Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: March 24, 2021

You’ve enjoyed following the top contenders like Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Anthony Joshua, and other superstars. Still, you’re a boxing fan who doesn’t fully understand the seemingly random rules behind a match.

How many rounds are there?

One match lasts three rounds, the other four rounds, ten or 12 rounds. What it depends on?

Why does it vary?

Let’s delve into the boxing round system and answer your questions about one of the oldest and most exciting sports.

What Determines How Many Rounds Are in Boxing?

man in a red shirt with boxing gloves

What determines how many rounds in boxing matches will be and how long each boxing round will last are various factors, including:

  • Fighter experience and skill level
  • Their age group
  • Gender
  • The caliber or class of the match (Olympic, amateur, professional, non-title fights, world title match, etc.)
  • Boxing club or organization
  • Country

Official rules allow for no more than 12 rounds of 3 minutes each.

Let’s break down the length of matches according to some generally accepted regulations from the USA Boxing National Rulebook.

Related Articles:

Youth Boxing

men wearing boxing gears in a boxing match

Although it’s quite popular in the boxing world, some people think of kids and teens in the ring when they hear about youth boxing.

However, these fights are not only for such young people but also for fighters in their thirties or forties.

The term youth boxing refers to bouts where unofficial boxers box for clubs and fight camps for fun and not to compete (inter)nationally.

Boxing round length varies based on the boxers’ age for participants 8-18 years old, whereas in “elite boxing” for fighters aged 19-40, it also depends on the fighters’ weight and skill level.

The total boxing match duration ranges between five and eleven minutes, and here’s how long youth boxing bouts may last for prep, junior, youth, and elite boxing in the US [1]: 

  • Pee-Wee (8-10 years old) and Bantam (11-12 years old) - 3 rounds of one minute
  • Intermediate (13-14 years old) - 3 ninety-second rounds
  • Junior (15-16 years old) - 3 two-minute rounds
  • Youth (17-18 years old) - 3 three-minute rounds
  • Elite (19- 40 years old) - 3 three-minute rounds
  • Masters (35+ years) – 3 three-minute rounds

The terminology and some other details of international rules might differ a bit:

  • Bantam (8-10 years old) – 3 rounds of 1 minute
  • Junior (11-12 years old) – 3 rounds of 1 minute
  • Intermediate (13-14 years old) – 3 rounds of 1.5 minutes
  • Senior Junior Olympic (15-16 years old) – 3 rounds of two minutes
  • Sub Novice (17-34 years old) – 3 rounds of two minutes
  • Novice (17-34 years old) – 10 rounds of two minutes
  • Open (17-34 years old) – min. ten max. twelve rounds of two minutes
  • Master Class (35+ years) – min. ten max. twelve rounds of three minutes

Related: Can Boxing Help You Build Muscle?

Amateur Boxing

men fighting for a boxing title

The term amateur boxing might be misleading because it has nothing to do with amateur, inexperienced, or unprofessional boxers.

Instead, amateur boxing refers to boxing in official tournaments such as the Olympics, Pan American Games, the Commonwealth Games, and other similar competitions where groups of boxers fight for points awarded for clean punches of the opponent, not for knockouts or power.

Also, there’s no prize money for amateur boxers.

They compete out of pride for their country and pure love of boxing.

Since 2009, amateur bouts for men may last for three rounds of three minutes each.

The standard for women is four rounds of two minutes each. That’s a total ring time of no more than 10 and 11 minutes, including the intervals.

Professional Boxing

professional boxers fighting in the boxing ring

Prizefighting is the longest, most intense, violent, and demanding.

According to the World Boxing Federation, professional boxing matches go for four, six, eight, ten, to maximally 12 rounds for men and up to 10 rounds for women in most world title fights.

International flights usually held by boxing organizations within one continent differ from intercontinental bouts and may last for 10-12 rounds for men and 8-10 rounds for women.

Each regional title fight is typically ten rounds long.

In other words, professional male boxers may spend no more than 47 minutes fighting, including intervals. For females, the maximum allowed time spent in the ring is around 35 minutes.

Why Is Boxing No Longer 15 Rounds?

duk koo kim and ray macini during their historic match

Boxing is no longer 15 rounds because of the fatal outcome of a WBA title fight between Ray Mancini and Duk-Koo Kim that took place in 1982.

The 23-year-old South Korean boxer Duk-Koo Kim was knocked out in the 14th round. It resulted in a severe brain injury and his tragic death in hospital a few days after the knockout.

The death of the prominent boxing figure in this brutal title bout triggered the rule change.

So the World Boxing Council (WBC), World Boxing Association (WBA), and International Boxing Federation (IBF) reduced championship fights from 15 to 12 rounds in the 1980s to protect the health, safety, wellbeing, and life of each fighter.

Some studies indicated that 15-round fights increased the risk of exhaustion, dehydration, serious brain damage, and other life-threatening injuries with fatal consequences.

Still, there was some controversy around this reduction of championship bouts, and some boxing legends and critics like Frank Lotierzo didn’t agree with the change.

“It will cut down on injuries for a lot of fighters but it will take away from the true champions. A true champion can go 15 rounds.” - Larry Holmes, Former US Pro Heavyweight Boxer

Related Articles:

FAQs

How Long Are Boxing Rounds?

Boxing rounds in professional matches are three minutes long for men and two minutes for women and amateurs. Youth boxing rounds vary based on the fighters’ age groups and may last one, one and a half, two, or three minutes.

How Long Is Break in Boxing?

A break between two boxing rounds is one minute long.

How Many Rounds Were There in Boxing Back in the Day?

The number of rounds wasn’t limited back in the day, so history remembers boxing matches that lasted 110 rounds.

One of the most brutal and longest recorded prizefights [2] was between James Burke and Simon Byrne and in 1833 believed to have lasted for three hours and six minutes and 99 rounds. [3] Byrne was so severely injured that he died three days after the fight.

Later on, in the early 1900s, the standard limit of 15 rounds was introduced as the norm in most boxing matches.

When Was the Round System Implemented?

The round system that became a standard in professional boxing was implemented in US boxing in the 1880s. However, a Welsh sportsman John Chambers drafted the original Marquess of Queensberry rules in 1867. [4]

So, What Is the Standard Number of Rounds in a Boxing Match?

The truth is that there’s NO standard number of rounds in a boxing match.

We know for sure that the number of rounds is always even (with some tournament exceptions) and may range between 4 and 12 rounds maximum, depending on the competition type, boxer category, and many other factors discussed above.


References:

  1. https://www.teamusa.org/usa-boxing/usa-boxing-national-rule-book
  2. http://www.mkheritage.org.uk/the-fight-at-salcey-green/
  3. https://books.google.rs/books?id=tPD0iUdQ_rwC&pg=PA129&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false
  4. https://www.thoughtco.com/bare-knuckles-boxing-1773995

HAVE QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS?

Join the discussion here on Facebook.

About the author