We’ve written in the past about the different types of boxing gloves, but we wanted to go into a little more detail about the differences between the traditional boxing gloves, and Muay Thai style boxing gloves. It’s not the end of the world if you end up using the gloves for the wrong sport, however it is a good idea to at least understand what the main differences are and why they’re different in the first place.
While Boxing and Muay Thai both use similar gloves, the sports themselves are almost worlds apart. To summarise the History of Boxing, Boxing has more or less always been a competitive sport, adopted by the Ancient Greeks in the Olympics in the year 688 BC, and is essentially a sport designed to see who is the better man when stripped down to an incredibly limited ruleset. The rules may have changed over the years, but the point is that boxing is a game of fists. If you’ve read up on the History of Muay Thai however, you’ll know that the so called ‘Science of Eight Limbs’ originated as a form of unarmed combat used in warfare when soldiers were disarmed. Surviving soldiers passed down techniques, eventually becoming a comprehensive fighting style.
It’s understandable then that the equipment needed for the two sports would vary a little. On one hand we have a sport where gloves need to be perfected for only punching and blocking punches, while on the other hand we have a sport where the gloves need to be much better rounded for the addition of clinching, catching kicks and blocking kicks or elbows.
In this article we’re going to look at some of the common differences between Boxing Gloves and Muay Thai gloves. While these guidelines are pretty accurate, there’s a lot of variation between gloves so it’s important to check out our reviews of different gloves to make sure you invest in the right pair of gloves for you.
The biggest difference between how Boxing and Thai Boxing gloves is down to use of the palm. In boxing the palm of the hand is only really used for parrying shots, but in Thai boxing the fighters need the ability to grip during the clinch, as well as catching and holding kicks with the hands.
Because of these differences, typical boxing gloves are typically fairly rounded at the fingers, in order to help make a more natural fist. This is especially noticeable with some gloves such as the Cleto Reyes Hybrid Gloves. Often many boxing gloves feature breathable mesh across the palms to aid ventilation. There’s a lot of variation across gloves with some gloves fairly stiff and some easier to open the hand with, but usually they all aim for that perfect clenched fist position.
Muay Thai gloves tend to mould the padding so that the palm of the hand is more open. Some Thai gloves such as the Fightlab Flo Gloves or InFightStyle Domino Gloves are designed with less of a bend in the fingers, while other gloves such as the Fairtex BGV1’s choose to increase hand use by removing the grip bar instead. There are less Thai brands with breathable mesh across the palm, but some gloves do still utilise it.
The thumb is also often different on Boxing and Muay Thai gloves. On Boxing gloves, the thumb is normally kept as close to the fist as possible, protected behind the knuckle padding where possible. In boxing you want to keep the thumb out of the way as much as possible to avoid it getting hit or injured. The thumb is then usually either attached with a thin strip of material at the end of the thumb to keep it in place, or fully attached with leather all the way up between the tuhmb and hand.
On a Muay Thai glove, having the thumb a little less ‘tucked in’ to the hand can help a lot with grip when catching and clinching. While this doesn’t apply to all Thai gloves, it is especially noticeable on gloves such as the Yokkao Official Fight Team gloves. Often when this is the case you’ll usually find the thumb is less straight and has a bit more of a curve to it.
In boxing, the sides of the hands are usually pretty safe from impacts. Often boxing gloves will have no padding at all on the side of the hand, with very little padding at all over the whole palm. On the Sting Orion Gloves (pictured above left) you can see just a the thin, flat section of padding over palm. Usually lace-up gloves have a little more padding on the palm and down the wrist as can be seen on our custom made iBox Customise Gloves, which makes up for the lack of natural support usually given by a velcro strap.
The padding distribution tends to be a little different on Thai gloves though. Usually the centre of the palm is kept without padding, however almost all Muay Thai gloves will have a thick bar of padding down the side of each hand. Looking at the Yokkao Vintage Gloves pictured above right, you can see a much more noticeable lump of padding. This thick padding is there to add extra protection to fighters when blocking kicks, knees or elbows.
Finally the other major difference when comparing Boxing gloves and Muay Thai gloves is the way the cuff fits the wrist. There isn’t a huge amount of difference between lace-up gloves, but when looking at Velcro gloves it’s fairly noticeable.
In Boxing, gloves often try to fit the wrist as closely as possible, with a fairly long fit. The wrist doesn’t normally take a huge amount of impact in boxing, meaning that the priority here is preventing the wrist from bending when punching. The longer wrist helps achieve this, adding a little wrist support while allowing intentional flexing.
Muay Thai gloves often take almost the opposite approach however. In Muay Thai the wrists get knocked a lot when blocking kicks. It also helps to be able to bend the wrists a bit when clinching to help get a good lock around the neck. Because of this, Muay Thai gloves commonly opt for a shorter fit, making up for the reduced support by making the cuff itself much thicker. In a Muay Thai glove the cuff tends to feel a lot more protective and usually you can get pretty good support by pulling the strap tight. Unfortunately you don’t quite get the same form fitted feel, however it’s worth it for the extra practicality.
While this article should serve as a pretty good guide, don’t take our word as law. In reality, there’s a lot of variation between designs, and sometimes the line can be pretty blurry. Then there are complete anomalies such as the Danger Equipment Ultimate Fighter gloves, which are a newly popular style of Muay Thai glove with a lot of protection, despite having none of the common traits we mentioned above.
These are of course only the main differences between all gloves from all manufacturers, with almost every brand having a slightly different fit, feel and shape, so please do your research before investing in your next pair of gloves. If you’re not sure where to look, our Boxing Glove Reviews are a great place to start.
Have any questions about the differences between typical Boxing and Muay Thai gloves? Leave us a comment below!