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I understand why boxers clinch (although it's the main reason I get bored watching most heavyweight fights), but I just learned that it is technically illegal. However, I've literally never seen a boxer being penalized for clinching.

I would expect that many fighters would say boxing would be much more difficult, if not impossible, if the rules against clinching were strictly enforced.

So if it is illegal, why are penalties so rare (in pro fighting), and if it is necessary, why is it illegal?

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The fact that Wladimir Klitscho could hug his way to win after win keeps me up at night tbh...

Clinching is difficult to manage as a ringleader. That's why, I assume, it goes unpunished. At one point, you need to allow infighters to infight(meaning when 1 hand is available, even though the other is holding - for example).. As per why it isn't punished? It's definitely a good question, and one we couldn't answer. Boxing has rules, but often follows what general consensus is instead of what's present in the rulebooks - it's a funny sport in that regard.

To answer your questions..

So if it is illegal, why are penalties so rare (in pro fighting)

Penalties are, in general, very rare. Good ringleaders(for world championship fights, of which you, a spectator, is more likely to see) are not there to get attention. On the contrary, they want to intervene as little as possible and let the fighters fight. So penalties are, in general, just rare. Warnings are common, though.

and if it is necessary, why is(hugging/clinching) illegal?

Because it resets the pace of the fight. Anytime someone gets too close to Klitscho, he will hug them and let the ringleader reset, so he gets back to his comfortable reach advantage. As you can see, in a lot of heavyweight fights, these are snoozefests because it's 1-3 seconds of punching, and 10 seconds of hugging/man-handling each other. It's ridiculous and I completely agree with you that it's surprising nothing is done.

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  • I guess it also depends on the intent of the clinch - fighters can just get bound up, but some fighters use it cynically to kill a fight. Determining that intent can be tough in some cases and borderline calls can easily lead to spectator dissatisfaction. Also top level boxing is very focused on making money - you'll have a problem attracting certain "stars" for your promotion if you start to penalize them too heavily for cynical clinching. – slugster Apr 29 '16 at 12:57
  • @slugster yeah exactly, and yes, heavyweights clinch waaay too much .. But you have to remember, the ring is MUCH smaller for them, than some 122lbs-guys. They have long legs and long arms, it doesn't take many moves to end up in each other's face compared to the smaller and faster guys. – cbll Apr 29 '16 at 13:30
  • Also, I'd add that clinching is (at least in theory or supposedly) punished by the judges scoring the fight. – HopelessN00b Apr 29 '16 at 16:08

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