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What does ‘seconds out’ mean in boxing? Explaining one of the sport’s most confusing phrases

Alexander Netherton
What does ‘seconds out’ mean in boxing? Explaining one of the sport’s most confusing phrasesGetty Images
The phrase 'seconds out' is heard at every boxing event, but what does it mean?

‘Seconds out’ is a phrase heard just before every round in a boxing fight - and also in some other combat sports. But what does it mean?

What is a second?

A second is a term for a member of the boxer’s corner team, such as his trainer or cut man. Two of the corner for each boxer are able to get into the rind during the between-round breaks.

There is a ‘chief second’ who is responsible for making sure that the rest of the team behave themselves within the rules.

Where did the term second come from?

During the days of sword and pistol duelling,  a ‘second’ had a similar role. They would be on hand to ensure that any clash took place under gentlemanly circumstances. 

With boxing, the seconds are designated to take up similar rounds, and they also fulfill the functions of the standard ring team. The cut man will administer any corrective aid needed for bleeding on the boxer’s body, to ensure he can keep clear vision and not bleed excessively throughout the match, and to protect existing cuts or weak spots from being exploited by his opponent.

For the trainer, he or she will be on hand to guide his or her fighter on strategy and any ad hoc words of advice for the bout.

What does ‘seconds out' mean?

In boxing, with the next round about to start, an announcement of ‘seconds out’ will be made, and that is notice for the corner teams to make sure they are out of the ring before the next round starts. The fighter can suffer a punishment if his corner is not cleared in good time, and so there is a reason to heed the call of ‘seconds out’ as soon as it is made during the fight.