Even if you are only boxing for fitness, you will need a decent pair of boxing gloves. But before you buy the first pair you find in the local sporting goods store, here are a few things you should consider.
Communal gym gloves reek. And they’re worn out.
There are plenty of people who use the communal gym gloves all the time and have for years, but I had trouble with the stink factor. I know that sounds terribly rich kid, and it is. But this is the kind of stink that simply does not wash off easily. I would wash my hands several times and still be able to smell that stink on me all day long. So I spent $30 on my first pair of gloves (see below).
There’s also a padding issue, which may not matter to you if you are under 30 years old, but the older you get, the more of an issue good protection for your hands becomes. This is especially true if you are a heavyweight, throwing bomb shots.
If you plan to box for long, good gloves are definitely worth the investment.
$30 Gloves will get you through for a while.
The issue with the cheap gloves — in my case they were Everlast Pro Style Training Gloves (the exact pair in the picture on the left) — is that they don’t hold up very long. They are fine for starter gloves, but you can’t expect them to last.
If you go to the gym several times a week and use these gloves for a year they will begin to fail you. The padding will crush down, you’ll feel more pain, and you’ll start to see a difference in your performance because you’ll be holding back on your shots.
You will need to pay about $70 – $100 for good boxing gloves.
When my Everlasts wore out, I bought a pair of 14 ounce (many gyms will require 16 ounce) Pro Main Event gloves by FightGear (that’s what I’m wearing in the photo at the top of the post). They were $70 when I bought them, now they run about $85. These have held up much better than the Everlasts. You can order them online (although the LA Boxing website is not all that user-friendly) but I just purchased mine at an actual LA Boxing gym.
The gloves I really want are the Ringside Gel Shock Safety Sparring Gloves ($70), but last time I tried to order they were backordered so far that I never received them after waiting for months. Which is why I eventually bought the Main Events instead. But I’m pretty sure The Gel Shocks will be my next pair.
Here’s what the weight differences mean.
Most boxing gloves come in 12 ounce, 14 ounce, and 16 ounce weights. There are other sizes as well, but these are the three you’re likely to see most often.
The larger sizes offer more protection for your hands (as you land punches) and your face (as you defend against punches). To get used to working hard and fast with a pound of extra weight on each hand, you can purchase weighted gloves to wear when you aren’t sparring or on the bags. The sand-weighted gloves will not stand up to hard use, so use them for shadowboxing or other fitness exercises only.
If you compete in the amateurs you’ll usually wear 16 ounce gloves, which will often be provided by the promoter of the event. If you are competing professionally, you might wear lighter gloves. In both pro and amateur bouts, your wraps and gloves will be overseen and signed by an official.
Watch out for this sneaky tactic!
Sometimes boxers will try to use their lighter-weight, worn-out gloves when they spar so that they can inflict more damage on their opponent.
If you are about to get in the ring with someone who has to stop and change gloves into some ancient, tiny boxing gloves, you know what’s coming. I’ve been in the ring with a pro boxer who used 8 ounce gloves and every shot felt like a brick. I barely made it through 4 rounds, and I needed a week to recover.
If you are used to MMA fighting, you may be fine with this, but you should definitely be aware of it.
Laces or velcro?
Velcro, definitely, although lots of pro boxers will swear by lace-ups, which are much more classic and old school. But if you are boxing in the amateurs, or just training hard, you don’t want to have to ask someone else to make all your glove adjustments for you. Velcro enables you to put on, secure, adjust, and remove your own gloves.
The drawback to velcro is that the strips will often scratch your opponent’s face or arms as you spar. You’ll be scratched up from their gloves, too. But the solution to that is to get a pair of boxing glove cuff sleeves, which are simple elastic covers for the velcro. They run about $10.
Also, velcro does wear out eventually, and after a few years you may find that you are having to tape your straps down, which defeats the whole do-it-yourself thing. But by then it will probably be time for new gloves anyway.
The drawback to lace-ups, other than the fact that you can’t manage them on your own, is that if you have a loose lace, it can fly out and pop someone in the eye pretty good. The solution for that is usually to tape down the laces (although you can also use cuff sleves), which just means one more layer of stuff you can’t handle on your own.
Don’t forget your hand wraps.
You wrap your hands for basic protection in boxing. There are 27 little bones in your hands and they all need support. Boxers do break bones in their hands, although you’re more likely to suffer a sprain or general soreness.
Traditional boxing hand wraps are 15 feet or 180 inches long (don’t get the short wraps!) and slightly elastic. They usually close with velcro, and run about $6 per pair.
Hook the loop over your thumb and wrap your wrist and hand up to your knuckles. I go between my fingers and around the base of my thumb, too. It needs to be fairly tight because they will loosen slightly as you train. I’ve embedded a How to Wrap Your Hands video below, but everyone does it differently. Watch other boxers, try different styles. You’ll find your method.
For a competition, you’ll need gauze wraps. Your trainer will wrap your hands for you using multiple rolls of lightweight boxing gauze, and an official will sign them. This is to prevent any tampering or weighting of your hands inside the gloves.
As a woman boxing over the age of 40, I go to special lengths to protect my hands. I used to cut a foam beer cozy into strips and tape the strips over my knuckles before wrapping. Now I use these fabulous Everlast Evergel Classic Handwraps ($14) instead of traditional hand wraps inside my boxing gloves. You can see them in the photo to the right.
I love my Evergels, and they even go through the wash just fine.
Did I mention you should wash your wraps? Sigh. There are people who don’t. However, you can easily wash them in a lingerie bag. You need the bag because otherwise the velcro will stick to and potentially tear up other laundry, not to mention becoming wet, knotted hell unless they are contained.
One last secret.
Boxing gloves can work up a stink after years of hard use. One way to keep them dry and less of a breeding ground for bacteria is to fill a couple of long socks with cedar chips and stuff the socks into your gloves after you box.
They sell boxing glove dryers ($100!) but I’ve never invested in one. If you have the money, feel free, but the sock method works, too.
Although I have had people say my gloves smell like a gerbil cage. A fresh, clean gerbil cage, that is.
Image: Me at Decatur Boxing Gym in Atlanta, with my friend and sparring partner Justine.