Evidence of unarmed combat sports dating back to Sumerian and Egyptian times, while boxing and MMA-precursor pankration were seen in the Olympiad events. Fighters tended to fight bare handed, or with leather straps to protect their knuckles
However, the early version of the modern boxing gloves wasn’t introduced until the mid-18th century and was more formally adopted in the late 1860s by fighters in the UK and US to make the sport more civilized. Similarly, when MMA emerged in the 1990s, it was also condemned for its brutality, and to gain an official sport status would need to adopt gloves to improve its image and be regarded as professional.
The key differences between MMA and boxing gloves are in their size and shape. Boxing gloves are made to strike, while MMA gloves are made to grapple. MMA gloves are therefore much smaller and have open fingers than their closed and rounded boxing counterparts.
We will examine in greater detail how MMA and boxing gloves differ and further explore the various categories of gloves.
Boxing Gloves vs. MMA Gloves: Key Differences
The difference in padding between boxing gloves and MMA gloves is fairly obvious, with boxing gloves having significantly more padding to absorb the shock of landing stiff blows.
For hobbyists and those training boxing, the gloves tend to be around 12-16 oz. MMA sparring gloves will be around 7 oz in weight. The bigger the glove, the more padding there is.
At the competition level, boxing gloves are 10 oz in weight, whilst MMA gloves are 4 oz.
Palm and Fingers
MMA fighters need to be able to grapple and catch both kicks and strikes and consequently have an open palm to provide this flexibility. Standard boxing gloves have very little flexibility as holding an opponent’s strike is actively discouraged.
Whilst underhook clinching in boxing does exist, it’s usually broken up quite quickly after it’s initiated by the referee. Thai boxing gloves tend to be open to allow strikes to be caught, however.
Boxing gloves have a rounded design to help the fighter form a fist more easily. They are not designed for grappling in the same manner that MMA gloves are. Conversely, MMA gloves have an open finger enclosure to allow the fighter to grapple and place their opponent in submission holds.
MMA and boxing gloves are usually made from similar materials. The finest quality gloves are always made from grained and tanned cowhide leather, whilst mid-range gloves will be made from synthetic leather. Many people may prefer synthetic leather products due to their beliefs about animal rights etc. Vinyl of various kinds is used to manufacture the cheaper models but recommended for those looking to take their training seriously as they lack durability. As the old adage goes, “Buy cheap, buy twice.”
Manufacturers are constantly attempting to find the best way to keep gloves around your hands. Mixed Martial Arts gloves are fastened with Velcro only. Laces are used to fasten professional boxing gloves, which fit the hand much better than Velcro. However, it is extremely difficult to put them on correctly on your own, so they are almost only ever used in competitions or by professional fighters who have a coach for every session.
The Need for Handwraps
As to whether you need to use hand wraps will depend on a variety of factors specific to your boxing routine. However, generally speaking, hand wraps are a useful tool for protecting the hands and wrists during boxing workouts. If you’re new to boxing, it can be helpful to experiment with a few different styles of hand wraps before settling on a particular type.
Hand wraps help distribute the force of punches and protect the hands from injuries. However, there is no need to use hand wraps if you do not feel they are necessary.
MMA gloves are generally too small to allow hand wraps underneath them, but you may be able to find specific smaller slip-on wraps which act as mini gloves for the purpose.
Main Types of Boxing Gloves
There are effectively five different types of boxing gloves – training gloves, sparring gloves, amateur competition gloves, professional gloves, and Mexican-style boxing gloves. Muay Thai gloves are similar but are generally considered to be in a different category.
Training Gloves: Training gloves are designed to perform a wide range of tasks, including bag and pad work. They are usually pretty versatile and can be utilized in a lot of different settings. Because they are intended for most of what you will be doing, you will most likely be using one of these. Many gloves are labeled as training gloves, but not all of them are.
Sparring Gloves: Sparring gloves are designed so boxers can spar with each other, without knocking each other out. You can use any pair of boxing gloves for sparring, but some brands sell specific sparring gloves which are optimized for the activity.
Sparring gloves are similar to training gloves, but the padding is softer or more cushioned to reduce the impact of hits. Sparring gloves are often sold in a variety of weights, but you should only use them at 14 oz or above.
Are you interested in knowing more about sparring gloves including which materials are the best suited for these gloves? If so check out this article. I also included my favorite sparring glove brands in that article.
Amateur Competition Gloves: These are typically provided by the fighters’ corner and are usually either red or blue. The red or blue gloves are marked with a symbol or pattern, making it easier for the judges to score the fight.
Professional Boxing Gloves: These gloves are heavier, harder-padded, and smaller than everyday training gloves. They are usually lace-up and can cost hundreds of dollars. Pro-style boxing gloves are often cheap in local sports stores, but true professional boxing gloves are expensive and only for those that want to prepare for high-level fights.
Mexican Gloves: Mexican gloves have tighter padding and a sleeker, more standard look but have features that are more standard these days, but there are still some available that are a sub-category of professional boxing gloves. The padding is usually more compact and the glove molds to the hand better after it breaks in. Cleto Reyes is a popular premium glove manufacturer.
Main Types of MMA Gloves
MMA gloves are generally divided into four categories: training gloves, grappling gloves, competition gloves and sparring gloves.
MMA training gloves: MMA training gloves are designed to help train a fighter’s movement and focus on increasing their skills. They have less padding and more space for the fighter’s fingers to move around, which is more comfortable and safer. A great training glove is something that can be used both on the ground as well as standing up.
Most MMA training gloves are heavier and have a more open palm for safer training on a heavy bag. When working on your grappling skills, a lighter and open palm glove is ideal for making it easy to move around on the mat.
Grappling Gloves: Grappling gloves have less padding than the other glove types, but they make grappling easier because the gloves are less cumbersome to move around with. Furthermore, fingers on a grappling glove can move more freely, enabling grapplers to have a better grip on their opponents.
Competition gloves: Competition gloves have padding which only covers the knuckles, and they weigh just four ounces. Sparring and training MMA gloves come in a variety of styles, but sparring gloves are usually twice the size of MMA gloves and pad the thumb at least partially. Amateur MMA leagues generally use these gloves, which provide substantial protection and are still able to engage in free grappling, although they are permitted by most amateur MMA leagues.
MMA sparring gloves: These are usually heavier and more padded, with the padding being around 7-10 ounces, which protects the knuckles as well as the areas hit by the fighter. Some also make the padding double, which gives an extra layer of protection for your hands. Sparring gloves also have special reinforcement for fingers, which has focused padding on knuckles and thumb, as well as areas where the critical impact is expected to happen.
Can I Use MMA Gloves for Boxing?
It’s generally advised you don’t use MMA gloves for boxing.
There are a few reasons why MMA gloves might not be the best choice for boxing. First, they may not insulate you from the shock of a punch like boxing gloves will.
Second, they’re usually pretty rigid which will prevent you from making a proper fist. Finally, MMA gloves are typically made from synthetic materials (like leather), which may not be as durable as canvas or other natural materials.
If you’re only training for boxing, it’s probably best to stick with regular boxing gloves. But if you’re interested in MMA and want to train with MMA gloves, make sure you give them a try first! You might just find that you like them better than your usual boxing gloves. And if you do end up liking them, you can use them to spar with when you’re ready to start training for combat sports full-time.
Are Boxing gloves or MMA Gloves Better for Hitting the Heavy Bag?
Boxing gloves are great for hitting a heavy bag because they are designed to absorb more of the force of each swing. Since MMA gloves are designed to be lightweight and provide maximum flexibility and mobility, you may find that they don’t offer the same level of protection as boxing gloves.
However, boxing gloves also have some downsides. Firstly, they are heavier than MMA gloves, so wearing them for extended periods of time can cause hand and wrist fatigue.
Secondly, they trap sweat between the glove liner and your skin, making it difficult to get a good feel of your hands during a workout. Certain gloves can be tricky to put on and take off, particularly if they are laced up.
Do Boxing Gloves or MMA Gloves Hit Harder?
The MMA glove hits harder.
The American television program “Fight Science” somewhat famously conducted an experiment with former UFC light heavyweight champion and combat sports legend Bas Rutten involved. Rutten struck a heavy bag which measured force three times. Once whilst wearing an MMA glove, once with a boxing glove, and once barehanded.
Perhaps surprisingly, the bare fist delivered the most force, coming to 370 KG of force. MMA gloves, weighing only 0.2 KG due to their limited padding provided 295 KG of force, enough to stun an opponent, but perhaps not enough to knock them out. Finally, boxing gloves which were several times heavier than their MMA counterparts provided marginally less, coming in at 291 KG.
Are Boxing Gloves Safer than MMA Gloves?
The answer to that question depends on who you are referring to. Because of the padding and design, boxing gloves protect the fighters dishing out the blows much more than those receiving them.
MMA gloves which are designed to allow the fighter to grapple don’t give the hands as much protection and many fighters have suffered broken or fractured hands as a consequence. The unprotected fingers can also end up broken, jammed, or have their ligaments torn.
This means that the MMA fighter has to pick their shots with greater care and as a by-product, less significant strikes are landed on average in MMA matches than in boxing ones. Boxer’s hands, armored by the padding on their larger gloves are enabled to throw and land more devastating punches. These punches can equate to more brain damage to their opponent.
Despite the fact boxing gloves cushion the hit, they distribute the force of the blow and damage the brain more.
Hand injuries happen in boxing as well, but the added protection offered by the larger gloves and by hand wraps reduces the likelihood of hand damage, at least on a punch-for-punch basis. With the fingers fully enclosed, they are much less likely to suffer a strain or be at risk of getting damaged.
Eye pokes can cause both short-term and long-term damage to an MMA fighter but are effectively non-existent in boxing. This lack of eye-pokes means boxers don’t suffer the same eye injuries MMA fighters do.
With MMA gloves being thinner, they can cause more superficial damage to an opponent’s face. The rigid shape means that when they connect to an opponent, they can inflict cuts.
However, as mentioned before, boxers ultimately receive more brain damage than MMA fighters. This is something that has largely been confirmed by various studies.
Some MMA experts (such as long-standing color commentator, Joe Rogan) have even suggested fewer injuries would occur if MMA fighters fought bare knuckles. This is because they would be less prone to throwing punches to the head in fear of breaking their hand against a thick skull.
Brief History of MMA Gloves
Before the creation of the first modern MMA gloves, fighters had to rely on improvised solutions to fight safely. Hand wraps and other makeshift methods were often used by fighters to protect their hands from injuries. In the first UFC, boxer Art Jimmerson famously wore only one glove, before he was taken down and submitted by Brazilian Jiu Jitsu legend Royce Gracie.
Over time, fighters began using different styles of hand protection for competition. Some fighters used boxing style wraps to wrap up their hands, while others wore gauntlets or arm guards. In 1997, UFC fighter Tank Abbot popularized the use of leather MMA gloves in MMA competitions.
The original idea for these gloves may have come from a variety of sources. It might seem odd, but if you remember the movie Enter The Dragon (1973), you’ll remember the legendary martial artist and actor, Bruce Lee wearing strange gloves which were akin to Kempo gloves.
Today, MMA gloves are made out of a variety of materials including leather and silicon. As more people started competing in MMA competitions, it became necessary to improve safety measures for both competitors and spectators.
As a result of this need, safety standards were developed and improved over time to help reduce injury risk and improve safety conditions for all participants. MMA gloves are now widely used in championships around the world including the UFC and Bellator.
MMA gloves have evolved since the sport’s inception in the early twentieth century. The earliest gloves were made of leather, but eventually, synthetic materials like neoprene and styrofoam began to be used as well. In recent years, there have been a number of advancements in MMA glove technology.
One of the most important developments has been the increase in the size and weight of MMA gloves. With this improvement, fighters can now use heavier gloves without sacrificing safety or performance.
Another important development is the addition of padding to MMA gloves. Padding provides extra protection for fighters’ hands, which can help prevent injuries during competition.
Despite all these advances, there are still many unanswered questions about MMA glove technology. For example, there is no consensus on whether impact-absorbing pads should be added to MMA gloves before or after they have been approved by regulators. Additionally, it is still unclear which type of padding is best suited for MMA gloves — gel-filled or foam-filled?
To this date, no one has found an answer to the problem of eye gouging in MMA. The fingers need to be able to move for grappling to happen but pokes whether accidental or deliberate do happen and fights need to be paused for the affected fighters to regain clear vision.
Which One Should You Get?
It should go without saying that if you’re only training boxing, MMA gloves won’t offer much value to you. You’ll need boxing gloves, preferably two pairs – one 10 or 12 oz pair for pads and bag work, and another 14 oz. or 16 oz. pair.
If you’re training MMA, you’ll probably still want to have a pair of boxing gloves, as developing muscle memory and hand speed is still incredibly important. However, you’ll also need grappling gloves, particularly if you’re preparing for a fight.
MMA gear can be a serious investment as fighters tend to take individual classes which focus on the different arts or disciplines they specialize in before and put it all together in MMA classes. Each of these disciplines obviously has their own gear and expenses.
There are also hybrid gloves that combine the best features of both types of gloves. These can be a great option if you’re unsure which type of glove would be better for you. However, they may not be as durable as either type of glove alone.
Whatever type of glove you choose, it’s important to make sure the size is correct. If the glove feels too small or tight, it could lead to injuries. If the glove is too large or loose, it might not provide adequate protection in the event of an accident. Before buying a new pair of gloves, measure your hand so you can get the right size.