Image: Peter Sörå.

What is the history of boxing in Iceland?

 In Ask IR, Magazine, Society, Sport

Q: What is the history of boxing in Iceland?


Boxing has been practiced in Iceland since 1916 when Danish boxing coach Wilhelm Jackobson introduced the sport to the country. The first official boxing tournament was organised on April 22, 1928 in Gamla Bíó in downtown Reykjavík. The first championship was held June 1936 at Melavöllur stadium. Even though the sport had quickly proven popular, it has been controversial from the start. Scandals and health risks divided the nation on the true value of the sport. In 1956, all professional boxing competitions, boxing shows, and boxing trainings were therefore banned in Iceland. Despite this ban on boxing, the sport was still practiced by many boxing enthusiasts. One of these was musician Bubbi Morthens, who was also a popular boxing commentator at the time.

The ban is still in effect up to this day. In 2002, however, a new law was passed allowing a variety of the sport known as Olympic boxing. Olympic boxing has more safety precautions and rules in place than professional boxing. In Iceland, competitors have to be older than 15, use the appropriate protective gear, and practice at an ÍSÍ-recognised boxing club for six months before competing in a match for the first time, among other rules. Competitions of Olympic boxing are generally shorter and are not based on winning by hurting the opponent, but rather on winning points based on technique, in which defence is as important as offense. Still, there are heated debates about the sport. Followers argue Olympic boxing is not any more dangerous than other sports, while adversaries keep pointing to the health risks connected to the sport. Discussions aside, about 700 people practice Olympic boxing in Iceland nowadays.

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