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Boxing gloves are cushioned gloves that fighters wear on their hands during boxing matches. The term also refers to gloves used in training, though these often differ from competition gloves. Modern boxing gloves were developed to protect the hands of the striker during a bout (as opposed to the ancient cestus, developed as a weapon), though specialized gloves are now available for competitions, sparring practice and other types of training. The use of modern boxing gloves typically results in fewer superficial facial injuries but does not reduce the risk of brain damage for participants, and may even increase it because of the ability to throw stronger punches to the head without hurting the hands.
The use of hand protection in fighting contests undertaken for sport has been known since at least Ancient Greece. In the 2nd century, Clement of Alexandria credited the mythological Amycus, son of Poseidon and King of the Bebryces in Anatolia, with having invented boxing gloves. However, both the gloves and the sport itself were very different from modern boxing. In Ancient Greece, it was common practice to tie strips of leather round the hands for protection. In Roman times, this developed into the gladiatorial cestus, with metal added to the gloves to inflict greater damage. The use of the cestus was banned c. 50 BC, and 'boxing' was banned under Arcadius in 393 AD.
Boxing experienced a revival in Britain around the 17th century. Many bouts were fought with bare knuckles and with no standard rules until the London Prize Ring Rules, though sometimes gloves were worn. Gloves were mandated by the Marquess of Queensberry Rules which were published in 1867. Subsequently, the popularity of bare knuckle fights has waned, and they are now of dubious legality in some countries.
The modern padded glove owes its origin to Jack Broughton, who created a form of boxing glove (referred to as 'mufflers') in the 18th century.
Boxing gloves come in different styles and weights, and are often worn over hand wraps, which help stabilize the fist area against injuries such as the eponymous boxer's fracture of the fifth metacarpal. Speed gloves are relatively light vinyl or leather mittens primarily designed to protect the athlete's hands against scrapes and contusions when doing very light "bag work" such as on a stand-mounted speed bag. Bag gloves are cushioned to protect the athlete against the progressively heavier focuses of striking other punching bags; these are the gloves most recommended by trainers for all boxing training, especially for non-sparrers. Sparring gloves are designed to protect both athletes during practice bouts. Professional fight gloves are also designed to protect both athletes, but are generally less padded. Sparring gloves may range from 6 oz to 20 oz, now even the manufacturing of children's 4 oz gloves have been introduced into the market, while bag gloves, amateur and professional fight gloves range from 8 to 10 ounces. In competition gloves are laced up and then sealed with tape before the match. The tape is then signed by an official to ensure that it is not tampered with. However training gloves usually use velcro rather than laces so that athletes can more easily get their gloves on and off.
Modern boxing equipment
Modern boxing gloves started showing up towards end of the 90's. Over ten years of engineering and testing by some of the biggest boxing manufacturers and sport names have helped create safe, durable and long lasting equipment. Modern boxing gloves include breathable mesh palm technology with Velcro and 100% complete leather backed stitching, with some also including suspension cushioning and re-enforced padding for the boxer. The UK use AIBA to approve the new design of gloves including the 12oz and 14oz and 16oz weight categories to coincide with the amount of leather and support boxers can use in fights.
Gloves used in amateur boxing are frequently red or blue, with a white "scoring area" to help judges more easily see and record points. Common weights for gloves in the United States are sixteen, twelve and eight ounces. Many athletes train with heavier gloves than they will use in competition as a way to increase endurance.
Impact of gloves on safety and injuries
The impact of gloves on the injuries caused during a fight is a controversial issue. Hitting to the head was less common in the bare-knuckle era because of the risk of hurting the boxer's hand. Gloves reduce the amount of cuts caused, but British Medical Association research has stated that gloves do not reduce brain injuries and may even increase them, because the main cause of injury is acceleration and deceleration of the head, and fighters wearing gloves are able to punch harder to the head. Gloves may reduce the amount of eye injuries, especially if they are thumbless, but retinal tears and detached retinas still occur to boxers wearing modern gloves. One non-peer-reviewed study has estimated the risk of death from bare-knuckle boxing at 14,000 deaths per million participants. This is 184 times more deaths per million participants than for modern professional boxing, which has 76 deaths per million participants (according to the same study).
It should be noted that data for the number of fights and deaths from the bare-knuckle era is incomplete, and also that there were many differences in rules and medical care. Bare-knuckle boxing matches were usually fought until one fighter could not continue, with bouts sometimes lasting hours, and a few fighters dying after they were carried to their mark to restart the fight when they would otherwise have been unable to continue. (The London Prize Ring Rules later specifically stated that a fighter must "walk to his own side of the scratch unaided" (emphasis added) or lose the fight.) Bare-knuckle rules also allowed grappling and throws, and some of the deaths were caused by a fighter hitting his head on a stone or rail.
Influence of boxing gloves in other fight sports
Open-fingered and open palm MMA gloves or 'grappling gloves', which are frequently used in mixed martial arts bouts, are not boxing gloves. Similar to the wrist-supporting, closed-thumb, broken-knuckle kempo gloves popularized by Bruce Lee's 1973 movie Enter the Dragon, they provide some padding to the person wearing the glove, but leave the fingers and the palm area open and available for intricate wrestling and grappling maneuvers such as clinch fighting, which are illegal in the sport of modern boxing.
- "British Medical Journal: The Boxing Debate". Bma.org. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
- Dillner L. Boxing should be counted out, says BMA report. BMJ. 1993;306:1561–1562.
- Kim Taylor. "Journal of Combative Sport: Boxing Fatalities, Svinth". Ejmas.com. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
- Kim Taylor. "Journal of Combative Sport: Boxing Fatalities Data, SvinthJack Broughton". Ejmas.com. Retrieved 2013-10-21.