The older guards, or “attitudes,” were far more extended because the fighters could not rely on the extra protection gloves provide. They needed to block many blows farther away from their bodies. This is particularly true for shots to the head, which could not effectively be blocked with the modern tuck and cover. Combatants needed time to react and parry, having little protection close in. Therefore, the distance in bare-knuckle pugilism was considerably longer than in today’s boxing, being fought just outside the range where each antagonist could hit the other without moving his body or feet.
Increased distance was also significant due to another major difference between modern boxing and bare-knuckle pugilism—grappling. Grappling was a staple of the earlier fighting style and played a major role in ending rounds. Unlike today, rounds were not timed, and lasted until one of the combatants hit the floor (KO’s were not common). One way to drop an opponent was to close, grapple, and throw him – trying to do severe damage with the throw. Grappling is difficult to do while wearing gloves. Other techniques included putting an opponent in chancery (a headlock), and landing blows until he yielded.
When the Queensbury rules made wearing the gloves mandatory, they also established timed rounds and disallowed grappling. Therefore, combatants no longer needed to worry about avoiding the throw, and could afford to come in close to deliver blows that were more powerful, such as the hook and uppercut.