What is the longest boxing match ever and how many rounds did it go?

What is the longest boxing match ever and how many rounds did it go?

Lenah Ann
November 19, 2023 at 9:47 AM

Boxing is one of the most popular sports in the world. Over the past decades, its popularity has increased due to the implementation of rules and regulations that govern the duration and guarantee the athlete's safety. Before the rules were introduced in the 19th and 20th centuries, matches had no time limits, and thus, fans have been posing the question, what is the longest boxing match ever, and how many rounds did it go?

What is the longest boxing match ever?
An MMA fighter on a smokey background ready for action. Photo: Michael Svoboda (Modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

Boxing has a historical origin that dates back to the ancient Olympic games in Greece. Since its introduction, the sport has presented fans with some of the greatest fights and legends who have cemented their place in the annals of the sport. These legends include Muhammad Ali, Manny Pacquiao, and Mike Tyson.

Top 5 longest boxing matches in history

In certain instances, determined individuals continue to battle even after collapsing more than ten times. According to Sports Mole, here is a compiled list of the longest boxing matches ever detailing how many rounds they went.

5. Jack Jones vs Patsy Tunney

  • Year contested: 1825
  • Number of rounds: 276
  • Duration: 4 hours 30 minutes

The fight between the two legends had one of the highest number of rounds in the history of the sport. Since the bout happened before the introduction of boxing rules in 1867, each round lasted until an opponent was knocked out.

After the knockout, the boxers returned to their corners, and the officials restarted the battle. There were no limitations on the amount of time or rounds.

How many rounds was the longest boxing match?
Male boxers practicing in a boxing ring at a health club. Photo: The Good Brigade
Source: Getty Images

4. James Kelly vs Jack Smith

  • Year contested: 1855
  • Number of rounds: 17
  • Duration: 6 hours and 15 minutes

The fight between Kelly and Jack in Australia in 1855 was the longest boxing match ever recorded, fought without gloves. The battle lasted over six hours and took place in a local community, attracting a large crowd despite the bad weather.

Smith held his opponent at bay for over two hours without significant incidents. The fighters were compelled to be more vicious by the audience. This led to Kelly agitating Smith in the seventeenth round, giving him a strong blow to the neck, ending the fight.

3. Ad Wolgast vs Battling Nelson

  • Year contested: 1910
  • Number of rounds: 40
  • Duration: Around 4 hours

The 1910 World Lightweight championship bout in the USA holds a distinct position in the annals of the longest boxing matches ever fought. American Ad Wolgast and Dane Battling Nelson sparred for forty rounds, splattering blood all over the ring.

Unable to take any more of the violent battle between the two legends, the audience asked the referee to end the bout. Both fighters suffered tragic losses due to the bout; however, Wolgast was pronounced the winner.

Longest boxing match
Ad Wolgast (R) clubs lightweight champion Battling Nelson (L) during the 40th round on 22 February 1910 in Richmond, California. Photo: The Stanley Weston Archive
Source: Getty Images

2. John Sullivan vs Jake Kilrane

  • Year contested: 1889
  • Number of rounds: 75
  • Duration: 2 hours and 16 minutes

The battle between two of boxing's greatest champions, John Sullivan and Kilrain, lasted 75 rounds and was one of the longest boxing matches in history. During the bout, Kilrain tossed Sullivan to the ground with a wrestling manoeuvre, which ended the first round.

Sullivan vomited in the forty-fourth round, likely from the iced tea he drank alternating with whiskey between rounds. The boxers drank more and more with each round. According to eyewitnesses, Kilrain drank more than a litre of whiskey throughout the battle.

Jake was so weary in the 75th round that he could not stand up within the mandated 30 seconds after he was hit. The meeting between the two legends lasted 2 hours, 16 minutes, and 23 seconds and went down in history as the heavyweight's longest boxing match ever.

What is the longest boxing match ever
A close-up of John L Sullivan, the renowned American boxer. Photo: George Rinhart (Modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

1. Jack Burke vs Andy Bowen

  • Year contested: 1893
  • Number of rounds: 110
  • Duration: 7 hours 19 minutes

Burke and Bowen met in the ring in 1893, in New Orleans, and started fighting from 9:00 pm to 4:19 am. So, how many rounds was the longest boxing match? The bout has a record of 110 rounds. This fight was recorded as the longest boxing match in history, with over 7 hours.

Throughout the duel, the competitors showed incredible endurance and perseverance. However, the general population was less interested. By the 50th round, roughly half of the spectators had left, and several remaining had fallen asleep.

During the 108th round, the judge instructed the fighters that they needed to finish the fight before the conclusion of the 110th round, which they never did. The bout, which ended in a draw, was attended by 9,000 people, and each boxer took home $1250 as the prize money.

Why did the fight between Jack Burke and Andy Bowen last so long?

Over the years, there have been various speculated reasons debating why the battle between the two legends lasted so long. Here are some factors that experts have identified.

  • The competitors competed in the lightweight division. This lessened their risks of being knocked out and made them less exhausted.
  • Both had a reputation for triumphing in the last rounds when their opponents were so worn out that they were ready to collapse at the first sign of weakness. They become used to extended periods of physical exertion due to this training.
  • Both sportsmen depended on endurance and ran marathons regularly.
  • The boxers were young and energetic and thus could throw and withstand powerful punches.

What is the shortest boxing match ever?

The shortest boxing contest in history ended after one second with no punch fired. Curtis Harper, an American, was disqualified after leaving the ring seconds after the bell rang in a fight against Efe Ajagba.

What is the longest bare-knuckle fight ever recorded?

Kelly and Jonathan Smith hold the record for the longest bare-knuckle (without gloves) fight. The battle was held on 3 December 1855 in Australia and lasted 6 hours and 15 minutes.

What is the longest boxing match ever
Jack Turner (L) and Adam Yahaya (R) in action during the bantamweight bout at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool on 21 October 2023. Photo: Peter Byrne
Source: Getty Images

Can boxers still fight 15 rounds?

In the modern days, boxers are not allowed to fight for more than 12 rounds. The rules were changed on 13 November 1982 after the death of a Korean boxer, Kim Duk-koo, against Ray Mancini. According to post-fight research, his brain became more vulnerable to harm after the 12th round.

Final word

The longest boxing match ever led to the formation of rules that are followed today. According to these regulations, a boxing fight can only consist of twelve three-minute rounds, with a one-minute break between each round. The battles on this list embody all the traits that make the ring game great, from scorching slugfests to memorable victories.

READ ALSO: Ranking the Top 15 best football referees of all time in the world

Sports Brief published an article ranking the world's top 15 best football referees. Football is one of the most famous sports in the world, with a global fan following. Like any other sport, it has a referee who enforces its rules and gives directions on what to do when a foul is committed or when the ball is out of play.

To be a good referee, one must have good judgment, integrity, communication skills, and keenness. Click on the link above for more details about the top 15 best football referees.

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Lenah Ann
Lenah Ann is a Kenyan-based content creator with 2 years of experience. She graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Media and Communication from Dedan Kimathi, Kenya in 2021.