Through the late nineteenth century, boxing or prizefighting was primarily a sport of dubious legitimacy. Outlawed in England and much of the United States, prizefights were often held at gambling venues and broken up by police. Brawling and wrestling tactics continued, and riots at prizefights were common occurrences. Still, throughout this period, there arose some notable bare knuckle champions who developed fairly sophisticated fighting tactics.
The English case of R v. Coney in 1882 found that a bare-knuckle fight was an assault occasioning actual bodily harm, despite the consent of the participants. This marked the end of widespread public bare knuckle contests in England. The first world heavyweight champion under the Queensberry rules was "Gentleman Jim" Corbett, who defeated John L. Sullivan in 1892 at the Pelican Athletic Club in New Orleans.
Throughout the early twentieth century, boxers struggled to achieve legitimacy, aided by the influence of promoters like Tex Rickard and the popularity of great champions from John L. Sullivan to Jack Dempsey. Shortly after this era, boxing commissions and other sanctioning bodies were established to regulate the sport and establish universally recognized champions.
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