Boxing Gloves – History and Evolution
Hands down, boxing has to be one the most popular combat sports in the world. The fights are always intense, and there are lots of emotions involved. It's always the hype that brings a crazy following to the game or sport. Boxing, for sure, beats other sports by creating hype about every fight where the audience witnesses a rush of adrenaline with every punch their favourite pugilist throws.
Boxing is the 2nd most popular sport in the world among young people, according to research from GWI. In a series that charts the growth of today’s sporting markets, boxing came second, thanks largely to a boost in interest and an engagement among young adults who are increasingly following the sport in large numbers.
Boxing without boxing gloves seems out of question but do you really think that this boxing equipment was always part of the sport? Boxing gloves did not emerge in the space. They do have a history and if you are interested to know the evolution of this boxing equipment, then keep reading.
If you are a boxing enthusiast, this might have intrigued you that what boxing equipment pugilists had donned about 5000 years back to protect their hands? After all, knocking out the opponent by punching him is central to boxing; that's the whole idea behind this combat sport. Modern boxing gloves wore by present-day boxers bear only a slight resemblance to those adorned by ancient Greeks. Back at that time, boxers would cover their hands with the purpose to increase the intensity of strikes, and not for the purpose of protection. Today, you’ll see that both boxing and MMA gloves are considered as boxing protective gear, so yes, boxing gloves did evolve both in design and function. Let me walk you through this fascinating history of boxing gloves in combat sports.
Boxing Gloves in Ancient Time
While we may not know the exact date of the origination of boxing gloves, but we can say for sure that these were used by the fighters and were famous enough to get discussed in Homer’s Iliad, which dates back to 650 BC. As Homer narrated them, back in those days, fighters used to cover their hands with oil-softened oxhide leather strips, known as himantes.
A soft thong or strap of ox hide wrapped around the hands to strengthen their fingers and wrists worn by boxers in ancient Greece.
Source: English Encyclopedia
Ancient Greek fighters would wrap these coverings across their knuckles, and these coverings had loops that went around the fingers. But surprisingly, the portrayal of Homer's combat gloves is different from the one that Virgil described in the Aeneid. As per Virgil, the strips were more alike gauntlet; an armoured glove that produced blow with such a force that Entellus could defeat a bull with one hard blow.
Who was Entellus?
Entellus was a Trojan or Sicilian hero from whom the town of Entella in Sicily was believed to have received its name. He was a friend of the Trojan king Acestes.
The tendency towards brutality, which was typical of early Greeks, was further demonstrated in the Roman version of combat gloves. As we know, these coverings were known as cestus and sometimes tailored with blades or spikes. Cestus was used by the boxers, both ancient Greeks and Romans, in the earliest times.
A hand covering of leather bands often loaded with lead or iron and used by boxers in ancient Rome.
Source: Merriam Webster
Cestus was more like a weapon than a protective sports gear. Unlike the boxing gloves worn by the boxers today, these metal stud-laden covers served no purpose to protect the fighter or his opponent. Cestus functioned like brass knuckles and was designed to double the power of the blow and to block them. This was a major attribute back then because fights were mostly over in one blow. And this isn’t something utterly surprising considering that cestus had metal blades on them.
Boxing Gloves from The Middle Ages
When you move forward to the Middle ages (also famously called the dark ages), history seems a blur, which means very little is known about the combat gloves used in that era. There are not many written accounts to highlight anything specific from this period. A brief analysis of fistic sports points out a shift towards weapons-based contests. However, it is very implausible that the discipline wiped out completely from this period, because boxing did resurface in England in the seventeenth century. Also, organised amateur boxing formally started in 1880.
With the fall of the Roman Empire, boxing came to an abrupt end. It resurfaced in 17th century England, and organised amateur boxing officially began in 1880.
That era was certainly dark for Europe, but if we look further East, the documented evidence tells us that fistic sports were still being followed. How do we know that? Well, Muay Boron, which literally means ancient boxing, and which is also a pioneer of now-famous Muay-Thai, is an example. Though the accounts regarding the gloves fighters used during that era vary, however, there is a broad consensus on one model. It is reported that early Muay Thai combatants used hemp rope tied in knots at intervals. Think about hand wraps, but obviously far more primitive version. The accounts of hemp cloth soaked in glass are deemed untrue.
Boxing Gloves in the Modern Era
Finally, let’s about how boxing gloves took a padded form. In 743, English Jack Broughton introduced his brainchild "mufflers". But these mufflers were initially used only for sparring, but it is interesting to note that by then, he aimed to used them to effectively save his students from the inconvenience of getting hurt.
It is thought that Broughton's mufflers design was based on ancient Greek 'cestus' except for the difference which laid in the padding. While cestus has more resemblance with a weapon used in hand-to-hand combat in the arenas, Broughton incorporated enough padding into the mufflers just so it can soften the blow. Instead of using leather, the padding for the gloves was used either lamb wool or horsehair. Mostly Gloves were skin tight and weighed only two ounces. It was in October 1818 that Broughton's mufflers, as popularly known, were used in a fight between two unknown English fighters in France.
In 1865, when Marquis of Queensbury Rules were drafted, gloves became compulsory and were formally accepted in 1892. These rules were officially seen to be followed in the massive heavyweight bout between Jim Corbett and John L. Sullivan. The boxing gloves also increased in weight, and both fighters wore gloves weighed 5 oz. While the rules were followed in the fights before, this encounter gathered public attention on a large scale and was indeed remembered as an international phenomenon. This helped a great deal in establishing the wearing of gloves as a lifeblood of the modern boxing world.
The Boxing scene has changed ever since the introduction of boxing gloves as a means of protective gear. As we see it now, the weight of the boxing gloves has increased for safety reasons. It starts from 8 ounces and goes as further as 16 ounces.
MMA, which is a fairly modern discipline in combat sports, has also seen extensive use of gloves. MMA gloves are slightly different from boxing gloves in the sense that the former weighs 4-6 ounces and do not cover fingers so that the fighter can perform grappling tactics.
No matter which combats sports spark your interest to get into the ring, it is extremely important that you choose the right pair of gloves for your safety. Before buying them, stop and think for which purpose you'll be using them. For instance, for hitting the punch bag or focus pads for training, for sparring, or for the bout. To save yourself from the fuss of searching for premium quality boxing gear, I highly recommend all my readers to check out Xn8 Sports website.