Young boxers like Phetphanom Meenayothin, pictured here, fill Thai boxing gyms—training with passion and the hope of fighting their way out of poverty to fame.
Undefeated Jessie Vargas is hungry to make a name for himself as he faces off with four-time world champion Timothy Bradley in the World Boxing Organization's welterweight championship Saturday in Carson, California.
After a disappointing welterweight championship fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, who later revealed he fought the match injured, Mayweather surprised the boxing world by relinquishing his newly minted title.
"It's time to let other fighters fight for the belts," he told reporters. So now, less than two months after the last welterweight championship, Bradley and Vargas have a shot at the title.
The pair facing off in the ring this weekend follow a long tradition. Boxing's roots extend at least as far back as ancient Greece, and men and women fight for sport in nearly every culture, drawing both athletes and spectators of all ages and races.
Though fighting speaks to carnal desires—physical clashes and triumphant displays of strength and prowess—it holds its own significance in each culture. For some, fighting is seen as a livelihood or a means to escape poverty. In others, it upholds deep-rooted traditions, or a decision to live a pure existence.
To explore the global obsession with fighting, pictures from the National Geographic archives reveal snapshots of combat in cultures from the frozen expanses in Siberia to backyards in Texas and a local gym in New Zealand.