“The Fittest Sport” series is sponsored by Mongoose Sports & Entertainment
It’s an age-old source of debate among athletes, pundits and fans alike. But, after much research, we at Pledge Sports are providing a definitive answer to a near-impossible question: “What is the fittest sport?”
The Fittest Sport
It’s important to note, by “the fittest sport” we aren’t referring solely to an athlete’s level of general fitness, but rather their all-round ability, fitness and skill their sport requires.
For example, a marathon runner runs 26 miles per event, but a soccer player averages 7 miles per game – including sprints, constant change of direction, tactical awareness, physically battling opposition players, dribbling and kicking a ball. The comparison of skill set is an unfair contest.
In our seven-part series of The Fittest Sport, we take each individual sport and provide in-depth analysis into what makes particular athletes fitter than the rest. We’ve analysed:
Boxing is probably the ultimate test of physical and mental stamina in sport. In addition, the skill of boxers at the highest level is something to be really marvelled at upon closer inspection.
Incredibly quick footwork, the ability to throw accurate, fast and powerful punches for 12 three-minute rounds while also trying to avoid punches from an opponent who is intent on knocking you out.
While constantly moving at speed and exerting energy through punching is draining, any boxer of any level will tell you that taking blow after blow from an opponent doubles the speed at which energy drains from your body.
And we’re not talking about your average person landing punches. These are punches from an elite athlete whose punching power is about ten times that of your average person, according to Scientific American.
According to FitnessHealth, “a person weighing in at 180 pounds will typically burn 243 calories after 30 minutes of simply punching a heavy bag. That same person could burn up to 500 calories in 30 minutes once they have trained enough to enter the boxing ring.”
In other words, an elite boxer can burn anything up to an outstanding 1,000 calories per hour by working the bag. Compare that to some of the highest calorie-burning exercises and you truly see the intensity of boxing.
According to Livestrong, different swimming styles can burn between 585 and 740 calories per hour, while an hour of basketball or soccer generally burns off 420 to 710 calories.
We’ve become very familiar with VO2 max throughout this series. It’s the gold standard for determining an athlete’s aerobic fitness by measuring their maximal oxygen uptake.
The test specifically tracks the respiratory and cardiovascular systems’ ability to deliver oxygen to the working muscles, and the muscles’ capacity to utilise that oxygen to produce energy.
According to a 1967 study from Saltin & Astrand, an endurance sport such as boxing consists of athletes with a VO2 max of up to 75 ml. For context, that’s similar to a top rider in the Tour De France.
In offensive terms, a boxer’s biggest asset is how explosive they can be. Like an Olympic sprinter flying out of the blocks, a top level boxer must have core power which allows them to generate incredible strength and speed in their punches and movement.
Explosive punching goes beyond just brute strength. Explosivity comes from the big muscle groups – legs, abdomen, back. In leveraging all of these muscles correctly, a boxer’s body can wind up like a coil and then release a tonne of power in a snap-like motion, over and over again. Boxing is long know as one of the most physically demanding sports out there.
Take a look at this Roy Jones Jr knockout and you’ll see what we’re talking about.
What The Experts Say
Boxers are some of the toughest athletes in the business but don’t just take our word for it.
A panel of experts made up of sports scientists from the United States Olympic Committee, academicians who study the science of muscles and movement, a star two-sport athlete, and journalists who spend their professional lives watching athletes succeed and fail conducted a study on the toughest sport.
They scored out of 10 on an athlete’s endurance, speed, strength, power, agility, flexibility, nerve, durability, hand-eye coordination and analytical aptitude (10 being the highest).
Boxing came out on top, scoring highest of all 60 sports tested and analysed with a score of 72.38 out of 110.
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