If you’ve ever watched a boxing match, you’ll know that some of them can be long. This is the case for most championship fights, as these are longer than normal fights. However, we know that a fight can end at any moment from a knockout. And there are boxing matches that are as short as 4 rounds, which makes it confusing as to how long a fight usually is. So I did some research to answer the question: How long is an average boxing match?
The average length of a boxing match is about 5.9 rounds, with each round being 3 minutes long. This means the average match would be 17.7 minutes in length, not counting breaks between rounds, which are one minute each. This estimate includes fights that ended early, due to knockout or injury. If we don’t consider fights that end early, then the average boxing match is 9.7 rounds, or 29.1 minutes in length.
However, this short answer does not look at the whole picture. So in the rest of this post, I am going to cover all the details that come into play when deciding the average length of a boxing match. We will look at how long or how short fights can be, how often they end early, and how I found the averages I listed earlier.
How Long Can A Boxing Match Last?
Typically, a professional boxing match can be scheduled for 4 to 12 rounds, with each round being 3 minutes, and one minute in between each round for rest. Rounds in a fight are usually in a multiple of two, so matches can be 4, 6, 8, 10, or 12 rounds in length, which I explain in the post How Many Rounds Are There In Boxing? Because of this, the actual length of the fight in minutes can vary greatly.
Rising prospect Ryan Garcia (left) has only recently had some 10-round fights, the rest being 8 rounds or less because of his increasing popularity.
If we take a fight that is four rounds and multiply it by 3 minutes for each round, then we get a fight that is 12 minutes long. After adding 3 minutes for rest, the total time scheduled from start to finish is 15 minutes.
Now, let’s go to the other end of the spectrum, and find the time allotted for a 12-round fight. 3 minutes for 12 rounds makes 36 minutes, plus 11 minutes for rest time leaves us with 47 minutes from start to finish. From 15 to 47 minutes is a big range, and there is a reason for this.
Usually less experienced boxers are less conditioned than a more seasoned professional. For this reason, the less experienced a boxer is, the shorter their fight is. This helps the boxing match in two ways: 1) it keeps the match interesting for the viewers.
If the fighters get tired in the 5th round of a 10-round fight, that’s going to be a boring 5 rounds for anyone watching. And 2) it is safer for the fighters. If the fighter fights less rounds, then they’ll get hit less. This is especially true for inexperienced fighters, who are more likely to get hit.
So far I’ve only mentioned professional fights, but amateur fights can be even shorter. For an amateur fighter, a fight is typically 3 rounds long, each lasting 3 minutes, for a total of 11 minutes from start to end.
How We Found The Average Length Of A Fight
So now that we know how long a fight can last, we can figure out how long fights actually last. In order to determine a fighter’s average fight length, it is pretty simple. All you have to do is take the number of total rounds fought by a boxer during his career, and divide it by the number of fights he’s had.
The resulting number will be the number of rounds that boxer averages during a fight. For example, Manny Pacquiao has had 70 professional bouts during his career. He has also fought 474 rounds. If we take 474/70, we get an average bout length of 6.77 rounds.
Champion Boxer Manny Pacquiao has an average of 6.7 rounds fought per fight, less than his scheduled average rounds of 10.8
Now in order to find the average scheduled length of a fight, it’s pretty much the same thing. However this time, we will divide the total rounds scheduled in a boxer’s career, by their number of fights. The problem is that BoxRec, the website that shows boxer stats such as rounds fought, does not show rounds scheduled.
In order to find the number of rounds a fighter has been scheduled for, we can look on their Wikipedia page, and add up all the rounds they have been scheduled for. For example, Manny Pacquiao has an average scheduled bout length of 10.88, but his average rounds fought is 6.77, meaning several of his fights have ended in knockouts (KOs and TKOs).
If you want to know the specific differences between a KO and a TKO, check out the post What Is The Difference Between A KO And A TKO?
Anyways, in order to find the average that used in the short answer at the beginning of the post, I went to BoxRec’s pound for pound list. I chose the top 10 fighters on the list, of varying weight classes.
This gives us a good estimate of how long a typical fight will last. When adding up the totals of the fighters, we get an estimate that can apply to most boxers. For the 10 boxers chosen, the average rounds fought came out to 5.95, while their average rounds scheduled per fight was 9.71.
How Many Fights End Early?
So now you know how to calculate average rounds per fight for a boxer. But by now you might be wondering: how many of these matches actually go the distance? Well by looking at the results for big fights in the last 30 days, I found that the chance of a fight lasting the whole scheduled time is 44%.
I found this number by first finding results for big fights. I found these on box.live, where they show fight results for the past 30 days. There were 30 recent fights, and of those, only 13 went the distance. The other 17 ended early, whether it was due to TKO, KO, or corner retirement.
Knockout artist Deontay Wilder (left) before knocking out Dominic Breazeale. The probability of Wider going the distance is much less than the 44% average.
I think that a 44% chance of a fight going the distance is pretty accurate. Of course, at the highest level of boxing, knockouts are a lot more rare, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that percentage was a lot higher for higher-level competition.
Why Are Boxing Matches So Long?
So you probably arrived at this post because you watched a fight that seemed long. Like, longer than it should be. Well, boxing matches actually used to be a lot longer. See, as time has passed since boxing’s inception, people have realized that shorter fights are a lot safer for fighters. This is in comparison to the infinite rounds that boxing used to have, back when a fight was stopped either by knockout or police intervention.
Around the 1920’s it became commonplace to have a limit of 15 rounds per bout. This continued up until November 13, 1982, when WBA Lightweight title challenger Duk Koo Kim died during the 14th round of a nationally-televised fight. I discuss this subject in depth in Why Did They Stop 15-Round Boxing Matches?
Kim’s death quickly prompted the shortening of bouts from 15 rounds to a maximum of 12 rounds. Nowadays, 12 round bouts are reserved for championship level fighters and actual title bouts, whereas the lesser-round bouts are determined by the experience level of the boxers involved.
South Korean boxer Duk Koo Kim (left) died during his fight with WBA Lightweight Champion Ray Mancini.
Basically, the reason boxing matches are so long is that there is no real reason to shorten them. Sure, an 8-round fight is a lot safer for a boxer than a 12-round fight, but the 12-round fights are simply the norm. Risk of brain trauma is one reason why you should limit sparring sessions to once per week, something I discuss in the post How Many Times A Week Should You Spar?
There have not been any major injuries or deaths that are the direct cause of a 12-round fight, which would incentivize sanctioning bodies to reduce the number of rounds. If you see significant excitement or popularity surrounding an upcoming fight, chances are it will be a 12-round fight.
In conclusion, boxing bouts can range from 4 to 12 rounds, or 15 to 47 minutes in length. The average boxing length is about 5.9 rounds when you consider fights of all rounds and fights that end early. However, the most popular fights usually last all 12 rounds, as knockouts are less common among high-level competitors.
So if you plan on watching the main event on an upcoming boxing card, then you can expect to watch 47 minutes of fight time from start to finish. Thanks for reading!