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The noble art of self-defence or the primeval urge to punch the other chap on the nose? Or perhaps a combination of both? Either way, boxing has been around since 4000 BC and there is no sign of its popularity waning in the immediate future. And it is guaranteed to be a sure-fire hit at Manchester 2002.

The earliest recorded pugilists were the Egyptians who, according to murals from around 6,000 years ago, fought in a square or circular arena known as the ring. The sport was later taken up by the Greeks and bare knuckle boxing was included in the ancient Olympic Games.

It was a more civilised business when boxing as we know it began in the UK in the 17th and 18th centuries, although the prize fighters who literally fought one another to a standstill might disagree. They were the forerunners of today's professional fight game, which developed into a multi-million pound worldwide industry in the 20th century.

But while professional boxing attracts the major share of the sport's publicity, the amateur branch of the sport continues to thrive nationally and internationally. The Amateur Boxing Association was formed in 1880 and the sport was introduced to the Olympic Games in 1908. The World Amateur Championships are held every two years, with Belfast staging the event in 2001.

Amateur boxing was one of the founder sports at the Commonwealth Games in Hamilton in 1930 and it has proved to be one of the most enduringly popular competitions in the 15 Games that have been staged since that pioneer event.

Many successful amateurs have gone on to find fame and fortune in the professional ring and will continue to do so. Indeed, it's a safe bet that a handful of the medal winners from Manchester 2002 will one day shine in the professional ranks. That's one of many reasons why boxing will be one of the most popular events at this year's Games. So count yourself in!
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