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origin of "beat someone to the punch"

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kjc0123 | 05:47 Fri 14th Jan 2005 | Phrases & Sayings
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I know the idiom "beat someone to the punch" means to manage to do or say something before someone else does it(example : 'He wanted to ask Mary to dance, but Ron beat him to the punch.). But Why does that idiom become to have that meaning?

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The phrase comes from the world of boxing or fist-fighting in general, a 'punch' being a blow with a fist. If one boxer "beats another to the punch", it just means that he got the strike in first, before the other had time to do it to him. Nowadays, we use it in any situation - such as the one about dancing you describe - where the one who acts most quickly wins the prize/achieves the aim.
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