Boxing gloves have been around in one form or another almost since the beginning of boxing 3,000 years ago. The ancient Greeks used to wrap their hands in strips of leather in an attempt to protect their hands. But there was no padding in these early boxing gloves, only leather to protect the boxer’s hands. Most people mistakenly assume that boxing gloves have always been there to protect the injured person. But the bones in your hand are very small and fragile. The padding provided by boxing gloves protects the person swinging just as much as the person on the other end of the swing.
When the Romans chose boxing as a sport from the Greeks, they unfortunately turned it into a life-or-death type gladiator event. They continued to use Greek-style leather strips as gloves. However, they stiffened the leather and attached metal buttons and rivets to the ribbons. As a result, in many ancient Roman boxing matches, the loser would end up dead or permanently disfigured.
This was too wild even for the ancient Romans. They made boxing illegal in all Roman cities and provinces in 30 BC. This aversion to boxing was so great in the Roman Empire that the ban lasted through the entire Western civilization for more than 1,500 years.
When boxing finally re-emerged in the late 17th century, it was the bare-knuckle type. However, due to the more civilized approach taken to boxing, it wasn’t long before boxing gloves came into fashion as well. This time, the padding has been added. Jack Broughton, who was a British boxing champion in the early 18th century, is considered the inventor of the modern lined boxing glove. However, these padded leather boxing gloves in the 1600s and 1700s were only used in practice and in informal boxing matches. Major public boxing matches were still hollow events.
But people were dying in these naked matches, so something had to be done. Strangely enough, however, the boxing rules set in the eighteenth and much of the nineteenth century did not require or mention the use of boxing gloves. Boxers were very reluctant to part with the purity of their bare fists. As a result, boxing was banned in many parts of the world in the 19th century and gained its unnatural reputation that continues today.
The beginning of the end of bare-knuckle boxing came in 1866 when John Graham Chambers published in London the now-famous Queensberry Rules. Among other things, these rules require the use of padded boxing gloves for all boxing matches. By the beginning of the 20th century, the Queensberry Rules were being used everywhere and bare boxing had disappeared from established boxing events.
The last Naked Boxing Champion was John L. Sullivan. He lost his championship in 1892 to the first Marquis of Queensberry Rules champion, “Gentleman Jim” Corbett. Not surprisingly, the bout was held under Queensberry rules and both fighters wore padded boxing gloves.
Today’s boxing gloves are determined by weight. The heavier the boxing gloves, the safer it is for both contestants. It’s not just because they’re more padded. The higher weight means that boxers cannot swing as fast as they could with lighter gloves.