Boxing vs. Wrestling: Which One Is Better?

December 20, 2021

Boxing and Wrestling are among the oldest forms of combat that have been around since ancient times. These two are often seen as the most effective systems for striking and grappling. But if we set Boxing against Wrestling, which one is better and why?

Boxing is one of the most popular combat sports in which fighters compete using only their hands. Wrestling is a grappling art that doesn’t include any striking at all. The goal is to take the opponent down from a standing position using takedowns and subdue them on the ground.

In this article, I will explain Boxing vs. Wrestling in detail. In the end, you will learn which one is better and why.

What Is Boxing?

Boxing is one of the oldest and most popular forms of combat well spread worldwide. It is a very popular combat sport where athletes compete using only their hands as weapons.

The origins of Boxing go back to ancient Egypt around the 2nd and 3rd millennia BCE. Many cave drawings show people of that time boxing against each other in this area. They wrapped their hands in gauze, and some drawings show spectators as well.

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However, Boxing as a combat sport emerged in ancient Greece at the famous 23rd Olympiad in 688 BCE. At the time, Boxing was called “pugilism,” and the matches used to be very brutal due to the lack of rules and protective gear.

This would change in Great Britain with the birth of the famous “Queensberry Rules” in 1878. The majority of the rules put together back then are still in place today, and the man who came up with these rules was John Chamber. This was a crucial moment in boxing history because, from that point, the sport would start to rise all over the world.

What Is Wrestling?

Wrestling is also one of the oldest forms of combat, where the entire focus is on grappling. It is a very popular sport and a part of the Olympic Games in modern times. It has a long history, with its origins going back to 15,000 years ago in ancient Egypt, India, and Babylon.

But like Boxing, wrestling as a combat sport first appeared in ancient Greece at the famous Olympiads. Later on, the Romans would borrow Wrestling from the Greeks and customize it to create their own style. This is why there are two main Olympic styles:

Freestyle wrestling — is a style where wrestlers can grab the opponent both above and below the waist to score or defend against takedowns.

Greco-Roman wrestling — is a style where the holds below the waist are not allowed. The emphasis is on throws since wrestlers can’t perform trips or grab the legs to score takedowns.

However, Wrestling is also present in all parts of the world, and there are plenty of other styles like:

  • Folkstyle Wrestling
  • Folk Wrestling
  • Shuai Jiao
  • Sumo
  • Catch Wrestling

Boxing vs. Wrestling — What Is The Difference?

boxing vs wrestling difference

Boxing and Wrestling are two different forms of combat that do not have much in common. One focuses entirely on striking while the other, Wrestling, is all about grappling. So these two differ a lot from each other in just about every aspect.

History

The earliest boxing records go back to ancient Egypt, present-day Iraq, around the 2nd and 3rd millennia BCE. Some other evidence of Boxing could also be found in India and on Minoan Crete. However, the sport of Boxing emerged in Ancient Greece around 688 BCE.

Wrestling is one of the oldest forms of combat, and its origins go back 15,000 years ago in Ancient Egypt and Babylon. Inside the tombs, archeologists have found many drawings showing people of that time wrestling against each other.

What’s more, these drawings show people using the same holds and moves from modern Wrestling. It became a popular sport in Ancient Greece and early Olympic games like Boxing.

Emphasis and strategies

Boxing is a combat sport that looks very simple at first sight. Boxers use only their hands as weapons to hurt the opponent inside the ring. The emphasis is on aggression and utilizing a methodical approach to win a match by points or knockout. Though the concept is simple, Boxing is also called “Sweet Science,” as fighters need to be strategic and systematic to win a match.

Wrestling is a combat sport where the main goal is to pin the opponent onto their back to win a match. Wrestlers can achieve this using various takedown techniques, pins, locks, and holds.

It doesn’t include any striking, and the focus is on the grappling aspect. It’s fair to say that you won’t learn how to fight in training, but rather how to win matches under the rules.

Techniques

Boxing techniques are simple and easy to understand. The main goal is to learn how to mix footwork, blocks angles, head movement with punches to attack or defend. Here is a list of the most popular boxing techniques:

Wrestling techniques are complex and very hard to learn. Going for a takedown mixes timing, weight distribution, grip, positioning, and many other elements. Here are the most popular techniques:

  • Takedowns (single/double leg)
  • Positions (rear-mount, north-south, half-guard, turtle)
  • Pins (half nelson, cross-face cradle, chicken wing)
  • Trips, throws, and sweeps

Rules

Boxing rules are pretty straightforward and do not differ much between the promotions. There is a difference between amateur and pro boxing, notably regarding protective gear and the number of rounds. But the general rules are the same:

  • Pro boxing matches have 12 rounds
  • Each round is 3 minutes long, and there is a 1-minute break between
  • Boxers can strike the head or the body area above the waist. 
  • Matches can end via decision, knockout, or disqualification
  • Three judges sit beside the cage scoring the fight, and one referee oversees the ring’s action.

Wrestling rules are complex. The main objective is to pin the opponent onto their back or outscore them by winning more points. Here are the general rules of Wrestling:

  • Matches take place on a mat at least 9 meters (30 feet) in diameter.
  • Matches have two periods (rounds), each lasting 3 minutes and a 30s break between.
  • Wrestlers can win a match by a technical fall, points, or by pinning their opponent. 
  • Wrestlers get 2 points for a takedown, 1 for escape, 2 for reversal, and penalty points for breaking the rules.

Boxing vs. Wrestling For Self Defense

Boxing vs. Wrestling For Self Defense

Both Boxing and Wrestling are very practical for self-defense. But it’s fair to say that boxing skills fit better within the “rules” of street fighting. The main reason is that punches are the most common attack once a fight breaks out.

You will never see an average person going for a double leg takedown or throwing a head kick. No, throwing a punch is a natural reaction and the fastest and easiest way to hurt the person standing in front.

That said, Boxing is close to ideal for defending, countering, or attacking using your hands. Not a single martial art or a combat system out there is better. Boxers spend their entire time learning how to use their hands as weapons which gives them a significant advantage in a fight. Their automatic reactions, timing, feeling for distance are the best.

Boxers know how to fight at all ranges when it comes to stand-up, and it doesn’t matter where the fight occurs. They don’t need a lot of space to operate, making them capable of fighting in the bar, parking lot, or any other place.

On the other hand, Wrestling works well on the streets where most people don’t know how to grapple or defend against takedowns. Throwing a punch is natural, but grappling is all about technique and leverage. One must spend many years learning techniques, distributing weight, positioning, and many other skills to know how to grapple.

And on top of that, most street fights are chaotic brawls where there is a lot of grabbing and pulling. Though this is a bit chaotic, it is where wrestlers feel like fish in the water. They need to grab just a single part of your body to take the fight to the ground, secure a top position, and that’s game over.

The best thing about Wrestling on the streets is that it allows you to win a fight without hurting the attacker. Yes, you can pick someone up and slam them down to the ground. These moves can cause many injuries and even be lethal in some cases.

But as a skilled wrestler fighting an average person, you don’t have to do that. A simple takedown and a dominant position on the ground are often enough for you to win a fight.

Boxing vs. Wrestling for MMA

Boxing vs. Wrestling for MMA

Wrestling plays a much more significant role in modern MMA fighting. In fact, one study has shown that Wrestling has produced the most UFC champions out of all martial arts. On the other side, Boxing is one of the most critical aspects of cage fighting when it comes to striking. But Wrestling clearly has an edge, and here is a brief explanation of why.

First of all, wrestlers are the ones who choose where the fight takes place. It doesn’t matter if the opponent is a skilled boxer or BJJ fighter; it’s tough to stop wrestlers from doing what they know best.

Let’s look at Wrestling and Boxing in MMA. The biggest difference is the amount of time fighters from both arts need to learn how to defend against attacks from the opposite fighter.

The thing is, wrestlers can quickly learn blocks, how to check kicks, and counter these attacks with takedowns. They can learn this in 6 months on average. But boxers need to spend years working hard to learn how to grapple. Knowing how to defend a takedown or get back to your feet is more complex than learning to block strikes.

On top of that, wrestlers are physically very strong, explosive, and have insane cardio. Most prefer to overwhelm the opponent with forward pressure, relentless pace, and strong top control. The biggest downside is that Wrestling doesn’t teach you how to finish the fight.

Boxing skills are crucial when it comes to stand-up. In fact, many MMA experts and coaches suggest that the mix of elite Wrestling and boxing skills is ideal for MMA. What Boxing brings to the table is superb footwork, head movement, and advanced punching combos.

It won’t teach you how to grapple, kick, or defend against chokes or joint locks, but it would teach you how to land a well-placed knockout blow.

Boxing vs. Wrestling — Who Would Win In A Street Fight?

boxing vs wrestling street fight

The answer depends on many factors, but it’s fair to say that wrestlers have better chances of beating boxers. Of course, there are hundreds of different scenarios where the fight can go both ways. But overall, wrestlers are superior to boxers for one simple reason.

To begin with, let’s acknowledge that most fights on the streets start on the feet. This is where boxers have a solid chance of catching a wrestler coming in and knocking them out. In the end, wrestlers do not learn how to block strikes. Once a wrestler moves forward, they have to accept that a boxer will land a clean shot. In most cases, they would have to absorb a clean strike to close the distance, get a hold of a boxer, and it is all over from that point.

Skilled wrestlers need to grab just a single part of your body or even a part of clothing, and you are going for a ride down. Once they go for a takedown, trip, or throw, skilled boxers would react the same way as ordinary people who are not trained in any combat system.

You can be the next Canelo Alvarez or Mike Tyson, but this won’t help you much in a fight against wrestlers. Grappling is all about technique, weight distribution, positioning, and it takes years to develop these skills.

Things get even worse when a wrestler secures a top position to do whatever they want. Once again, boxers can’t use sheer force to get back to their feet. They must learn exact procedures.

So overall, wrestlers would beat boxers 8 out of 10 times in a street fight. Their chances go even higher if the fight is in a closed space like a bar or a room.

Boxing vs. Wrestling — Which One Is Harder To Learn?

Wrestling is much, much harder to learn than Boxing. Don’t get us wrong here; becoming good at Boxing is not a walk in the park. In fact, it’s the total opposite. But wrestling techniques are complex, tough to learn, and physically more demanding.

First of all, boxing training is cardio intense as the goal is to prepare for a 12-round fight, 36 minutes in total. But as far as techniques are concerned, Boxing is beginner-friendly and relatively simple.

You won’t have difficulty learning all the basics, like stances and combos. From 3 to 6 months of training, beginners need to master all the fundamentals and start sparring.

They need one more year before they can start competing on the amateur level and 2 or 3 years before they can turn pro. In total, boxers need around one year to learn how to fight and 2–3 years before they start competing.

Most wrestlers start their journey in high school. They need to train for around 2–3 years to become competitive and reach an intermediate level. Next, they have to work hard for another four years to become advanced wrestlers and compete internationally. In total, it takes around seven years to become an international wrestler.

Boxing vs. Wrestling — Which One Is Better For You?

boxing vs wrestling who would win

Boxing and Wrestling are two completely different forms of combat that do not have much in common. That said, making a final decision about which one is better for you should not be that hard at all.

Boxing should be your choice if you are a fan of striking and want to learn everything about actual combat. It is one of the best forms of combat in self-defense because training includes a lot of sparring, and its techniques are efficient in real life.

Especially when you think that punches are the primary weapon in a street fight. On top of that, training is cardio intense and often seen as a full-body workout that would get you in top shape in a very short period. Boxing should be your choice if you are in your 20s or 30s.

On the other side, Wrestling is an effective martial art and a very popular combat sport. It teaches you all about how to take the opponent down and hold it in the bottom position.

Although it is oriented towards competition, it trains you for real combat. Its techniques work well in street fighting. However, most people join wrestling at a young age, so if you are in your 20s or 30s, you might have difficulty fitting in.

About the author 

Tomislav Zivanovic

Since 2017, Tomi has been working within the martial arts media, writing unique and creative articles about martial arts, and covering the most famous combat sports events. He works with some of the biggest martial arts blogs and websites like Middleeasy and Martial Arts Unleashed.


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