Portrait of Professional Boxers in France (1905-1914)

Athletes' Working Conditions
By Sylvain Ville

In France, due to the small quantity of social history research about professional athletes, the social properties and working conditions of professional athletes are not well known. By focusing on French professional boxers before 1914, this article describes their social profile as well as their working conditions. Thus, it establishes the fact that most French professional boxers had working class origins, but they belonged to the category of skilled workers/craftsmen, i.e. the most stable segments of the working class. This research also shows the importance of foreign boxers in France and especially in Paris, in both numerical and symbolic terms. This situation led to native French boxers being sidelined. Lastly, an analysis of the boxing profession reveals its low level of professionalisation, as reflected in the fact that a large majority of boxers also held another occupation at the same time. The study of the social and athletic properties of French boxers thus reveals that they were under two kinds of domination : social and athletic.

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