The RealSports series was an attempt by Atari to make an
upgraded line of sports games for the 2600, 5200, and Atari
8-bit computers. During the early 80's Atari released
several titles under this moniker including RS Baseball, RS
Soccer, RS Tennis, RS Football, and even RS Volleyball.
RealSports Basketball was also planned, but ultimately went
unreleased on any system. After Jack Tramiel bought Atari
in 1984 the RealSports name was mostly discontinued with future
sports titles having their own distinct names (Double Dunk,
Super Football, Super Baseball, etc.). The only two
exceptions to this were RealSports Baseball on the Atari 7800
and RealSports Boxing for the Atari 2600. RealSports
Boxing is interesting because it was the first (and only) boxing
game Atari had ever made for a home system and was not an
upgraded port of a previously existing game.
As the name implies RS Boxing is all about the sport of Boxing. Your goal is to either get a KO or a TKO before the end of the 7th round in order to win the game. The player can also win by decision if they score more points than their opponent. Each round lasts three 'game minutes' which may sound like a long time but this translates to around 45 seconds of actual time so the game moves quite fast. Players can either play against the computer or a real opponent.
There are three different punches each player can throw by pushing the joystick and button in a certain direction. Each punch differs by its speed, strength and by how much energy it takes. Each punch also scores a different amount of points. A Jab (button + forward) is quick but very weak although it doesn't take much strength and can be spammed in quick succession. A Body Blow (button + down) is your all around medium punch and takes an average amount of time and strength to pull off. The Payoff Punch (button + up) is your most powerful punch but is slow and takes the most amount of strength to pull off. The player can also block punches by pushing the button + away). Be careful when blocking because if your opponent score 12 unanswered punches (blocked or not) you will be knocked out by a TKO. Punches can be positioned to hit either the head, ribs, or stomach depending on how high or low you are standing next to your opponent.
Your energy gauge is noted by the yellow bar at the bottom of the screen. Each successful punch landed will increase the gauge but being hit, moving around, and throwing punches will deplete the gauge. If you manage to gain a fair amount more energy than your opponent your gauge will begin to flash. This is your cue to go for a knockout punch. If you can manage to hit the correct type of punch on your opponent (as discussed in the next section) before the bar stops flashing you will instantly KO your opponent and win the game. If you knock your opponent down with regular punches they can get back up again if they still have energy (button + towards).
There are four different boxes to choose from, but other than looks they all basically act the same. The only real difference is in their weakness when going for the knockout punch. Iron Fists requires a close ranged Body Blow, Jabbin' Jack will go down to a Payoff Punch to the head, Lefty O'Leary can be laid out by a low Body Blow, while Macho Man (no relation to Randy Savage) can be knocked out by a close range Payoff Punch. An opponent cannot get back up from a knockout punch.
The graphics in RS Boxing are very well done. The boxers are large and well animated and the ring being lit from above while the crowd is in shadow is a nice touch. The crowd will even react when a boxer scores a series of punches by jumping up and down giving it a real boxing mach feel. Another nice touch is the referee will hit the bell at the start of each round. The sound is limited to crowd noises and punches, but that's the way boxing is in real life. The only downside is that there's no career mode where you try and take on all the boxers one after the other. Instead you'll have to start a new game and pick a different boxer (not that it really matters as they're all pretty much the same).
While it's no Punch Out!, RS Boxing is by far the best boxing game on the 2600 (not that there's much competition). Games like this proved that there was still some life in the old 2600 even in the wake of the new NES dominated era. Programmer Alex DeMeo would later use the RS Boxing engine in his next game Title Match Pro Wrestling which he did for Absolute the same year (I guess when you've got something that works, use it). Although heavily featured in 2600 commercials of the time (probably due to its nice graphics). RS Boxing seems to have had a more limited distribution than other titles of the time and remains somewhat rare today.