Although MMA and boxing have many similarities, ultimately, they are quite different sports. Boxing deals exclusively in upright hand strikes, and MMA employs several martial arts styles, including grappling styles. Because of that core difference, another way these two sports are distinct is in how the fighters are equipped. Each martial arts style uses different forms of body protection from headgear to shin guards and everything in between. Like many combat sports, both MMA and boxing require some protective gear to minimize the chances of injury. One of the most noticeable forms of protective equipment required of all fighters in both sports is gloves, but the gloves used in these martial arts are designed very differently to fit the different styles of fighting.
MMA Gloves Vs. Boxing Gloves
Although MMA gloves and boxing gloves both primarily serve to protect athletes’ hands from damage sustained by repeated striking, aside from that, they function very differently. MMA involves takedowns and wrestling, meaning that MMA fighters’ hands require much greater freedom of movement. Boxers deal exclusively in closed hand strikes, so their gloves are required to provide more protection and stability, but having any range of motion for the fingers is unnecessary. This is a benefit when it comes to several factors, including safety, but can make boxing gloves far stiffer and less comfortable than MMA gloves.
One of the primary differences between the style of gloves used in MMA training and boxing gloves is how the fingers are contained. Boxing gloves are entirely enclosed, allowing for punching and nothing else. The fingers have only two options: closed in a fist or relaxed inside the glove.
MMA gloves have a much leaner profile. The material wrapping the hands has no padding. MMA gloves leave the fingers free to allow the athlete to perform the grapples and takedowns that MMA integrates from styles like Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling. Each finger and thumb has a separate loop of material securing it into the glove with the fingertips and last knuckle exposed by the padding over the knuckles. This construction protects the hands, but still allows range of motion for MMA’s range of techniques.
The highest quality gloves available for both MMA and boxing are made of leather. This natural material is durable enough to withstand many hours of hard use. Synthetic leather has become a viable alternative for those who choose to avoid animal products. Vinyl is used to make less expensive boxing and MMA gloves. You will get out of your gloves what you put into them, so keep quality in mind when you choose either type of gloves for your training.
Most gloves are padded with a combination of PVC and latex foam, horsehair, or a combination of these. All gloves for martial arts are rated by their padding’s weight in ounces. Boxing gloves always have more padding than MMA gloves, weighing as much as sixteen or even twenty ounces. Although boxing gloves’ extra padding protects the hands better, their weight and size would be cumbersome for an MMA fighter.
Hand wraps are vital to protect the many tiny bones and joints of the hands against the repeated impact involved in martial arts. They are used in both boxing and MMA but necessarily with quite different wrapping techniques due to the different structures of the gloves. Hand wraps are always worn with boxing gloves, providing an extra layer of protection and stability. They not only help fill out the more spacious boxing gloves but reduce friction and stabilize the hands’ structure against the force of constant punching. A few MMA fighters choose to not use hand wraps for maximum grappling mobility, but to prevent damage to the hands it is very important to wrap your hands even when wearing MMA gloves. Because of the differently shaped gloves, hand wraps employed by MMA practitioners are lighter and more compact.
Different Types of Boxing Gloves
Boxing gloves come in a variety of weights and styles for different purposes. All have more padding than MMA gloves and are constructed more like mittens with the fingers in a single area of the glove and the thumb in its own separate compartment. Boxing gloves have padding surrounding all sides of the hand, providing more complete protection.
Bag gloves for boxing are specially designed to protect the hands from the intense impact of punching a heavy bag repeatedly. They typically weigh between 8 and 16 ounces, but light bag gloves and even weighted bag gloves are available. If you’re ever planning on training alone, bag gloves that fasten with velcro can help you avoid a lot of struggle.
It is best to steer clear of light bag gloves, as they really only protect the skin from tears but are ineffective at reducing damage to the structure of the hands. These may look like a simple leather mitten or a modern style that looks similar to an MMA glove.
Good bag gloves are heavier and look like regular boxing gloves. They are constructed with a denser foam padding that provides greater protection against hard surfaces. Do not use these for sparring. That dense padding is too hard to use safely against an opponent.
Competition boxing gloves are usually between 8 and 12 ounces but are designed similarly to sparring gloves.
Amateur Fight Competition Gloves are provided to the participants by each competition to ensure fairness and are marked with white knuckles to aid in scoring points properly.
Professional Competition Gloves are very small and light. They are often padded with horsehair and intended to last only for the warm-up and duration of one fight. The speed at which the horsehair breaks down allows combatants to do more damage with each progressive round.
Sparring gloves for boxing are much bulkier and softer than competition gloves. These are the largest style, up to 20 ounces, used to reduce injury in sparring matches. Do not use these for bag work, as the harder surface of a heavy bag will quickly wear out the soft padding.
One specialized variety of sparring gloves is the coach sparring gloves. These are designed to serve not only as a sparring glove but also to alternate as a focus mitt. They usually have a white spot in the palm of the glove to serve as a target.
Lace-up boxing gloves are the territory of the professional boxer, weighing in between 8 and 16 ounces. They provide a tighter, more secure fit, more padding, and therefore more protection for the wrist. The lacing makes the glove feel more streamlined when compared to a bulkier Velcro glove. For sparring, the laces must be taped down so that the swinging ends do not cut your opponent.
They are more difficult to put on and remove, but there are techniques that make it manageable, even by yourself. Some boxers even replace the standard cord with an elastic cord, which doesn’t provide the same snug fit, but it makes shorter bursts or solo training a lot easier. A big drawback of using Velcro in sparring is that the coarse side can scratch your opponent–not the goal of boxing.
Training gloves for boxing are a hybrid intended for use in bag work and in sparring. Just be sure that they are not so densely padded that you could cause serious injury to your opponent. If your budget is limited and you need an all-purpose glove to get started, training gloves may be your best bet.
Different Types of MMA Gloves
MMA gloves are much lighter than boxing gloves, but all of their padding is placed only over the knuckles, providing the knuckles approximately the same level of protection as the much heavier boxing gloves while still leaving the fingers a much larger range of motion to employ other combat techniques aside from striking.
Typical MMA competition gloves weigh only around 4 ounces. These are very lightly padded and are reserved only for real fights, not for sparring.
MMA Sparring gloves, which are used for training with a partner, are nearly double the weight of competition gloves at about 7 ounces. Some may be acceptable for a competition, but generally, these are just used for practice.
Bag Training Gloves
MMA Bag gloves are heavier than sparring or competition-style gloves to better protect the hands against the harder impact of a heavy bag. Do not use your sparring gloves as bag gloves.
Now that we have covered all the different varieties of gloves used in MMA and boxing, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how they stack up for different uses to help you decide which may be the best choice for your training.
Which is safer?
Boxing gloves are far safer than MMA gloves. Boxing gloves provide not only greater cushion for the hands, but also much more wrist support to help prevent wrist injuries. The padding in a boxing glove shifts around with each punch, then returns to its original form, distributing the impact of the punch over the surface of the fist and reducing the chance of injury.
Which Is Better on The Heavy Bag?
Although there is plenty of room for different opinions about how to train on the heavy bag, the lighter weight and smaller profile of MMA gloves allows the athlete to not only condition their hands to better handle hard striking but also allows them to practice aligning their punches with more precision than a bulky boxing glove would allow.
Which Allows A Harder Strike?
The question of which type of glove allows a fighter to hit harder is a complex one. The thinner construction of an MMA glove allows a punch to hit with more sudden impact, and the stiffer surface is more likely to cause superficial wounds to the face.
A study was conducted in which a boxer threw his best punch with different types of gloves. The punches thrown while wearing MMA gloves were nearly double the speed of the punches thrown while wearing boxing gloves.
On the other hand, the greater weight of a boxing glove adds to the concussive force behind a punch and spreads the damage throughout the target, causing more brain injuries.
Boxing gloves and MMA gloves are designed for very different purposes. They are both excellent at doing their job, and each athlete needs to choose the best quality gloves they can for the work they are doing.