You're about to learn more about boxing gloves than you really need to know.
Boxing gloves protect you and your opponent. The earliest form of boxing glove originated in Greece (cestus) and consisted of something meant to inflict pain and suffering rather than reduce it. It was basically leather straps that may or may not have things such as studs embedded in them. In short, they made boxing fights good and bloody.
Lucky for those of us practicing boxing today, boxing became more civilized. We now benefit from boxing gloves made out of better materials based on an understanding of the science and forces involved in punching.
When looking for gloves - you'll find a wide selection of various weights and styles. You may see them called training gloves, bag gloves, sparring gloves, boxing gloves, and so on. So what is the difference?
TWO TYPES OF BOXING GLOVES
1. Bag Gloves (Training Gloves)
Bag or training gloves are for hitting heavy bags, double end bags, and other boxing training aids that are not people. Bag gloves protect you and not what you are hitting.
You can use bag gloves with wrapped or unwrapped hands (I recommend always wrapping...). Bag gloves offer protection against scrapes and contusions and lessen the transfer of impact forces into your body. This helps prevent injuries such as broken hands or bloody knuckles.
Bag gloves come in a variety of shapes and sizes ranging from those with little padding to some weighing 12oz, 14oz, and 16oz or more. There are two schools of thought when learning to box. Many trainers want their students to use a minimalist glove so he or she can really feel how a punch is supposed to feel. The downside is that improper technique is less forgiving whereas a more padded glove allows the new boxer to make some mistakes and not suffer for it. At the same time - that instant feedback that a punch was thrown incorrectly is not as obvious to the boxer.
Many boxers will use a heavier bag glove as a conditioning tool to increase stamina and endurance (especially in the shoulders). For those starting out - a 12oz training glove is a good place to start.
2. Boxing Gloves (Sparring Gloves)
When you step in the ring you will wear boxing gloves also known as sparring gloves. In training, these will usually be 16oz gloves that protect both you and your opponent. In competitions - you usually use 10oz gloves.
Boxing gloves come in various sizes just like training gloves - 16oz, 14oz, 12oz, 10oz, 8oz - and a variety of styles. Most modern gloves are pre-molded meaning that they are already formed in a fist shape. You slide your fingers into the gloves and they naturally have to curl while keeping your thumb in a proper position. Others are not molded requiring you to form a fist to make the hitting surface. Some boxing gloves are fastened with string, others with velcro.
HOW DO BOXING GLOVES WORK?
Boxing gloves are made with one thing in mind - force of impact. On impact, a bigger, heavier boxing glove will absorb more of the force during deceleration (as it compresses against its target). Thus, less force is transferred from you to your opponent. On a heavy bag - it slightly slows down the punch on impact which jars your body a little less while protecting your hands against scrapes.
Because less force is transferred to your opponent - less damage is done.
The goal of sparring is to develop skill and technique - not to knock out your sparring partner. As such - sparring gloves are bigger and more padded than gloves used in competition. Hitting your sparring partner with a 16oz glove will rattle his or her brain far less than hitting him or her with a 10oz glove.
HOW ARE BOXING GLOVES MADE?
Boxing gloves are designed to achieve a certain amount of compression. When the boxing glove strikes the target, the force is reduced or absorbed as the glove compresses. If the material used loses its ability to compress then the boxing glove's ability to reduce forces is dramatically decreased. The material that is supposed to compress becomes nothing more than a dense layer of padding that will protect the wearer of the boxing glove from scrapes but will do little to reduce forces on impact. High density polyurethane, cotton, and horsehair are some types of padding materials often used.
If you think of that space age memory foam that a lot of people sleep on - you'll realize that padding also exhibits memory characteristics. That is, it compresses and stays compressed - rebounding very slowly. That is not ideal for padding used in boxing gloves. The best padding will lose it's memory very quickly otherwise the initial blow compresses the material and subsequent blows are like hitting with no padding at all.
Boxing gloves must be highly durable and resistant to tears, scrapes, and thousands of high speed impacts. For that reason, top grain leather is used - especially cowhide and goatskin due to their highly durable nature. The stitching has to be top notch to ensure the padding stays where it is supposed to and is usually a nylon based thread.
If you are interested in exactly how they are hand stitched and formed from pattern, you can read more about the manufacturing process.
WHAT SIZE OF BOXING GLOVES SHOULD YOU BUY?
The answer to that question depends on what you are using them for.
If you are walking into a gym for the first time or learning on your own - all you need to start are training gloves and handwraps. You won't need sparring gloves for at least a few weeks or months. It will take that long for you to learn the skills and body control necessary to spar.
In general, Commando Boxing recommends you use the following sizes of boxing gloves depending on your boxing activity:
a. Sparring: 16oz gloves
b. Training: Bag gloves - 12oz for beginners, increase weight to increase intensity and endurance
c. Amateur Fights: depends on the rules of the fight - generally 10oz glove is used and will be either red or blue with a white target area to help the judges score.
d. Professional Fights: will be decided in the rules of the professional affiliation the fight is sanctioned by. I believe 8oz gloves are the norm.
BOXING GLOVES THAT FIT YOU
After deciding what size of boxing glove you want, the best way to buy boxing gloves is to wrap your hands and try them on. If you are shopping without your hand wraps, you can put something about the size of a roll of quarters in your palm and then slip on the boxing glove.
The glove should be tight, but not to the point where your hands are going to be deprived of blood. Your fingertips should fit firmly against the top of the glove and it should lace up or velcro tight around your wrist.
You should consider where you will be using the boxing gloves. If you are training by yourself then opt for a velcro fastener. It really sucks trying to get your gloves on and lace them up by yourself. Velcro will make it slightly easier - although it still takes some practice...
DOES BOXING GLOVE BRAND MATTER?
To some people it does and to some people it doesn't. All the top boxing manufacturers - Everlast, Title, Ringside, Rival - all make excellent boxing gloves. There are a lot of other manufacturers that also make good boxing gloves. In short, you sometimes end up paying for a brand name, and you may or may not want to do that. In most cases it's a personal decision.
Boxing gloves you should avoid are the cheaper vinyl gloves. While the price is right, the quality isn't. The material will wear out very quickly and you'll end up buying another pair in the near future. Spend the money now for a quality pair of boxing gloves for your purpose and you shouldn't have to invest in another pair anytime soon.
You can browse a variety of boxing gloves in the Commando Boxing Gear Store.