Are you stuck on deciding which boxing gloves to buy?
I don’t blame you. With thousands of different boxing gloves available, making a purchase can be frustrating and confusing.
What boxing glove size should you be? Why are the gloves different shapes? Should you go lace-up or straps? Do I really need anti-perspiration technology? Can’t I just pick a pair with a cool design? And why do the Mexicans have their own style?
It can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Yes, you should put a lot of thought into buying boxing gloves – after all, you will be using your new gloves almost daily.
But the process should be enjoyable, and you should walk away feeling satisfied that you’ve picked a pair that matches your needs exactly.
This boxing gloves buyers guide helps you do just that.
By the end of it, you’ll be able to separate the wheat from the chaff and know how to pick boxing gloves like a pro.
Types of Boxing Gloves
The kind of gloves you need will depend on what you will use them for most.
You see, boxing gloves are broken down into categories:
- bag gloves
- sparring gloves
- fight gloves
- cardio gloves
Which are then broken down into subcategories:
- bag gloves – traditional or modern
- fight gloves – professional or amateur
And then each subcategory of glove is available in a variety of styles, brands, weights, and they all have different features.
Confused yet? Run with it. All will become clear soon.
The reason for the huge variety is due to different gloves being required for different training activities.
Bag gloves are used for hitting the bag (funnily enough) and smashing focus mitts. When it comes time to spar, soft padded gloves are favoured to prevent injuries. And when competing, lightweight fight gloves make for a fast and furious fight and also increase the likelihood of knockouts occurring – and everyone loves a knockout (apart from the guy lying on the canvas).
Here’s an explanation of the differences between the types of gloves to clear things up.
Bag / Mitt Gloves
Bag gloves come in two different styles; traditional and modern.
The slim gloves with dense, compact foam are traditional style, and the bulkier gloves with plenty of padding are modern style bag gloves.
Traditional Bag Gloves
Traditional style bag gloves are slim and have minimal padding.
They don’t protect the hands or provide wrist support, and they only stop the skin from tearing if you were to mishit and skim the bag.
What they lack in padding, they make up for in teaching correct technique – with minimal padding, you feel the connection on your knuckles, giving a truer sense of the power and accuracy behind your shots. This helps to develop your confidence in boxing as well as ensuring that you are connecting with the two largest knuckles nearest the thumb.
Modern Bag Gloves
Modern style bag gloves are designed with protection of the hands and wrist in mind.
They resemble normal gloves and are much bulkier than traditional gloves due to the layers of thick foam. The padding is designed for repeated hard impacts and won’t go flat and lose its shape.
Many modern bag gloves offer cutting edge boxing technology as they contain laboratory tested materials that absorb shocks efficiently and dual strapping systems for superior wrist support.
Which is Better?
One style isn’t better than the other, and it comes down to personal preference.
Old school trainers are fond of the traditional style as they condition your knuckles and teach you correct technique (massive generalisation on my part). Other people would baulk at the idea of knuckle conditioning and wouldn’t risk damaging or losing the functionality of their hands.
I sometimes use only my hand wraps when hitting the bag and have done so for years and my hands are fine. As I said, it comes down to choice and your views on training.
However, one thing I can attest to is that using light, traditional style gloves for a prolonged period will wreak havoc with your timing and speed when you switch to using heavier gloves for training or sparring.
Sparring gloves are softer and have more padding around the knuckles to protect your sparring partners.
When you’re training for a fight, you need to spar a lot. You can’t spar if you’re injured, so sparring gloves are specifically designed to minimise injury.
The added foam in sparring gloves makes them heavier and sparring gloves typically come in 16oz and 18oz.
Almost all of the gyms I’ve trained in insist on 16oz minimum for sparring regardless of your weight.
Sparring sessions can quickly become heated especially when sparring against beginners that haven’t learned to control their emotions when sparring and get angry and vengeful when they get tagged with a hard punch.
Some people like to spar with the same weight of gloves as they will fight with. They reason that they might as well mimic the conditions of the fight as close as possible during training. They adopt fight gloves and do drills using the same number of rounds that are the same duration as the fight.
It’s sound reasoning, but if you do decide to adopt this strategy, make sure to turn down the power a notch or two to avoid a blood bath.
On the other hand, if you spar with heavier gloves, you’ll get used to the additional weight, and you’ll be much quicker when you fight with smaller gloves.
Boxing gloves used in the ring are smaller and lighter. Depending on the weight category, boxing gloves used in competitions are 8oz, 10oz or 12oz.
There are two distinct type of fight gloves: amateur and professional.
Amateur boxing gloves have more padding at the knuckles for protection of relatively inexperienced fighters. They also feature a white circle on the glove that is used for score keeping (only punches that land in the white circle score).
Amateur gloves are usually good quality as to be used in amateur boxing competitions, they must be approved by the Amateur International Boxing Associations (AIBA) strict quality control standards.
Professional gloves don’t have as much padding at the knuckle region. Combine this with the tendency for professional fighters to hit harder, and you significantly increase the chance of a knockout during professional fights.
There’s no real need to own fight gloves as the promoter will usually supply the gloves for the fighters.
Having both fighters use the same gloves, albeit different colours, keeps the fight as fair as possible and ensures the fighters are wearing quality gloves.
You also won’t be able to use fight gloves for sparring as the minimal padding increases the chance of seriously hurting your training partners.
Sparring is not about maiming each other. It’s an opportunity to practice techniques and get comfortable in a fight scenario. That’s assuming you’ve joined a decent gym that gives a monkeys about the health of their fighters.
However, fight gloves can make a good bag glove that allow you to feel a satisfying connection on your knuckles while providing ample wrist support.
Personally, I would avoid purchasing expensive fight gloves. If you’ve got the cash, I would instead spend your money on two dedicated sets of gloves; bag gloves strictly for bag and mitt work, and a good pair of sparring gloves.
All-purpose Gloves (a.k.a Training Gloves)
Many gloves market themselves as all-purpose gloves that can be used on the pads, bag, or for sparring.
All-purpose gloves should have enough padding at the knuckles to protect your hands while beating on the heavy bag, and should also be soft enough to prevent injuring your sparring partners. However, this is a tricky balance to achieve, and you often end up with foam that isn’t dense enough for hitting the bag or soft enough for sparring.
That being said, if you’re a newbie, I would suggest buying a quality pair of all-purpose gloves instead of forking out on multiple pairs. Expect to pay around $100 for a good pair and stick to well-known, reputable brands. Title, Rival, RDX and Ringside offer good all-purpose gloves.
I would go with a set of 16oz all-purpose gloves so that you could use them for sparring.
However, be aware that although gloves are identified as all-purpose and suitable for sparring by the manufacturer, it doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be allowed to let them fly in sparring sessions.
It will come down to your gyms policy on gloves for sparring. Some clubs are strict on what gloves are acceptable, and some will only allow you to use the gyms communal sparring gloves as they know these are heavily padded.
Lace-up or Strap?
Lace gloves offer a really tight fit, but they are a bitch do put on. Each time you train with them, you’ll have to ask someone to lace you up. You can stuff the laces into the glove or tie them loosely and slip them on, but then what’s the point in having laces?
Velcro strapped gloves, or hook and loop as they’re sometimes known, offer a comparatively snug fit to their laced-up cousins. However, Velcro strap gloves are much easier to put on, and you can do it unassisted.
So for me, the convenience and easiness of straps beat laces although, admittedly, I do think laces look cooler.
Boxing Gloves Size Guide
The weight of the boxing gloves you use is correlated with your body weight. The more you weigh, the more your gloves should weigh.
Having the glove weight increase with body weight aids in training as it means the bigger guys will have (marginally) heavier weights to fling around providing a more challenging workout.
It also protects the fighters in the ring, as the heavier fighters will have more padding to cushion the powerful blows.
You will also use different glove weights depending on whether you are training, sparring, or fighting. Your sparring gloves will generally be 2oz heavier than your training gloves, and your fight gloves will be the lightest of all.
For example, a 150 lbs fighter would train with 14oz gloves, spar with 16oz gloves and compete with 10oz gloves.
Here’s a handy table for selecting gloves to match your weight.
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What Are The Best Boxing Glove Brands?
Do brands matter?
You betcha! In boxing, I’m going to put brand selection up there with learning how to punch.
Why are brands so important? Because there’s nothing worse than crap gloves.
Budget no-name or toy-brand gloves don’t last. Although they look and feel the same as professional gloves, they fall apart with even light-duty use. Toy-brand gloves such as Pro, TKO, Century and all of the lower end Everlast gloves are to be given a wide berth.
All brands are different. They vary in size, fit, weight distribution, quality of materials and workmanship, added features, and designs.
You’ll get to know and trust brands in time. However, if you don’t have experience yet, you may be able to tap into the wisdom of your instructor or fighters at your gym, or alternatively, a Google search for the gloves you’re interested in will provide helpful glove reviews.
At a risk of sounding like your mother, I’m going to say it anyway. Don’t believe everything you read online. Someone’s opinion of a brand may be just that – their opinion of a brand born out of a single bad experience and not the wide-held consensus.
Coming from a muay thai background, I love Fairtex and Twins products. Twins gloves were my first pair of professional gloves, and I’m still rocking Twins gloves today. My current shin pads are made by Fairtex. They’ve been through the wars but are still fit for duty. They’ve clocked up thousands of hours of sparring and were actually given to me by my old instructor.
If you’re looking for a boxing glove brand, I would stick to the well-known brands such as Winning, Cleto Reyes, Title and Grant. Boxing gyms, fighters, and promoters of the sport worldwide endorse these brands so you know they are reputable and suitable for professional use.
The stand-out performer in terms of overall quality is Winning, however, outstanding quality comes at a price. The other brands mentioned above are less expensive and offer similar performance and quality characteristics.
Boxing Glove Materials
Boxing gloves need to be constructed from materials that are durable. The materials have to be tough enough to withstand repeated impacts while being soft enough not to rip or scratch training equipment.
Leather fits this bill perfectly. But not all leather is created equal. The best boxing gloves are made from top grain leather from carefully selected cowhides. Top grain leather is tough and resists tearing or scratching even with repeated heavy-duty use.
Stay away from vinyl gloves! They are cheap for a reason. Cardio boxing gloves are often constructed from vinyl. They may be suitable for boxercise classes, but they are a poor choice of glove if you take your training seriously.
The padding inside the glove should be made up of 2-4 layers of dense foam. It should be capable of absorbing impact and protecting the hands, and it should retain its shape and not go flat with use. As you can’t see the padding, stick to the top brands to ensure you’re getting quality.
Also, look for nylon thread that is tightly stitched at the seams if don’t want your gloves to fall apart.
How to Shop for Boxing Gloves
What’s the number one rule when buying boxing gloves?
Avoid department stores.
You’re unlikely to find professional boxing equipment in a store that also sells homeware, cookware, and electronics. Similarly, most big chain sporting outlets are also to be avoided as they cater mostly to the average consumer and don’t sell professional, high-quality gloves.
A good place to start your search would be your local fight wear shop. You can browse gloves and see how they look in person and try them on for size.
When trying on gloves, you’re looking for a glove that feels comfortable, and you can make a fist with minimal effort. You shouldn’t feel as if your hand is cramped, or it’s being forced into an awkward position.
Try the gloves on with hand wraps if possible. If not, make sure there’s some wiggle room so the gloves will fit when you’ve got your wraps on.
If you don’t have the luxury of a fight wear store in your town, there’s no need to worry. You can check out online boxing glove reviews to get an indication of fit for various hand sizes.
In fact, I wouldn’t purchase from these stores anyway as you can buy the same gloves online for a fraction of the price.
My final piece of buying advice is; DON’T BUY CHEAP GLOVES.
When it comes to buying boxing gloves (or most things for that matter), you get what you pay for.
High-quality gloves are made from the finest materials and have a quality of workmanship that will stand the test of time. Cheap gloves may look and feel the same, but they are made from substandard materials that wear out quickly.
Expect to pay at least $100 for a good pair of boxing gloves. This may seem expensive, but if you care for them, good gloves will last you for years.
I realise that’s a lot of information to take in when deciding which boxing gloves to buy, so I’ve summarised everything in ten easy-to-follow rules below.
Alternatively, you can check out our review of the top ten boxing gloves were we have done all the hard work for you and selected the best boxing gloves from the thousands on the market.
The 10 Rules for Buying Boxing Gloves
- Decide what your gloves will mostly be used I.e. bag work, sparring, general training.
- Don’t pick a pair based on design and colour only. Do your homework!
- Ask coaches and experienced fighters for their opinion on brands.
- If you’re planning on sparring, check that your gym will allow the gloves to be used for sparring before purchasing.
- Don’t go cheap. Avoid no-name and toy-brand gloves and stick to brands with a solid reputation.
- Choose top grain leather.
- Stick to Velcro straps for convenience.
- Pick the right gloves for your weight.
- Try the gloves on first. Test with hand wraps on or leave enough space. Can you make a fist comfortably?
- Purchase gloves online for a better deal.