as the Greeks called it, prohibited clinching and had no weight classes, rounds or time limit.

Boxing wasn't on the itinerary of ancient Olympic sports that made up the first modern Games in 1896 as it was considered "ungentlemanly, dangerous and practised by the dregs of society".

Things have moved on considerably since boxing was introduced to the ancient Olympic Games in the 7th century BC, and even in the 108 years since the sport made its Olympic debut there have been major changes, such as headguards being made mandatory in 1984 and electronic scoring arriving in 1992.

However, none of those can match the significance of the three women's events - flyweight, lightweight and middleweight - scheduled for introduction in London.

More on the IOC website 

Are you inspired to try Boxing? Or maybe you are an enthusiast already? Get in touch and tell us your experience of the activity by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired  or email us on getinspired@bbc.co.uk.

See our full list of activity guides for more inspiration.