To threaten harm is assault and to realize that threat is battery. To batter intentionally for the purpose of causing injury will amount to harm. Despite these clearly pronounced legal principles, this conduct is still accepted in the name of sport – “Boxing”. Boxing is a highly paid professional sporting activity in which the ultimate aim is to inflict a concussive head injury upon an opponent or at least cause abundant damage to render an opponent incapable of defending himself or herself. Spectators pay to watch the anticipated systematic abuse of one human being by another in much the same way they delighted in gladiators who were forced to fight for the pleasure of others. However, it is trite to inquire whether there can be limitation to this “legal assault and battery”. This article looks into the plausibility of duty of care in boxing.


Duty of care is a foreseeable task that a person owes another, which if not duly exercised may cause harm on the other person. Flowing from this fact, it is obvious that a boxer, who intends to participate in a boxing competition, could foresee the harm that would be inflicted on the other person. Despite the prevailing legal term “battery”, boxers are still allowed to inflict pain on one another. There are restrictions in this “combat sport”, however, the question is – are there provisions for duty of care?

Duty of care means taking reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which one can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure his neighbour. Conversely, in the case of boxing it could be argued that the participants or better still the plaintiff has consented to the injury, therefore cannot claim damages. This has been well couched in the Latin maxim “volenti non fit injuria” which means “no injury is done to one who consents”. This has also been judicially noticed in the case of WRIGHT V MCLEAN (1956) 7 D.L.R (2d) 253.

However, mere consent to injury does not avail a person of duty of care because while fighting, there are some rules and regulations guiding the activities in the ring such as Marquees of Queensberry Rules of 1867, AIBA Technical Rule 2017 and Rules of Boxing Association 2015 inter alia. These rules have put in some measures and mechanism, vis-a-vis the doctrine of duty of care. Any violation of any these rules will attract penalties.

Furthermore, it is quite imperative to state some of the essential rules in boxing. One of the most important rules is the use of gloves. The use of gloves in boxing is to reduce the intensity of blows in the ring. More so the glove must be new and it must not burst to avoid injury. This is the provision of Rule 8 and 9 of the Marquees of Queensberry Rules of 1867, while the category of gloves to be used in a boxing competition is well enshrined in AIBA Technical Rule 21, as well as World Boxing association (WBA) Rule 26. Also hitting below the belt, kicking, head butting and other related offences are regarded as FOUL and are completely prohibited in boxing. This is statutorily provided for in Rule 6 of AIBA Technical Rules, WBA Rule 17 and World Boxing foundation Rule 5. Biting of opponent is also an offence in boxing; this was judicially blessed in the case of Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson II. Where Mike Tyson II bit his opponent (Holyfield) he was consequently banned based on that.

However, the onus of discharging duty of care does not rest solely on the boxer, but also on the board and its officials. This provision was affirmed in the case of Watson v British Boxing Board of Control. In that case, the plaintiff suffered injuries as a result of the defendant’s negligence. He thereafter sued for damages and was eventually awarded £1 million in damages. Besides, the referee is expected to supervise, care for both sides and as well control the activities in the ring. This is well documented in AIBA Technical Rule 10, World Boxing Federation Rule 7 and WBA Rule 21.

In conclusion, the violation of the aforementioned laws will attract some punishments such as fines, banning (See Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson II).The referee can equally disqualify either boxer in line with the provision of Rule 10.3 of AIBA Technical Rule as well as WBA Rule 21. It could also attract damages Watson v British Boxing Board of Control.



Taofeek Azeez Babatunde is an undergraduate law student of Obafemi Awolowo University. He is also a sport law enthusiast.


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