Whether you’ve been training for a while, or are just considering taking it up, you’ll no doubt have noticed that not all boxing gloves are the same. There’s actually more variation than you would expect, and each style of glove has its own uses. Here’s a quick run-down on most of the styles of boxing glove you may come across.
You’ll often find brands advertising boxing gloves as training gloves or bag gloves*. These are basically your typical all-round boxing glove. Sometimes they’re built for bag and pad work, however they’re usually pretty versatile and useful in any type of training. For most of what you’ll be doing, you’ll probably be using a pair of these. Not all general purpose gloves are labelled as training gloves though, and are often just referred to as boxing gloves.
*Please note, there is a difference between modern bag gloves (also referred to as ‘super’ bag gloves) and the traditional style of bag gloves as mentioned later in the article. We advise to stay away from traditional bag gloves as much as possible as they lack the support and protection of modern boxing gloves.
In sparring, the aim of boxing gloves are to protect both you and your sparring partner, not to knock them out. You could use any pair of boxing gloves for sparring (assuming they’re an acceptable weight), however many brands sell specific sparring gloves which are optimised for the activity. Sparring gloves are pretty similar to training gloves, however the padding is usually slightly softer or more cushioned with better optimised distribution, to make impacts less sharp. Sparring gloves are often sold in a variety of weights, however you should only really be using these at 14oz or above, depending on your bodyweight.
It’s always the coach’s decision whether or not you’re able to wear a pair of gloves during sparring. Your coach likely has a lifetime of experience under their belt and without a doubt knows more than you do, so if they believe your gloves are the wrong weight, unsafe or just generally unsuitable, then take their word for it. It’s always best to check what weight of glove your gym suggest you should be using to spar and to make sure you buy your glove from a reputable brand if possible. Most of it comes down to common sense though; if you’re a bigger guy trying to get away with using some worn-out, second hand 14oz gloves from a dodgy looking brand nobody’s ever heard of, then you should really know better.
Amateur Competition Gloves
You’ll probably never need to buy yourself a pair of these, but it’s worth knowing what they are. Amateur boxing competitions tend to use a specific style of gloves, which are usually provided to the fighters by the promotion. The gloves are typically coloured red or blue, depending on the fighters corner. It’s also not unusual for the knuckle area of the glove highlighted. These features make it much clearer for the judges to score the fight.
You should only really be worried about professional gloves if you’re planning on competing. As the name suggests, these are boxing gloves which are specifically built for use in professional competition, and often sacrifice hand protection and sometimes comfort to maximise offence. Usually the padding is much firmer, also making the gloves smaller and more compact. In a way these gloves are designed to deliver as sharp a blow as possible with each punch. Professional boxing gloves aren’t really suited to everyday training however, and shouldn’t really be used much outside competition. For most competitions you’ll be using 8oz or 10oz gloves depending on the weight. Pro gloves are almost always lace-up, as it’s rare for high level competitions to allow Velcro boxing gloves at all.
Don’t be fooled by the ‘pro-style’ boxing gloves sold for dirt cheap in your local sports store, those are just brands using the term as an advertising gimmick and are often just basic training gloves. True professional boxing gloves aren’t cheap in the slightest, and many boxers pay hundereds for a good pair.
Mexican style boxing gloves
In the early days of boxing when boxing gloves were big bubbles of padding, Mexican style gloves were vastly unique. Their sleeker shape and tighter padding made them stand out. These days, the features are more standard and the term has been thrown around a lot more, however there are still a number of ‘mexican style gloves’ available. In essence, they’re really a sub-category of professional boxing gloves.
Many people will know Cleto Reyes as one of the top premium glove manufacturers. These are a good example of what are referred to as Mexican gloves. They’re often slightly more fitted to the hand, with a longer cuff, however the main difference is in the padding which is often more compact. Supposedly they mould to the hand superbly after breaking them in, however it likely depends on the brand of the glove. Cleto Reyes for example still use horsehair to provide a much firmer padding, with goat skin for the leather.
Muay Thai gloves
Muay Thai is a completely different sport to boxing, and the boxing gloves have developed accordingly. The gloves are aimed more at kickboxers who need a move versatile boxing glove. Thailand has a large number of glove manufacturers which each excel in different aspects, however all of them focus a lot more on a more distributed padding for better protection on the back of the hand, and a lot more flexibility in the grip, allowing the palm to open more to catch kicks. It’s not uncommon for brands to have extra padding down the side of the palm as well. Some people simply prefer the shape of Muay Thai gloves, while some people don’t at all, however it’s important to bear in mind the subtle features which make them slightly more suitable for kickboxing and Muay Thai.
We asked a number of top UK Muay Thai fighters what gloves they use. Take a look at what they told us in our post The Best Boxing Gloves for Muay Thai – According to UK Fighters.
Other types of gloves
There are a few other types of glove you should be aware of. We’ll quickly break these down so you know what else is out there when you look for boxing gloves. These gloves tend to have much more specific uses, and often aren’t usable in boxing, kickboxing or Muay Thai.
Traditional bag gloves are a smaller alternative to boxing gloves with minimum protection. These lack many of the protective properties of full boxing gloves. Often gyms won’t let you train with these, although they’re still sold by many retailers, and often come bundled in free with punching bags. We personally recommend to just steer clear altogether if you can help it. The shape is often just generic and the padding minimal, with little or no wrist support.
MMA gloves have developed specifically for Mixed Martial Arts. While not technically boxing gloves, they are used for a similar purpose. Unlike boxing gloves, these are fingerless, often with an open palm, to allow easier grappling. If you’re training in boxing or Muay Thai, you shouldn’t need to use these.
Semi contact gloves (for example Karate gloves or Taekwondo gloves) are another type of glove. Once again, these aren’t suitable for boxing or Muay Thai. These gloves are often a midway point between boxing gloves and MMA gloves. The padding is minimal and sometimes made out of dipped foam. As they’re only used in semi-contact sports, they don’t need to provide anywhere near as much protection as boxing gloves do.
If you’re wondering what boxing gloves you need, here are a few main things to consider:
- Are the gloves for competition or training?
- If competition, what weight of gloves is required for your weight class?
- If training, what will the gloves be used for? Bag/pad work, sparring, or a bit of both?
- Are you going to be using it for a sport where you’ll need to block/catch kicks?
- Are you buying specific gloves for each activity, or one pair which you can use for everything?
With these in mind, and the information above, you should be able to identify the type of glove you’re going to need. If you still aren’t sure, ask us in the comments section and we’ll try and help you out, or ask for your coach’s recommendation.