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Words and Their Stories: Boxing Expressions


Amir Khan (L) of Britain punches Luis Collazo of the U.S. during their fight in Las Vegas, Nevada, May 3, 2014. (FILE)

Amir Khan (L) of Britain punches Luis Collazo of the U.S. during their fight in Las Vegas, Nevada, May 3, 2014. (FILE)

Now, the VOA Learning English program Words and Their Stories.

The world of boxing gave us famous competitors like Muhammad Ali.

It also gave us many expressions that we use in our everyday lives.

Years ago, a boxing match would begin when a boxer threw his hat into the boxing ring – the place where the fight was fought. That does not happen these days. But if you throw your hat into the ring it does mean that you are signing up or agreeing to do something. You will often hear this expression in the world of politics.

"Is she running for mayor?"

"She is. She threw her hat in the ring last week."

A boxing ring is surrounded on all four sides by ropes. A boxer trapped along the ropes gets hit a lot. So, to have someone on the ropes means to have them in a dangerous position.

Pakistan's Muhammad Waseem (L) and Australia's Andrew Moloney react to the result of their boxing match at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland August 2, 2014. (REUTERS/Russell Cheyne)

Pakistan's Muhammad Waseem (L) and Australia's Andrew Moloney react to the result of their boxing match at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland August 2, 2014. (REUTERS/Russell Cheyne)

During a fight, there are three people in the ring – two boxers and a referee. The referee makes sure the boxers obey the rules of the sport. He or she can cancel, or call off, a fight if things get too unsafe or risky for one of the boxers. And if a fighter is hit so hard that they fall down, the referee gives the person a count of 10 to get up.

If the fighter gets up, the boxing match continues. If the fighter does not, the match is over. So when you are down for the count you are not able to compete or not able to join in something. Here is an example:

"Is George coming out tonight for drinks?"

"No, he’s got a fever of 102. So, for tonight, he’s down for the count."

To go the distance is the opposite. It means a boxer was able to stay in the ring and not withdraw from the fight. Outside of the boxing ring, it means to see something through to its end.

If you do decide to leave your job, you throw in the towel. This expression comes from the fact that trainers can stop a match for their boxer by throwing a towel into the ring.

So it is good to have someone in your corner, a person looking out for you. That is where a boxer’s team stands during the end of each round – in his or her corner. And yes, women’s boxing is becoming more and more popular in the United States.

A professional boxing match is made up of 12 periods, called rounds. At the end of each round a bell sounds. To be saved by the bell means you were saved from a bad situation by something – not necessarily a bell.

But let us imagine that you are a student in class. The teacher starts passing out a test. You get nervous because you forgot to study. Suddenly the bell rings, ending the class period. In this case, you were, quite literally, saved by the bell.

And that’s the VOA Learning English program Words and Their Stories.

I’m Anna Matteo.

We leave you with a song made famous in Rocky, a 1976 movie about an American boxer. Here is “Gonna Fly Now."

The movie "Rocky" was made into a Broadway musical. Who knew? (New York City, March 2014)

The movie "Rocky" was made into a Broadway musical. Who knew? (New York City, March 2014)

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