The boxing gloves are one of the most recognizable symbols of combat sports. First introduced in the 1770s, the “mufflers,” as they were called, were used only for training. The first mandatory padded gloves in boxing were introduced in 1867 with the acceptance of the Queensbury rules. Since then, padded gloves have been used in almost all striking arts.
The boxing gloves were adapted by Muay Thai in the 1920s (before that, fighters wore hemp ropes), but over time they were altered to be better suited for the needs of Thai boxing.
The first big difference is boxing gloves have padding concentrated around the knuckles. In contrast, Muay Thai gloves have padding more evenly distributed. The second is the palm design, which in the Thai glove is made more open to allow better flexibility for clinching and catching kicks.
Although the differences are subtle, they deserve to be noted, so keep reading to understand what separates boxing and Muay Thai gloves.
It’s time to look at the differences between the two types of gloves in more detail.
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As I highlighted above, the padding is the most apparent difference between boxing and Thai gloves. All gloves are measured in ounces (oz) which is a measurement for weight, but a 12 oz boxing and a 12 oz Muay Thai glove will have very different padding while having the same weight.
In boxing, only punches are allowed, and logically the most padding is concentrated around the knuckles and much less on the sides. Boxers have to block only punches landing with heavily padded knuckles, making too much foam on the top of the hand senseless.
On the other hand, Muay Thai fighters have to defend kicks, knees, and elbows, putting their hands in danger. This is why more padding is added to both sides of the glove and the back of the glove, intended to help cushion the heavy impact.
The next big difference is the palm structure of the glove. The palm in boxing is used only for parrying, but in Muay Thai, the clinching game and the ability to catch and hold kicks require a bit more flexibility and grip strength.
The boxing glove is more rigid and designed to keep a tightly closed fist with less effort at all times, hence the more overall rounded design. The Thai gloves need to provide the extra flexibility required to open the palm and have more control in the clinch. The same goes for the ability to hold kicks and deliver strong counterattacks off them.
Thumb placement follows the same principles as before. The boxing gloves keep the fist rounded, and the thumb needs to be out of the way. The thumb is the deciding factor for a better grip, so Muay Thai gloves shape the palm and thumb to facilitate that.
Another difference comes in the form of wrist support. The wrist is very vulnerable when punching, and getting hurt by an ill-placed shot is not uncommon. The hand wraps help immensely with wrist protection. Still, the boxing glove also minimizes wrist motion with its much longer wrist/forearm fit. In some cases, the glove can reach halfway up the forearm.
The Muay Thai glove takes the opposite approach. Securing a good “Thai plum” in the clinch is nearly impossible without some flexibility in the wrist. For this reason, generally, Muay Thai gloves are much shorter.
There is no difference in the materials boxing, and Muay Thai gloves are made from. Higher quality offerings for both sports come in cowhide, and mid-tier versions are synthetic leather. The lowest cost gloves are from vinyl, but you will have difficulty finding Muay Thai gloves in this price range.
Thai gloves are manufactured predominantly by famous brands like Yokkao, Fairtex, and Twins. They are handmade from genuine leather, then imported, making them much more expensive.
On the other hand, Boxing gloves are much widely produced in the west and vary from almost unusable cheap ones up to 700+ dollar models.
There are many different types of gloves that fall under the category of boxing gloves. The four main categories are training gloves, bag gloves, sparring gloves, and competition gloves. The names indicate the intended use without too much explanation, but we will skim over them. Aside from these categories, the wrist enclosure can use either velcro straps or laces.
Training gloves are all-around gloves suitable for pad work, heavy bag sessions, and partner drills. They are enclosed with Velcro because it’s easy to take on and off. Many practitioners in boxing, Muay Thai, and kickboxing have one pair of general training gloves for all purposes and one pair of sparring gloves. That’s it.
Bag gloves are smaller, and thinner gloves with an open thumb are used explicitly for bag work. Hitting the bag with them conditions the hands and promotes better technique and hand alignment. But the danger of injuring the hands with these traditional bag gloves is greater, and most practitioners do not use them.
Sparring gloves are always bigger, and most gyms allow sparring only in 16 oz. The point is to provide maximum protection for both parties while allowing more aggression and power. The padding is more extensive and softer, especially on the knuckles.
Competition gloves are more compact and are designed to deal more damage to the opponent while protecting the hands. The padding is stiffer, and most of the time, they are enclosed to the hand by laces.
This hand enclosure method provides the best fit for the hand, but it’s difficult to put on without help. Most boxing matches are fought in 10 oz competition gloves. There are strict regulations in competitive boxing, both amateur and professional.
Different Types of Muay Thai Gloves
The types of Muay Thai gloves mirror their boxing cousins. They are divided by training, bag, sparring, and competition types repeating the same formula described above. Of course, the sparring and competition gloves differ from boxing in all of the already described aspects to better fit Muay Thai specifics.
Again you pretty much need two pairs of gloves- one for general training and one big pair of sparring gloves. Usually, you don’t have to worry about competition gloves. The venue or organizer often provides them.
Can You Use Boxing Gloves for Muay Thai?
Most boxing gloves will work just fine for Muay Thai. All the differences are subtle enough that you will not notice much difference if you haven’t been using different types of gloves for years. The clinching will be tougher with regular boxing gloves, but it’s still manageable.
If you are training in a Muay Thai-specific gym and intend on competing, though, it’s a good idea to buy Muay Thai gloves and get used to them. They will surely give you the best experience in the art of 8 limbs.
Yes, and there isn’t much that will bother you doing so. You will have more protection on all sides of the hand for blocking but a little less stability on the wrist. Another downside of Thai-style gloves is that the padding distribution makes them a bit bulkier and more difficult to find openings around a tight guard.
The answer if you’re training pure boxing or Muay Thai is obvious. Buy a pair that is specific to the sport. People have come up with the best characteristics corresponding to the demands of the sport, and there is no point in not using them.
Suppose you want to buy the best possible pair of Muay Thai style gloves. In that case, you can use our in-depth Best Muay Thai Gloves review here, curated by professional Muay Thai Fighter and Bangkok Trainer of the Year, Steve Pipe.
For boxing gloves, there are many great options. Proven brands like Cleto Reyes, Grant, Title, and Winning are top of the line, and you won’t be disappointed choosing any of them.
But if you train MMA, you may have a dilemma. Striking sparring in MMA training is done with boxing gloves, so you definitely need a pair. Thai-style gloves may be a better fit because they make catching kicks and clinching easier.
But depending on where you live, Thai style gloves may be hard to come by or too expensive. On top of that, many brands like Venum produce gloves that are not specific to boxing or Muay Thai, so they are excellent overall. Many MMA fighters train with Venum and Hayabusa, which have climbed to the top of the market for good reason.
When choosing boxing vs. Muay Thai gloves, you should always first consider your position. If you train boxing, go for pure boxing gloves, and if you train Muay Thai… you get it. But don’t worry too much about it. Any good-quality boxing glove will work well enough for any kind of striking training.
It’s better to buy good quality gloves that you feel comfortable with than choosing them purely by their marketed “style.” There are many brands and even more models, so take your time. Use our guides wisely.