Erich Lessing

A muscled boxer pauses, perhaps following a bout, in this first-century B.C.E bronze sculpture now in Rome’s Museo Nazionale. Wrapped around his wrists are thin strips of oxhide, which protected the pugilist’s knuckles and lacerated his opponent’s face. In antiquity, boxing matches were brutal; there were no weight classes to protect smaller competitors (though men and boys fought separately), and bouts ended in submission, knockout or even death.