Boxing has been the most popular combat sport in the world for decades. UFC and MMA are closing the gap, but boxing still has the highest viewership numbers out of all combat sports.
Although a boxing match usually lasts for many more rounds, the broadcasts tend to be shorter, making me wonder, how long is an average boxing match?
Boxing matches are usually set to twelve three-minute rounds, with one-minute intervals between the rounds. When you count in finishes, injuries, or disqualifications before the decision, you get an average length of 5.9 rounds (17.7 minutes without, or 22.7 minutes with in-between round intervals).
That means around half of the matches finish before it gets to a decision, especially in higher weight categories. However, those numbers change throughout boxing history.
So, I’ve done some research to get all the facts straight and answer all the questions about the length of professional and amateur boxing matches for men and women.
How Many Rounds Are There in a Boxing Match?
Most of today’s boxing matches are set for a maximum of twelve rounds, especially when it comes to professional boxing title fights. However, the majority of the fights never get to the judge’s decision but rather end via knockout, technical knockout, injury, or disqualification.
That’s why the average length of a boxing match differs from how many rounds the match is set out to be. The average boxing match lasts just under six rounds, including finished fights before the decision, and matches set to less than twelve rounds (usually four, eight, or ten).
That average is higher in lighter categories (flyweight, bantamweight, lightweight) due to less knockout power among fighters. On the other hand, the average is even lower in higher weight classes (light heavyweight, heavyweight, super heavyweight). Most fighters need only one landed power punch to knock out their opponents.
Now that you know the average length of an actual match let’s look at how many rounds are most commonly set for various boxing matches.
Professional Boxing Matches
Professional boxing matches vary when it comes to the number of rounds. It’ll depend on the significance of the bout and the agreement upon which the two fighters make.
In men’s boxing, significant fights (especially title fights) are set to twelve three-minute rounds with one-minute rest intervals between the rounds. However, the twelve rounds are a maximum. Many fights tend to go for four, eight, or ten rounds.
Women’s boxing has a ten-round limit, and the rounds last only two minutes, with the same one-minute intervals between the rounds. Most fights are set to eight rounds, but as the boxers progress to top-tier competition, they usually fight for a maximum of ten rounds.
Some women boxers at the top level argue that the rounds should be three minutes just like in men’s bouts, but the sanctioning bodies haven’t decided about it yet, so it seems the two-minute rounds will remain in women’s boxing for a while longer.
Amateur Boxing Matches
Amateur boxing is different from professional boxing in many ways – most notably, the mandatory headgear in the fight. However, one huge difference is also in the number of rounds.
Most men’s bouts are set to three rounds lasting three minutes each. Sometimes, the fights can go five rounds, but only at the final levels of competition (for instance, world championship finals). Also, the rounds are scored as 1-0 for the winner of the round instead of the ten-point (10-9) system we have in professional boxing.
Women’s amateur fights last for four rounds, but the rounds last for only two minutes, just like professional boxing. Men’s amateur boxing matches had the same format before they changed it in 2009.
How Long Is a Boxing Round?
In professional boxing, every round lasts for three minutes, with a one-minute interval between rounds. It doesn’t matter how many rounds the match is set on. The length of a single round is always the same.
Women’s professional and amateur boxing has two-minute rounds, and the length also never changes regardless of the number of rounds.
There’s a possibility of even shorter rounds, but those are reserved for young boxing practitioners. For instance, bantam (age, not weight class) boxing rounds are for children between the age of 8 and 10, and the rounds last one minute each with matches three rounds long. The same goes for juniors (11-12 years old).
Rounds were never five minutes long as they are in MMA, but there was no limit to the number of rounds that the fighters fought in the early days of boxing history. There was no decision, so the boxers went at it until a knockout or a tap out.
How Long Is a 12-Round Boxing Match?
Most professional boxing matches today (especially championship matches) last twelve rounds if they go the distance (meaning, they last the entire 12 rounds without a stoppage and go to the judge’s decision).
If a fight goes the distance, it’s easy to calculate how long it lasted. If every round is three minutes, and there are eleven one-minute breaks between the rounds, you get a total of 47 minutes from the first to the last bell.
When you include pre-fight entrances and post-fight decisions and interviews, it usually rounds up to about an hour of action altogether – which is great for television, as a single bout can easily fit into a one-hour program block.
How Long Is an Amateur Boxing Match?
Before they get into professional boxing and start making some money from their craft, every boxer must first go through the amateur competition. Sometimes, the guys that dominate the amateur leagues have a very hard time transitioning to professional boxing. Some never find the success they had as amateurs.
The main reason behind that is the length of their matches. In amateur boxing, sometimes you fight two or three opponents on the same day – even more in tournaments.
That’s why the matches last a lot less. Usually, you get three rounds lasting three minutes (or four two-minute rounds for women) with one-minute breaks, with a very quick intro and decision, meaning it’s usually all over in 12-15 minutes. Sometimes, the match can last five rounds, but again, it rounds up to only 25-30 minutes.
Some boxers use that short duration to their advantage and work mostly on their power instead of their cardio. That can prove to be a problem when you get to the professional stage because you need to last four times as much as you did before.
What Was the Longest Boxing Match Ever?
As I mentioned, in the early days of boxing, there were no judges or decisions. Instead, the fights lasted until somebody gave up or got knocked out.
That being said, the longest documented boxing match in history was a match with gloves between Andy Bowen and Jack Burke in 1893. Held in New Orleans, the guys fought for 110 rounds, or seven hours and nineteen minutes.
The bout started at 9 pm, and they continued to fight until after 4 am. In the end, both fighters were too exhausted to continue, so the fight resulted in a no-contest (later turned into a draw).
There’s a possibility that some bare-knuckle matches in the 1800s lasted longer, but due to the lack of documentation, this stands as the longest boxing match ever.
Did Boxing Used to Be 15 Rounds?
Between the 1920s and the 1980s, many boxing matches lasted for fifteen rounds instead of twelve. That was called “the championship distance” because every championship fight lasted for fifteen rounds (of course, if there wasn’t a knockout before the end of the match).
The fifteen-round norm was introduced in the late 1910s for all matches, as the fights previously had no round limit, but it was the 1920s that saw the fifteen-round limit become “the championship distance,” while other fights were usually shorter.
That lasted for six decades, but the maximum number of rounds was reduced to twelve in the early 1980s for several reasons – most notably, a tragic fight in 1982.
Why Is Boxing No Longer 15 Rounds?
The breaking point that changed the maximum amount of rounds in a boxing match from fifteen to twelve happened in 1982. A WBA lightweight championship match between Duk Koo Kim and Ray Mancini ended tragically, with Duk Koo Kim passing away in the 14th round of their nationally televised match.
After the event, the WBA ordered the reduction to twelve rounds to prevent exhaustion and fatal incidents such as that one. Over the next six years, all boxing matches got reduced to twelve rounds. Some fans didn’t like it, but it proved to be a great decision, primarily for the safety of the fighters, but for broadcasting purposes, too.
As stated before, a 12-round match lasts 47 minutes (36 minutes of action plus 11 minutes of break intervals between rounds). When you add pre-fight programs and post-fight decisions, you can easily fit a match in a one-hour broadcasting block, making boxing fights more suitable for television. That ultimately led to a big rise in popularity for boxing.
On the other hand, a 15-round match could last up to 90 minutes with breaks and pre/post-fight programs, which was far more expensive and impractical for national televisions.
It wasn’t rare to see televisions reserve 90 minutes of broadcasting time for a big boxing match, only to have it finished in the first few rounds, leaving a huge gap in their content. It ultimately led many televisions to steer away from boxing before the sanctioning bodies applied the 12-round rules.