Muay Thai and boxing share many common grounds. Fundamental concepts behind both combat sports draw many parallels. Both are combat sports that involve the use of fists with the goal of knocking your opponent out and both sports have timed rounds. Although equipment used in both combat sports have much in common, viewing from a professional or enthusiast perspective there are stark contrasts in the equipment used in the sports.
Muay Thai in its classical form is a very dangerous sport because of few rules. The game requires to swiftly and fiercely knock out your opponent using knee strikes, elbow strikes and any other means necessary. Some techniques were so lethal that they were outright banned in MMA and other professional competitions. On the other hand, modern boxing is a rigidly structured sport with strict enforcement of rules. Although It is also dangerous, it is leagues safer than classical Muay Thai and comparatively safer than modern professional Muay Thai.
Muay Thai and Boxing both demand a distinctly different set of moves from the fighter. In boxing there are only two points of contact. A boxer needs to throw punches or block incoming punches preferably through their boxing glove in the bout. Muay Thai, also known as the art of eight limbs, utilizes eight points of contact. It demands much more from the fighter as the sport involves not only punches but also throws, kicks, sweeps, knees and elbows. For these reasons, an observer will find minor but noticeable differences in the equipment used in Muay Thai and boxing.
Origin of Muay Thai Gloves and Boxing Gloves
Muay Thai Glove
Muay Thai, the national sport of the Kingdom of Thailand, is said to have originated in the thirteenth century. Muay is the Thai word for ‘boxing’ so Muay Thai literally translates to ‘ Thai Boxing ’. Muay Thai utilizes eight points of contact so the fighters of the sport used to wear ropes looped around the hands as a means for protection, which was more often than not safe or pleasant for the wielder.
In the twentieth century Muay Thai became more formalized as a modern combat sport with the inclusion of a boxing ring and set of structured rules These rules were mainly influenced by ‘ British Boxing ‘. It was during this era that Muay Thai fighters began wearing boxing gloves which later morphed into the now distinct Muay Thai gloves.
Boxing is an ancient sport dating back to as far as 3000 B.C and is nearly 5000 years old. Gloves were used from the onset. In ancient Greek Olympics, himantes or a thong of ox hides repeatedly wrapped around the knuckle was used. It was often looped in so fighters could insert their hands through it while providing the flexibility to form a fist. Crude design of these primitive gloves only protected the knuckle of the wielder rather than softening up the adversary’s blow.
While oxys or a thick leather wrapped up around forearm and knuckles came in, it offered better protection than himantes. After oxys, a new training glove lined with shock resistant wool called spharai rose in popularity. It allowed fighters to train at maximum capacity while reducing the risk of injuries. The modern stuffed boxing glove or the ‘muffle’ was introduced in the mid eighteenth century as a training glove. First dismissed as an ‘unmanly’ object but the perception changed as boxing organizers began introducing safety regulations and structured rules. This design offered much better protection to the wielder and reduced critical damage to the opponent.
Pros and Cons of Muay Thai Gloves
Muay Thai is a very flexible sport with knee strikes, elbow strikes, kicks, throws and punches so the wielder uses gloves as a means of defense against the impact of opponent’s moves. While the attack has a greater emphasis on technique than the glove.
Pros and Cons of Boxing Gloves
Boxing revolves around punching and blocking the incoming punches. Having the right glove is very crucial in the match. In boxing, glove are used for pure offense and as a means of blocking the incoming punches with mostly counter punches. So boxing gloves share equal emphasis with the technique.
Differences Between Muay Thai Gloves VS Boxing Gloves
While at first glance both gloves look identical to an onlooker, a deeper look helps us understand the intended use of each glove. Muay Thai utilizes eight points of contact so the fighters have to protect themselves from the incoming kicks, knees, elbows, and punches all the while having enough flexibility to clinch the competitor. In contrast, boxing utilizes only two points of contact so the boxers only need to protect their knuckle. This can be easily done with an extra layer of padding on the glove. Following are the key differences among the design and appearance of both these gloves.
The largest striking difference between both gloves is the palm area. Muay Thai fighters need the ability to grip to clinch as well as catch and hold the kicks during the fights while boxers only use the palm area to parry the incoming blows from the opponent.
By design, Muay Thai gloves have a more open palm area by molding the padding evenly using a cylindrical shape. This increases flexibility while offering better grip and allowing better range of motion. This proves crucial in clinching, catching and holding kicks, ability to grab the opponent and to manipulate the limbs of the competitor to varying degrees.
Boxing is a sport where punching is the only means of inflicting damage to your competitor. To accommodate for this, boxing gloves are designed to be more fairly rounded to make a natural fist. This allows the fist to be more natural without much struggle. Gloves may be stiff or loose depending upon the wielder’s preferences but aim for uniformity in clenching fist position.
The thumb design of both gloves really sets them apart. Muay Thai gloves allow fighters a better grip by straightening the thumb area of the glove. The thumb is stitched onto the frame of the glove as having a detached thumb area allows for a better grip and greater flexibility to clinch.
Boxing glove has its thumb as close to the fist as possible to protect behind the knuckle padding. The thumb can be attached with a thin strip of material at the end of the thumb to keep it in place or can be fully attached with the leather frame as a single unit. The thumb area of the boxing glove is usually well padded to allow for better protection against blows and to minimize the risk of injury.
The cuff area is another major difference in comparison between both of the gloves. In Muay Thai, the fighter’s wrists usually get hit a lot while blocking kicks. Bending wrists allows for better grip in clinching, so Muay Thai gloves tend to have a shorter cuff area while being a bit loose as compared to boxing gloves. Shorter cuffs reduce protection so to offset this, the cuff area is thicker in Muay Thai gloves. Shorter cuff and thicker padding allows the fighter flexibility required to properly execute clinches, blocks and parries.
In boxing, the gloves offer more in terms of wrist support and the wrist is fitted as closely as possible. The wrists do not take a lot of impact so the purpose of the cuff is to reduce the bending of the wrist during punching. This is achieved by having wider and longer padded cuffs while being much thinner than their Muay Thai counterpart gloves to allow unswerving wrists during punching.
Side Padding Area
In Muay Thai fighters have to defend themselves from incoming kicks, elbows, knees and punches from every angle. Therefore they need extra padding along the sides of their hands. To accommodate this need, almost all Muay Thai gloves tend to have a thick bar of padding down the side of each hand while having no padding at all at the center area of the palm.
In boxing however, knuckles will be taking the brunt of impact which leaves the side of the hands usually safe from the impact. So there is very little padding along the sides of hands or in palms.
Boxing Gloves put an emphasis on providing a natural form of fist to the wielder when clenching fists. The glove is rounded in shape so most padding is done at knuckles while wrists have little padding. However, some boxers choose gloves with unpadded wrists to concentrate the full momentum on the knuckle when delivering the punch.
Conversely in Muay Thai, gloves weight is evenly distributed to allow for flexible movements as Muay Thai has knee strikes, elbow strikes, kicks etc. This is the reason why these gloves that have more padding at the wrist area than regular boxing gloves can be used in blocks and padding can lessen the impact of the incoming blow.
Muay Thai gloves at first glance may bear resemblance to boxing gloves but have some key differences. Muay Thai gloves are a bit squared and less rounded to evenly distribute the weight while being considerably less aerodynamic than boxing gloves. This is because Muay Thai gloves aren’t designed just to throw the combos of punches or block incoming punches. Instead, they have to bear the impact from knees, elbows and kicks etc.
Boxing gloves have a rounded shape, especially at the fingers to allow a more natural fist. In a match, the boxer has to only deliver punches and block the incoming punches. So all of the boxing glove designs lean towards a round shape with some minor variations.
Since the respective gloves have their own set of requirements, they use different materials respectively. Muay Thai gloves are mostly used by wielders to defend so most of the structure is made up of leather or synthetic leather or vinyl, depending upon the quality. Padding can use latex or PVC foam as your go to materials to absorb shocks from impacts.
Boxing glove materials vary from manufacturer to manufacturer but the structure is made up of tanned leather or vinyl depending upon the quality. Most professional boxing competitions require the participants to wear leather gloves but some manufacturers use nylon taffeta while having a layer of leather on top to comply with the regulations and to cut down the costs. Similarly like Muay Thai gloves, boxing gloves in dimension of padding also use latex or PVC foam as a go to material.
Size and Weight
Size and weight of the respective gloves are closely associated. It is very crucial to get a glove that is the right fit for you. Any mismatch between the hand and the glove will have disastrous consequences in a match.
Muay Thai gloves have its weight evenly distributed and are generally slightly smaller than their counterpart boxing gloves in size. As Muay Thai requires flexibility, its glove has to give a feel that the glove is an extension of the hand to the wielder. While in contrast, the boxing glove is more rounded at the fingers to give a more natural fist and to concentrate maximum momentum at the knuckle area. So the boxing glove is slightly larger and a bit heavier than its counterpart Muay Thai glove.
Muay Thai fighters require flexibility as the sport has eight points of contact. The Muay Thai gloves offer better flexibility around wrists to allow better clinching and better grip.
In contrast to Muay Thai, Boxing utilizes two points of contact. The boxing gloves have stiffer wrists to offer better stability during punching. Boxing gloves in comparison to Muay Thai gloves offer less flexibility as boxing is a rigid sport with need of better support for hand to form into a firm fist. This is why boxing gloves maximize firmness by reducing flexibility.
Concluding Muay Thai Gloves VS Boxing Gloves
Boxing is a rigid sport revolving around punching. Boxing glove wielders require a firm glove as they view their glove as an extension of the fist. Having good gloves makes all the difference in the ring as much as the individual skill of the wielder.
Muay Thai is a flexible sport consisting of clenched fist punching, palm gripping, and even kicking. So the wielders of Muay Thai gloves require a flexible but firm glove to be able to clench fist and deliver a punch in one instance while blocking a kick or elbow at another instance.
At first glance the differences between both gloves might be minor, the design philosophy of both gloves is to accommodate the specifics of each sport.