Both boxing and MMA are serious combat sports. They portray some of the world’s greatest fighters and athletes at the highest level of competition, and they’re also both dangerous and effective in self-defense or a street fight.
So who would win in a fight between Boxing vs MMA fighters?
A mixed martial artist is likelier to win in a fight against a boxer. Typically, an MMA fighter has a wider range of skills to use against a boxer who only has their fists. The MMA fighter can land head kicks or takedowns and win more easily.
But not every situation is as clear as people like to make it out to be. Both sides have advantages and legitimate arguments about why their side would win.
Let’s take a closer look at the differences between boxing and MMA to have more info for this comparison.
Differences between Boxing and MMA
The main difference between Boxing and MMA is that a boxer uses only their fists (usually wearing boxing gloves) to attack. A mixed martial artist, however, can use their fists, elbows, knees, and feet to throw attacks and grapple.
The first problem with comparing boxing and MMA, despite both being combat sports, is that they are very different.
Most of the restrictions are on the side of boxing: no full grappling, no usage of the legs or feet, and various other rules.
Many of boxing’s core rules are part of most MMA matches, especially kicking and grappling — and knees and elbows are also used, another no in boxing.
It’s one thing to compare two fighters in the same sport. It’s much different to compare two fighters from different sports.
Boxing matches last a good bit longer than MMA. The three-knockdown rule in boxing also adds another element: you can only go down so many times before you lose.
Finally, you can only hit above the belt in boxing — another rule that MMA does not follow. You can kick the legs, but that doesn’t mean you can low-blow your opponent.
Rules comparisons between Boxing and MMA
The rules and conditions of the fight are the most important part. It’s unlikely that an MMA fighter, however experienced and trained, would have an advantage under boxing rules.
This goes even more so for boxers: they’re not trained, usually, in grappling, striking with the feet or knees, or any ground game.
Watching a boxer trying to fight against certain styles in MMA would be a nightmare for that boxer.
Underground Boxing Conditioning System
By James De Lacy from Sweet Science Of Fighting
A complete systematic strategy for understanding everything about getting into shape for Boxing. You’ll learn how to maximize your gas tank for Boxing, gather automatic calculations for testing yourself and optimize and analyze every step of your progress!
However, free for all rules still give an advantage to the MMA fighter, who does better with fewer restrictions. More of their combat is focused on using their whole body rather than just their hands in a fight.
Ultimately, the rules are arguably the most important part. It would be hard to design a combat system that makes things fair for both boxers and MMA fighters. It’s why the sports are separate: they are not the same.
Because of that, we’ll assume that neither side has an unfair advantage in the rules (stick with me here), and we’ll look at advantages next.
Advantages for a boxer
When it comes to raw above-the-belt offense, boxers are superior.
It’s estimated that a boxer has anywhere near 10 to 35% more punching power than an MMA fighter: a very serious advantage.
Boxers are better when it comes to striking and being on the offense, despite the different styles present in MMA. This is, of course, assuming the MMA fighter cannot grapple, kick, etc.
Boxers also actually have an endurance advantage: on average, an MMA fight that goes for the maximum possible time would go for about 25 minutes.
Twelve three-minute boxing rounds would be around 36 minutes: eleven more than an MMA fighter has to last.
While many fights don’t go this far, some do. On average, a boxing match lasts 5.9 rounds or 17.7 minutes. Meanwhile, a UFC fight lasts only about 9.
So boxers have better offense and better endurance. Where do MMA fighters fit in?
Advantages for an MMA fighter
MMA fighters are far more versatile. While boxers train in one specific way, many MMA fighters often know multiple styles and can use many of those moves in fights.
MMA fighters are far better at disabling or submitting their opponent or catching them with hard hits that might look ‘dirty’ but are incredibly effective.
MMA, while a sport and an attraction, is closer to ‘real’ (street) fighting in some ways because there are fewer restrictions.
So, to sum it up: boxers have slight physical advantages in offense and endurance due to specialized training. However, MMA fighters have flexibility in different fighting styles and are pretty much martial arts experts.
Who would win in a street fight between Boxer and MMA fighter?
Some clear distinctions are in order when deciding who would ultimately win between a boxer and an MMA fighter.
Both fighters are likely to be in peak physical condition, so while the boxer may have a slight advantage with their hands, it shouldn’t be too big.
The answer to this question is two-fold.
First, in my opinion: If a boxer and an MMA fighter fought without restrictions, all things being equal, I think the MMA fighter would win most of the time.
Perhaps the boxer would get a lucky win or two from some good punches or really hard hits, but using your whole body and grappling and other techniques plus kicking is a huge advantage over just punching. It’s too big an advantage.
On the other hand, in a ring under boxing rules, the MMA fighter would not be able to keep up. Tyron Woodley vs Jake Paul comes to mind.
Even though many of these MMA fighters undergo difficult training, they fight with a handicap. They are playing under someone else’s rules.
Even Conor McGregor lost to Floyd Mayweather, and it was because he couldn’t play that high-level of pure boxing.
Newbies to boxing certainly couldn’t keep up with an MMA fighter of almost any level, though. Just having a few tactics in grappling changes the situation easily.
Under boxing rules, boxers are unlikely to lose. Anywhere else, and the MMA fighter has the advantage. That’s just how I see it.
That doesn’t mean the boxer has no chance to win, but he’d be on the back foot in that situation.
So, in conclusion: Boxers have a few slight physical advantages, while MMA fighters are more versatile in their skillets. This plays out well for them in some situations and poorly in others.
It’s all based on context and who is matched against who. Just like any fight!
Joe Bloom is the lead author and editor of MMA Hive. Joe has been a passionate mixed martial artist in training since 2019, having studied Boxing and Muay Thai at BaliMMA and Soma Fight Club, as well as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with RitualsJJ.