For centuries, gladiatorial combat has been a mainstay of popular entertainment around the world. Some gladiators were volunteers who risked their legal and social standing and their lives by appearing in the arena. Most were despised as slaves, schooled under harsh conditions, socially marginalized, and segregated even in death. Irrespective of their origin, gladiators offered audiences an example of martial ethics and, in fighting or dying well, they could inspire admiration and popular acclaim. They were celebrated in high and low art, and their value as entertainers was commemorated in precious and commonplace objects throughout the known world.
Individually, a gladiator has devoted himself to the mastery of close combat. This single-minded devotion to weaponry and fighting styles makes him much feared by his enemies who cross him, and close allies to those who manage to befriend him. A gladiator prides himself on having equal proficiency over every weapon imaginable. Most also strive to become peerless experts in a weapon of their choice. This chosen weapon weaves and sings in the gladiator's hand, carving a swath through all foes.
The rules include the introduction of weight classes. There are 9 different weight classes. These 9 weight classes include flyweight (up to 125 lb / 57 kg), bantamweight (126–135 lb / 61 kg), featherweight (136–145 lb / 66 kg), lightweight (146–155 lb / 70 kg), welterweight (156–170 lb / 77 kg), middleweight (171–185 lb / 84 kg), light heavyweight (186–205 lb / 93 kg), heavyweight (206–265 lb / 120 kg), and some organizations even go on to have a super heavyweight which is anything heavier than 265 pounds (120 kg).
Small, open-fingered gloves were introduced to protect fists in punches, reduce the occurrence of cuts (and stoppages due to cuts) and encourage fighters to use their hands for striking to allow more captivating matches. Time limits were established to avoid long fights with little action where competitors conserved their strength. Matches without time limits also complicated the airing of live events. The time limits in most professional fights are three 5 minute rounds, and championship fights are normally five 5 minute rounds. Similar motivations produced the "stand up" rule, where the referee can stand fighters up if it is perceived that both are resting on the ground or not advancing toward a dominant position
One criticism of gladiatorial combat has been the glorification of violence. As one writer has pointed out:
On the one and the same account they glorify them and they degrade and diminish them; yes, further, they openly condemn them to disgrace and civil degradation; they keep them religiously excluded from council chamber, rostrum, senate, knighthood, and every other kind of office and a good many distinctions. The perversity of it! They love whom they lower; they despise whom they approve; the art they glorify, the artist they disgrace.
But supporters of the sport point to the civic nature of the sport, and its ability to deal with the criminal element:
In times in which peace and peace relating to domestic affairs prevail bloody demonstrations displease us. Therefore, we order that there may be no more gladiator combats. Those who were condemned to become gladiators for their crimes are to work from now on in the mines. Thus they pay for their crimes without having to pour their blood.