Bareknuckle boxing is the original form of boxing where competitors use their bare fist to strike each other. Bareknuckle boxing also includes some wrestling, usually throws to the ground. It initially resembles a brawl where boxers slug it out with wild punches, until James Figg, considered the first boxing champion in England, began incorporating defensive moves such as parrying, adapted from fencing (as Figg is also a fencing master). Later, Daniel Mendoza gradually transformed it into a "scientific" art, developing footwork and straight punching techniques (his style of boxing was later called the Mendoza, or Jewish School, for he is Jewish). Rounds are not timed like it is now; a round ends when one hits the ground; so in this manner, a fight could last long, even for hours. Rules for bareknuckle fights were first drafted by Jack Broughton, a heavyweight champion and a pupil of Figg, known as Broughton Rules, after he accidentally killed another boxer in the ring. It is Broughton who invented early boxing gloves called "mufflers;" however, they are used only for training and sparring. It was later transformed into the London Prize Ring rules. Later, it was superseded by the Marquis of Queesberry Rules, which requires gloves in fighting. This rule greatly transformed bareknuckle boxing into a sport as it is known today.
Famous fighters in the Broughton Rules era includes Mendoza, Tom Cribb, Bill Richmond, Tom Molineaux, Richard Humphries, "Dutch" Sam Elias (who reputedly invented the uppercut punch, then known as undercut).
Famous London Prize Ring Rules fighters include Owen Swift, Billy Edwards, John Heenan, James Corbett, Jake Kilrain, Tom Sayers, Robert Fitzsimmons, and the last bareknuckle champion, John L. Sullivan.
There has been a recent resurgence in the bareknuckle fighting arts, now called classical pugilism, as antique boxing manuals are being reproduced and sold. A recent sanctioned bareknuckle boxing competition was held last August 5, 2011 where Canadian boxer Bobby Gunn emerged as the champion.