In boxing, the competitors’ hands were bound in leather thongs which left their thumbs free. Boxing matches had no time limits- adversaries fought on until one raised his finger in defeat. They became a test of sheer endurance. If a fight dragged on, the judges might make the boxers lower their guards and swap blows undefended until one gave in or collapsed.
Boxing and wrestling were combined on the most demanding of all the fighting events- the pankration. Every conceivable type of blow was allowed; the only tactics known to have been banned were biting or gouging an opponent’s eyes out. This even was not for the squeamish. The raked ground was sprayed with water, and the bloodied competitors rolled around in the mud, wrenching, punching, and kicking.
The aim was to force one’s opponent to admit defeat. Killing was frowned upon: death was shameful way to terminate a contest of strength. When a Pankratis called Arrhichion died in a stranglehold while executing a particularly telling grip on his opponent’s toes, it was to the dead man the victory was awarded.