Boxing is one of the oldest sports in the history of mankind. According to the earliest records, humans were found competing and protecting each other by wearing a special material on their hands in around 1500 BC. Over the years, boxing gloves have gone through major phases of development.
However, unlike many other sports, boxing gloves were already quite famous in Ancient Greece and amongst the Romans. But it took time for both the sport and boxing gloves to develop as we see them today. Boxing gloves have a rich history and it is only right that we discuss their evolution.
Ancient Boxing Gloves
In addition to records stating that humans used special materials to protect their hands around 1500 BC. In 668 BC, the people of Ancient Greece used leather hand wrappings to protect the wrists of the boxers. With time, these wrappings kept on developing.
For instance, more layers and different materials were added to inflict more damage to the opponent. In Roman times, these wrappings were called “Cletus”. At the time, boxing became a one-shot show as these “Ancient Knuclebusters” had the ability to drop the opponent with a single punch.
Plus, the opponents used to wear protection on their arms as well to reduce the chances of any damages. It was also the time when rounds did not exist.
Early Thai Boxing Gloves/Wraps
Boxing gloves like football took a lot of time to settle amongst the viewers and fans. Both sporting equipments struggled to gain popularity at initial stages simply because there were a lot of variations being introduced. Each day, brought in a new concept and the way these things would be used.
With that being said, boxing gloves or wraps were a bit different in Asia and the Ancient East. Not only that, the sport of boxing was entirely different as well. Apart from the boxers wrapping their entire arms, they were also allowed to use elbows, knees, and kicks. Muay Boran was the earliest form of Thai boxing, which is now called Muay Thai. Originally, it was developed to protect the country against invaders.
Furthermore, Thai soldiers in the ancient province of Siam were trained in ancient Muay Thai and were equipped with two swords. If the situation called for dropping the swords, they would fight using their knees, legs, and elbows, etc.
However, Muay Boran was the bare-knuckle version of Muay Thai. As mentioned earlier, the fighters used to wrap their arms, wrists, and knuckles. Although it exists even today but boxing gloves are used instead of wraps.
Jack Broughton Invents Boxing Gloves or “Mufflers”
In the 18th century, boxing again became a popular world but was usually played by the poor. In addition to that, it was still a bare-knuckle sport and the modern gloves we see today did not surface until around 1773.
It was Jack Broughton who invented the boxing gloves and was considered the father of boxing by many. The gloves did not receive any acceptance in the ring for a long time but were used for sparring and training.
The use of boxing gloves back in the day was considered unmanly. Boxers who fought with bare knuckles were assumed to be of a higher status than those who wore boxing gloves. However, once the boxing gloves became accessible, the higher classes could now protect them and train accordingly. The reason being that the higher classes did not want to have their faces, hands, and other body parts being smashed.
The Reign of Bare Knuckle Boxing
Bareknuckle boxing in the UK was introduced by the US Irish immigrants. At the time, bare-knuckle fighting was the most popular type of combat fighting. Bareknuckle fighting was different than street fighting due to several rules such as not hitting the opponent when he is down and offering standing counts before they continued.
Bareknuckle fighting as the term suggests did not include any gloves or wraps with James Figg being the first champion to be recognized in 1719. Although the sport was brutal and bloody but the trend carried on into the 20th century with John L. Sullivan becoming a prime heavyweight champion in both bare-knuckle and padding glove contests.
Introduction of Gloves
The Marquess Of Queensbury Rules originated in 1865 in London and were published in 1867 as the first set of rules governing the use of padded gloves. However, the rule of not padding the wrists still took over. The Queensbury rules would later develop boxing rules that we know of today and officially marked the evolution of boxing gloves.
According to the London Prize Ring Rules, boxing would only take place without the fists being padded. It continued for many years while the Queensbury rules were adopted by Canada and the US in 1897. The Queensbury rules stated that the gloves should be of fair size and good quality but the science was not exact back then.
John L. Sullivan fought the last knuckle fighting match in the USA in 1898. He had knocked out Jake Kilrain after indulging in an intense 3-hour fight. He also participated in the first gloved championship contest in 1892 wearing 5 oz gloves against James Corbett and Corbett won the match.
The Original Boxing Gloves
Believe it or not but the original fighting gloves were much lighter than the current 8 or 10oz gloves. Those gloves were skin tight and weighed only 2oz featuring a dark brown tanned color. One of the reasons for modern gloves being heavy was the addition of padding in the form of horsehair and Cottone.
As a result, the gloves reached 5oz in weight. However, the padded gloves with horsehair did not do much against the hard jabs of the opponents as they only caused more damage.
Then, it was Thomas Edison who invented the television and brought in two cat boxers to perform live. As a result, boxing gained immense popularity by the 1950s and spread like fire especially in the USA. The original tanned leather gloves were now replaced with red gloves to hide the blood.
The plan was to make the sport more mainstream for the Gillette Friday nights, which paved the way for modern-day Pay-Per-View boxing.
Modern Day Boxing Gloves
Perhaps the biggest change in the boxing gloves was the transition from horsehair to foam in the late 50s and into the 60s. Even though during the 20th century, the gloves kept on becoming bigger and bigger to fit all the cotton and horsehair but the foam allowed the gloves to be relatively smaller and compact while providing the same level of protection.
Today, modern boxing involves the boxers using 8-10 oz gloves with the lighter weights using 8 oz gloves and the heavyweights using 10 oz gloves. Moreover, there are tons of manufacturers to choose from as well.
These manufacturers produce sparring, training, and professional boxing gloves. Each type differs in terms of usage. For instance, sparring gloves are used for sparring with gym mates. These are usually 16 oz gloves that protect the face, arm, and other body parts against blows.
Training gloves on the other hand are designed to hit the pads and bags etc. These gloves typically weigh 10 oz and 12 oz depending on the player’s comfort.
Boxing has become a billion-dollar sport today. There was a time when boxers suffered from permanent health conditions due to hard blows to the head. To counter this issue, boxing gloves were made safer. Modern boxing matches are played with referees in the ring and the boxing gloves are inspected prior to the match to ensure fair play. Plus, the game is now all about strategically landing punches without receiving too much in return, which makes it even more exciting.