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Safety of the Gloves?


davemurphy
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Are The Gloves Used in Professional Boxing Safe and Fair?

 

By Patrick C. English, Esq.

 

Panama Lewis was barred from boxing for life when he removed padding from a glove in the infamous Luis Resto vs. Billy Collins bout. Antonio Margarito’s license was revoked by the California State Athletic Commission and he lost more than a year of his career when his hand wraps were found to be loaded with plaster (though he denied knowledge). It is unlikely that his trainer, Javier Capetillo, will ever work in the United States again.

 

Yet there is a problem with the exact same effect, which is being all but completely ignored by most boxing authorities. This is a health and safety problem which, in my view, is placing boxers at risk and involves the gloves being used. To illustrate this problem, I will give three concrete examples.

 

It has become commonplace in major boxing contests that each side use its own style of gloves. Thus each promoter has been bringing the gloves to be used by the fighters they represent.

 

The first illustration involves the recent Tomasz Adamek vs. Vinny Maddalone bout. Typically, Tomasz Adamek uses the classic-style Everlast gloves. Maddalone chose to use the MX “Puncher’s” style, reportedly designed by Everlast to compete with Reyes. Maddalone’s gloves were apparently factory-packed and opened at the gloving, held immediately after the weigh-in as is the norm in major bouts. Each camp was more concerned with selecting its own gloves than inspecting the other side’s but one pair did not look right. Mention by one observer was made but passed over at the time. However, that observer subsequently pressed the issue with the Commission and the gloves in question were inspected prior to the bout. All agreed that the gloves were hard and seemed to lack padding. They were replaced. Subsequently, in conjunction with the IBF (the organization sanctioning the fight ) and the New Jersey Athletic Control Board, the gloves were “autopsied.” The thin foam had virtually no resistance at all and the horsehair inside was a hard, solid lump. The punching area was significantly harder than another Everlast MX glove which was cut open for comparison or a Reyes, also available for comparison. There was no indication at all that the glove was tampered with but it, in my view, constituted a health and safety hazard no different from the plaster in Mr. Margarito’s wraps.

 

The second illustration involved a bout a few years ago between Shane Mosley and Fernando Vargas. An issue arose regarding the gloves; the gloves sought to be used by Mosley did not match what was specified on the contract for the bout. The Commission held an informal hearing on the matter and Mr. Mosley’s manager explained, in my presence, that the gloves could not be changed because they were specially made and then went on to explain that the specially-made gloves differed from standard gloves, in that padding had been relocated from the fist area to the wrist area. Obviously, assuming that to be true, it would increase hardness of the punching area. Interestingly enough, the issue before the Commission had nothing to do with any concept that the gloves had been “specially made” but obviously, the Commission disallowed the gloves. A postscript to the story is that when a request was made, post-fight, to examine and take the offending pair of gloves apart, they became “lost.”

 

The third illustration involves a title bout held in St Louis, Missouri. After a weigh-in, a normal gloving was held and each side selected gloves, both sides selecting red. The chosen gloves were marked by the Commission. For reasons completely unclear and in violation of the ABC guidelines, the gloves were held overnight by the promoter for one of the fighters, rather than the Commission. When that promoter’s fighter entered the ring, he wore black gloves. When the promoter for the other fighter noticed this, he immediately sensed something was wrong and protested to the Commission. However, the televised bout was about to start and nothing was done. After the bout, there was a cursory review of the gloves but, astoundingly, when a request was made for a full examination of the gloves at the offices of the sanctioning organization for the bout (again, the IBF), the Commission representative (after first indicting they would allow the examination) changed their view and did not allow it. The gloves may or may not have been tampered with; no one will know. The sole reason that there was no legal action over the matter was that the non-offending boxer was subsequently offered bouts far more lucrative than those given to the boxer who wore the offending gloves (and who had won the bout), mooting the point.

 

In my office I have many models of gloves cut apart. There are major and obviously significant differences in the padding.

 

There are three major problems with gloves at the present time. First, other than weight, there are no standards whatsoever in most jurisdictions. There can be little padding covering a hard block of horsehair, as with respect to the Maddalone gloves in the first illustration, or the padding could be shifted from the punching area to the wrist area, as in the Mosley illustration. There has been a proliferation of gloves and styles and it is not unheard of that gloves be specially made (there can be totally proper reasons for this such as abnormally large or small hands, protection of an injury, or even color scheme) but the punching power ought not be altered without defined parameters.

 

Secondly, as far as we are aware, no gloves are now made in the United States. They primarily are made in Mexico, Indonesia, Japan and Pakistan (though there may be other countries as well). Unquestionably, there are quality control problems. Active in this area is Greg Sirb, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Boxing Commission. Uniquely in my experience, he examines the gloves and has reported that he regularly finds gloves which are of inconsistent weight, with stitching problems which can cause cuts and poor workmanship on the attached thumb which can cause injury. A source at one of the glove companies has stated that approximately 15% of gloves do not meet weight standards, which he defined as a 10% divergence from the listed weight. No statistics were reported on the type of manufacturing defect reported in the Maddalone situation but Sirb also reports finding such defects.

 

Finally, we come back to the Mosley example. We will never know whether the gloves referenced to in that example were changed in a way which would have made them unsafe, since they were “lost” (I place this in quotes due to my skepticism) but the fact is that gloves can be specifically manufactured and altered in potentially significant ways.

 

These are no longer the days when every one knew what Reyes gloves were like, what Everlast gloves were like, what Grants were like and what Winnings were like. Everlast now has five different professional models one can purchase and European promoters have reported that European models of Everlast are different still. Grant has two styles. Adidas has entered the field with four styles of gloves. There are other brands on the market as well. As referenced, gloves can be specially made. Compounding the problems with manufacturing defects can render gloves unsafe or gloves can even be tampered with in a way that is not apparent (I refrain from outlining how this can be done, lest a blueprint for cheating be provided).

 

There are two steps which need to be taken. First, the Association of Boxing Commissions needs to set standards for gloves other than merely weight. Adopting the old illustration of gravity, a pound of feathers and a pound of lead may fall at the same rate of speed but I’d certainly rather be hit by the pound of feathers. To protect boxers, the ABC must place parameters on the hardness and resilience of gloves.

 

Secondly, trainers at glovings have to go back to the old practice of physically inspecting their opponent’s gloves. This used to be common but is less so these days and people are far too trusting when the gloves come out of the package. It is the right, for major bouts, for a trainer to inspect the opponent’s gloves at the time of gloving and to voice any objections. This is no less important than watching the hand wrapping and, I would argue, possibly more important. It does not imply that you think your opponent is cheating, particularly since there can be defects in gloves of which they may be unaware. “Trust, but verify” is a sound policy.

 

In sum, greater attention must be paid to this problem.

 

Courtesy: maxboxing.com

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Hmm, interesting letter from Pat English. Beyond the quality of the gloves manufactured today, I've always hated the move to separate gloves because I always believed it to be the champions prerogative with regard to glove selection, part of what came with owning the title (in my mind). But for 15% to be defective according to the manufacturer? That ridiculously high, and that's not even going into what sound like very suspect practices (at best) in the three examples he points to. Yes, I know that Pat English works for Main Events and people are going to point to that and why he chose those three examples, but this is indeed a serious issue.
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Gloves have resulted in more damage to the bodies, faces, brains of fighters and are probably responsible for all the health problems have. In the pre-glove era 1 clean head shot would break your hand and you'd be fucked, so older fights ended up being body shots mainly and a lot of wrestling...Gloves protect hands so they allow fighters to land more clean head shots...
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Gloves have resulted in more damage to the bodies, faces, brains of fighters and are probably responsible for all the health problems have. In the pre-glove era 1 clean head shot would break your hand and you'd be f****d, so older fights ended up being body shots mainly and a lot of wrestling...Gloves protect hands so they allow fighters to land more clean head shots...

 

Its not a subject than can be proven. To quote McGuigan again he said the gloves protect the hands but the larger size means you are more likely to connect with the target area. And I agree with you regarding sustained headshots - though we now have shorter rounds.

 

Anyway, I'm pretty sure a punch from a fist without a glove is harder than with.

 

Plenty died in pre glove matches that are recorded as this comprehensive list from 1732 proves. You don't need to just land on the head to inflict terminal damage.

 

http://ejmas.com/jcs/jcsart_svinth_b_0700.htm

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Gloves have resulted in more damage to the bodies, faces, brains of fighters and are probably responsible for all the health problems have. In the pre-glove era 1 clean head shot would break your hand and you'd be f****d, so older fights ended up being body shots mainly and a lot of wrestling...Gloves protect hands so they allow fighters to land more clean head shots...

 

Its not a subject than can be proven. To quote McGuigan again he said the gloves protect the hands but the larger size means you are more likely to connect with the target area. And I agree with you regarding sustained headshots - though we now have shorter rounds.

 

Anyway, I'm pretty sure a punch from a fist without a glove is harder than with.

 

Plenty died in pre glove matches that are recorded as this comprehensive list from 1732 proves. You don't need to just land on the head to inflict terminal damage.

 

http://ejmas.com/jcs/jcsart_svinth_b_0700.htm

 

I'm not saying we didn't have pre-gloved deaths like some have claimed, and I'm also interested in questioning how the weight divisions has lead to more deaths (dehydration etc) though most long lasting damage is from brain damage, not ruptured spleens and the ilk. I don't think the force would be much different between a clean punch and a gloved fist (again going into MMA, their kicks are probably stronger than boxers punches, though easier to avoid). Shorter rounds still means 36 minutes of landing shots.

 

Though of course I love the sport and don't want to see it out lawed, I'd be very interested to see how none gloved boxing in todays society would work...

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Gloves have resulted in more damage to the bodies, faces, brains of fighters and are probably responsible for all the health problems have. In the pre-glove era 1 clean head shot would break your hand and you'd be f****d, so older fights ended up being body shots mainly and a lot of wrestling...Gloves protect hands so they allow fighters to land more clean head shots...

 

Its not a subject than can be proven. To quote McGuigan again he said the gloves protect the hands but the larger size means you are more likely to connect with the target area. And I agree with you regarding sustained headshots - though we now have shorter rounds.

 

Anyway, I'm pretty sure a punch from a fist without a glove is harder than with.

 

Plenty died in pre glove matches that are recorded as this comprehensive list from 1732 proves. You don't need to just land on the head to inflict terminal damage.

 

http://ejmas.com/jcs/jcsart_svinth_b_0700.htm

 

I'm not saying we didn't have pre-gloved deaths like some have claimed, and I'm also interested in questioning how the weight divisions has lead to more deaths (dehydration etc) though most long lasting damage is from brain damage, not ruptured spleens and the ilk. I don't think the force would be much different between a clean punch and a gloved fist (again going into MMA, their kicks are probably stronger than boxers punches, though easier to avoid). Shorter rounds still means 36 minutes of landing shots.

 

Though of course I love the sport and don't want to see it out lawed, I'd be very interested to see how none gloved boxing in todays society would work...

 

I know what you mean and alot of factors other than the gloves come into play - like no.of rounds, medical supervision, and like you say the weight issues.

 

On weight I have wondered about the recentish change in weigh in times and whether that makes a difference. But more from larger guys being able to stay in lower divisions and rehydrate and end up alot bigger in the ring.

 

I can see your point about the larger gloves sustaining a beating where as in UFC a fight can end in an early KO- though those MMA guys have alot of training advantages and diet, nutrition etc over the bare knuckle guys and they often went round after round and no kicks to rely on. Could just mean that MMA guys ain't really that tough. grin//

 

Its a huge subject and tbh I don't think there is any conclusive answer.

 

Think it was Tony Tubbs who said that Tyson hits you like he isn't wearing any gloves.

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Pretty sure someone must have measured punches with and with out on those pad things...be interesting to see the results, I reckon at most it'll be a 5% difference...

 

Do MMA guys, remember some train with Freddie Roach, not have similar chances to land on the head as boxers? A with title fights being 5x5 in UFC thats a lot of head shots, some of which can be landed whilst an opponent is downed...

 

Be interesting for someone less lazy than me take a decent look into it all...

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Pretty sure someone must have measured punches with and with out on those pad things...be interesting to see the results, I reckon at most it'll be a 5% difference...

 

Do MMA guys, remember some train with Freddie Roach, not have similar chances to land on the head as boxers? A with title fights being 5x5 in UFC thats a lot of head shots, some of which can be landed whilst an opponent is downed...

 

Be interesting for someone less lazy than me take a decent look into it all...

 

Sometimes when the MMA guys are hitting while on the floor it looks WWF like - they are slapping more than when Joe Calzaghes hands went. grin//

 

Another thing to study, if you take todays boxers, is the different weights - like does a Heavyweight receive more damage than a Flyweight as the thought is that the lighter weights throw and land more punches.

 

But Yes, I'm lazy aswell as I've had that fantastic list I posted and have only studied it briefly - fantastic list!

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My eyes hurt far too much to read the list, but it looks like there was significiantly fewer in 150 years pro-glove than in the last 50 years with gloves...last 50 years seems to have 2+ a year and thats with the additional medical stuff....

 

You have to take into account that records now are alot better than the 18th century.

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Not sure about the slightly dismissive nature to some of the comments.

 

I am always astounded that there are no real controls on the gloves fighters wear. If your a javelin thrower, you cant front load your javelin to make it go further. There are regulations. If your a golfer, you cant increase the grove size on your wedges to increase spin. There are regulations. The same should be the case with boxing.

 

The whole point "should" be that all equipment is on a level playing field going into the fight, and then the stronger, more skilled, or more strategic opponent will win (theoretically).

 

Always thinking about whether someone has loaded/tampered with their gloves when the two fighters square up just leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

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