Phrases you didn’t know came from boxing

Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder
Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder clearly have a lot of tension to work through.

Tyson Fury rolls with the punches, but do you?

Have a look at these phrases, which we use all the time, but actually have come straight from the boxing ring.

Roll with the punches

Van Morrison put this excellent life lesson into a song, and it’s a mantra everybody should live by. If you’re using it with your mates, it means adapting when life doesn’t quite go the way you want it to. In boxing, it means moving your body away from your opponent’s swings to lessen their impact on you. Sound advice in both arenas, then.

Throw your hat into the ring

You’ve probably heard newsreaders say countless times that some politician or other has ‘thrown their hat into the ring’, perhaps for a leadership election - sound familiar? It means you’ve signalled your interest in participating in something.

We have 19th century boxers to thank for the phrase. Back in the early days of the sport, potential fighters would literally throw their hat in the ring to show the ref that they wanted to challenge someone to a match. However, throwing something into the ring doesn’t always mean you’re up for a fight. In fact, another boxing term, ‘throwing in the towel’, means the opposite - that you want the fight to stop.

On the ropes

David Haye on the ropes
David Haye knew all about being on the ropes at this fight at the O2 in 2017 against Tony Bellew.

This isn’t a phrase you ever want to describe you. If you’re 'on the ropes', it means that you’re on the brink of near defeat. Perhaps you’ve almost run out of money, and payday seems a million years away. In boxing, if you’re 'on the ropes' you’re literally… on the ropes. It’s when your opponent backs you to the edge of the ring with the strength of their attacks.

Below the belt/low blow

Messing around with your friends is all fun and games - until someone says something really mean. When this happens, you might say that their joke went 'below the belt', or was a 'low blow'. This is because, in boxing, throwing a punch below where a belt might sit, as in below your waist or navel, is an illegal move. It doesn’t take much to imagine why.

Saved by the bell

Nicola Adams OBE and Noemi Carcamo
You’d definitely want to be saved by the bell if you’re fighting Team GB’s Nicola Adams OBE.

It’s a much-loved 90s TV show, as well as a much-loved part of any boxing match for a fighter who’s losing. If you’re 'saved by the bell', the round has ended just before you’ve potentially been knocked out - zoinks! If you say it in your everyday life, it can mean being awarded similar respite, like if the lunch bell rings just as your teacher has singled you out to answer a really difficult question.

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BBC Boxing