After having talked about the history of mixed martial arts, I wanted to deepen an aspect that I consider important and curious about gloves and their evolution. Strap in for a fascinating journey through the history and evolution of fighting gloves. From humble strips of ox hide to the modern MMA gloves of today, these protective hand coverings have come a long way. We will explore the history of gloves, their transformation into modern-day MMA gloves, and much more! Let’s jump into it and start to understand how fighting gloves have changed throughout history.
How Boxing Gloves Have Changed Throughout History
As MMA has evolved over the years, so too have the gloves worn by fighters. Although we don’t know exactly when the first glove was invented, we have the first historical references in Homer’s Iliad of about 750 B.C., where he already describes forms of hand covers used in boxing in ancient Greece like the “Himantes” which was used as protection. A strip of Oxhide between 3 and 4 meters long which was wrapped several times on the hands and knuckles, also in the Aeneid Virgil around 20 B.C. tells of Entellus who, after his victory, killed the bull with a single blow to the skull with his hands bound with 7 meters of Oxhide and metal inserts.
Sometimes they were worn in the Pankration fight as was included in the matches. Also among the Greeks there was the “Sphairai” which, unlike the Himantes, added sharp blades. In the early days of ancient Greece, ox hide wraps were used to protect fighters’ hands or, Himantes, as referred to in Homer’s Iliad, and would soon evolve into hardened leather gloves with metal sewn in.
Later, the Cestus was introduced by the Romans, which added metal plates, blades, and studs. Sounds brutal, right? Well, being a fighter in Roman times meant that you had to deflect blows from punches and kicks, as well as heavy weaponry being swung at you with full force. Therefore, the Cestus was a necessity to prolong the duration of fights.
The “Cestus” is subsequent and is a form of Ancient Glove made with leather straps but differently elaborated by the Greeks, but also taken up and appreciated by the Romans, the demonstration comes from the Greek Statue in Bronze found at the Quirinal in Rome, of the “Boxer at rest” who wears the Cestus, the latter was much longer and came to hold the forearms allowing the athletes to protect themselves and to Parr the strikes of the opponents, originally derived from the verb “caedere” or to strike.
The Romans didn’t stop to improve the “caestus” by attaching other parts and internal padding, by adding studs, metal pieces and spikes they created the “Myrmex” which made the encounters between soldiers, but most slaves and also between gladiators inside the arenas very spectacular, but which obviously caused innumerable damages and often led to the death of the contenders. These forms of struggle, being also little regulated, became bloody and counterproductive. Therefore, in Rome, hand-to-hand combat forms were banned in 393 A.D.
Subsequently we have not received much news from the dark times of the Middle Ages especially in Europe, but in Asia we have evidence from the Thai culture of Muay Boran the martial art from which derives modern Muay Thai, there the hands and forearms were bandaged with raw hemp ropes, the knots were strategically placed on the knuckles or hard parts and impact to generate as many wounds as possible, once the bandage was finished were immersed in water so that drying the hemp becomes harder and more dangerous. This practice in muay Boran was called kard chuek or muay kaad chuek, in use until 1930 when the rules of muay thai with gloves took over .A modern version of this bandage is still used in Lethwei fighting in Myanmar and Muay thai ceremonies in Thailand.
In the Modern era we find from “noble art” Jack Broughton’s invention in 1743 of the “mufflers” a prototype of a modern glove, made of leather and filled with sheep wool or horsehair, was only 2 OZ and was invented for sparring purposes in the gym, only in 1865 with the rules of the Marquees of Queensbury officially adopted in 1892, we see the first matches with 5 OZ gloves.
Boxing gloves in England in 18th century
In the 18th century, England was a hotbed of fisticuffs, with bare-knuckle boxing matches drawing huge crowds and fighters recklessly throwing down without a care for their safety. As you can imagine, injuries were rampant, and many fighters had to call it quits early due to shattered hands and other severe injuries.
But then, out of the chaos and mayhem, British bare-knuckle fighter Jack Broughton came through with a revolutionary idea – fighting gloves. Dubbed “mufflers,” these gloves were made of leather and boasted a soft lining of horsehair or lamb’s wool, a godsend to fighters looking to train and spar without fear of busted-up hands.
Broughton’s invention was an epic leap forward in boxing history, paving the way for the modern boxing gloves that now protect fighters during fights and sparring.
Standardization of the gloves in 30s years of the 20th century
The sport of boxing had been evolving at breakneck speed, and it wasn’t until the 1930s that another significant shift occurred. Prior to this time, boxing gloves were being created by individual manufacturers, resulting in no standardization in design or weight. The upshot? An overabundance of variation in gloves, which affected the safety and fairness of the sport.
Thankfully, the National Boxing Association (now the World Boxing Association) stepped in to save the day. They regulated the gloves used in professional bouts, introducing rules that standardized their weight and design. This ensured all fighters had an equal chance to compete, regardless of their gloves.
The introduction of standardized gloves was a major turning point for the safety of the sport. It reduced further the risk of serious injuries and made boxing more accessible to a wider audience. Today, boxing gloves are a crucial element of the sport, and their design and weight continue to be regulated to ensure the safety and fairness of the game.
Moving on to Gloves In Modern Mixed Martial Arts
The first MMA gloves were similar to the Kempo gloves as seen in the 1973 film “Enter the Dragon“. The fingerless glove allows a fighter to perform important moves while protecting the hand.
The first to use this tool was the Japanese in the Shooto and PRIDE FC, a curiosity is that in the first UFC, none of the contenders wanted to use any kind of glove except Art Jimmerson who wore only a glove on his left hand for using it on his Jab, strange choice that also characterized the first time of a wearing a glove in UFC.
Today the MMA gloves for professionals are 4 oz and 8 oz semi-pro and are also used for sparring in the gym, but their evolution between Pride and UFC has been substantial:
PRIDE the gloves were closed with laces with thumb protection and single velcro on the wrist, padding on the upper back of the hand. UFC Gloves with double reinforcement on the wrist thumb totally open and no padding on the back of the hand.
- Closed with laces
- Thumb protection
- Single velcro closure on wrist
- Padding on the upper back of the hand
- Double reinforcement on the wrist
- No padding on the back of the hand
- Thumb completely open
While PRIDE gloves were larger and provided more protection for the hand, the thumb constraint and greater thickness between fingers made them less suitable for grapplers. The padding on the back of the hand also made it harder to close the fist. In contrast, the UFC gloves have less padding and less space between fingers, providing greater mobility for the hand and favoring the activity of the grapplers. However, by not inducing the hand to a curved position, the risk of eye pokes has increased.
Since Centurion FC has always applied the latest technology to put the athletes in the best conditions to use their skills in safety, today the evolution is continuous and the Charm of MMA Glove 4 OZ has conquered the world of combat sports, more and more events of Kick Boxing, k1, and Muay Thai, use them to make their matches spectacular and electrify their fans.
Whether it’s boxing, Muay Thai, MMA, or another martial art, it’s important to get the right pair of gloves. When you buy gloves, think about what you will use them for.
In summary, the evolution of fighting gloves has come a long way from the ancient ox hide wraps to the modern MMA glove with improved designs and safety features. The advent of MMA gloves has been a game-changer for the sport, allowing for grappling and holding while still protecting the knuckles. Whether it’s boxing, Muay Thai, or MMA, or just sparring, wearing the right gloves is essential for optimal performance and safety.
Boxing gloves have evolved from strips of oxhide in ancient Greece to modern gloves designed to protect the fighters wearing them.
The first boxing gloves, known as “mufflers,” were introduced in 1743 by British bare-knuckle
fighter Jack Broughton.
Yes, boxing gloves existed in 1805, although they were not standardized and varied widely in design and weight.
Boxing gloves got bigger for safety reasons, to reduce the risk of serious injuries to fighters. The weight and design of gloves used in fights are regulated to this day.