It goes without saying that for a number of combat sports including boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai, you need to use boxing gloves. In this article we’re going to take a closer look into why we use them in the first place. To understand what protection boxing gloves provide, it’s important to look back at what the sport of boxing was like before the introduction of boxing gloves and other safety measures.
Before Boxing Gloves
Boxing is one of the most widely known martial arts in the western world, and is widely practised worldwide. Boxing as a sport has been practised longer than records themselves, although the first records of any form of hand protection date back to Ancient Greece, where the fighters’ hands were wrapped in rawhide, although these were also intended as a method of causing more injury to the opponent as well.
The style of boxing gloves you would recognise today were introduced in England in the 18th century, where boxing was regaining popularity and recognition as a sport. At the time, gloves were only used for training, and fights were still performed bare knuckle. It wasn’t until the late 1800s when protective boxing gloves were made a requirement, thanks to the Queensbury Rules established in 1867 which are still the basis of sport boxing rules today.
Currently, the International Boxing Association (IBA) approves new designs of gloves according to rules around weight and the amount of leather, padding and support allowed.
Boxing gloves are used in a variety of martial arts and combat sports in addition to boxing, which has led to numerous variations of gloves depending on the sport. Muay Thai for example uses a glove which is only slightly different to boxing gloves, while MMA gloves are much smaller and less padded, with open fingers to allow much better use of the hands.
So how do boxing gloves work?
Unlike most other martial arts, boxing is incredibly restricted in its move sets, using just the fists, which means there’s an incredibly high intensity of strikes to the head and body. Before the modern rule set was introduced, boxing was much more dangerous. Bare knuckle fighting creates a high risk of cuts, and creates a much more condensed impact which can easily contribute to broken bones. It was also more common for dirty tactics to be used, and both accidental and intentional eye gouging with the thumb was always a possibility.
Boxing gloves solve a lot of these issues. The gloves fit around the hand, naturally forming a fist shape, with a layer of protection over the whole of the back of the hand and fingers and the thumb too. The padding reduces the intensity of the impacts on both the hands and the opponent, drastically increasing the safety of the sport.
The impact gloves have on brain injuries and concussions are not necessarily as great however. You would think that the padding of the gloves helps to reduce the sudden shock from punches to the head, however it isn’t quite that simple. Think about this – how hard would you feel safe punching a wall without any hand protection? And now how hard could you hit it if you knew that your hands were well protected? A lot harder, right? The same principle applies to boxing. The protection added from boxing gloves means that it’s a lot easier to punch a harder, which means that the risk of concussions and brain injuries may even be higher. Many boxers from the sport’s ‘golden era’ are now suffering with severe mental illnesses and permanent brain injuries as a result of less importance placed on protection. Thankfully we’re much more aware about the importance of protection now, and just how important it is to train safely and protected.
While smaller boxing gloves are used in competition, it’s important to always use heavier padded gloves for training and sparring in order to maximise protection. Headgear is also an important piece of training gear which can make the head much safer when sparring.