Do Boxers Have To Register Their Hands? (Incl Mike Tyson)

MMA Hive is reader supported. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Learn more ›.

There’s this saying that goes around. I’m sure you’ve heard phrases like “Bruce Lee’s hands had to be registered as lethal weapons.

WOAH. This guy must have been badass. Sorry to burst your windpipe, but it isn’t true.

Professional boxers do not have to register their hands as lethal weapons because no governing body or law requires it. It’s always been a myth.

There are some scenarios in court where a fighter’s hands could be considered deadly weapons.

To learn more about what is fact from fiction on the topic, keep reading.

Are boxers hands considered weapons?

A boxer’s hands could be considered lethal weapons in a court of law if used to inflict serious damage to another person. But in general, a boxer doesn’t need to register their hands as a lethal weapon because there is no law requiring it.

I’m sure, like me, you’d agree that the hands of a professional boxer are pretty lethal.

But do boxers have to register their hands? Registering parts of your body as lethal weapons isn’t true – it’s a myth!

So where the heck does it come from? Two places:

Joe Louis

The first one is Joe Louis (Who the hell is Joe Louis?). Joe was a Heavyweight Boxing Champion and was one of the boxers of his time to bring a police officer to the weigh-ins and have his hands registered as “deadly weapons” before the fight.

Joe Louis
Joe Louis

It was all a big publicity stunt! And it worked. We’re still using this idea today even though it’s a complete myth.

⭐️ Bonus: Learn how to develop lethal hands with Boxing Fundamentals!

World War II

The second place this myth comes from is post-World War II in Japan.

Because of the backlash against Japan, where martial arts were practiced, there was a complete ban on martial arts.

Not only that but known martial artists were logged in records to keep an eye on them and stop them from practicing.

So there isn’t any truth to any boxer or martial artist needing to register their hands as lethal weapons. A mix of publicity stunts and hear-say has kept this myth alive.

Can your hands be classified as deadly weapons?

If you have a high level of skill in using your hands to inflict damage, then they could be considered a potentially deadly weapon in a court of law. Any experienced boxer or martial artist could suffer the wrong end of the law if they inflict serious damage.

We’ve answered the question do boxers have to register their hands (which is a resounding no) but they still could be classified as weapons if they are used as it.

Enjoying this article? Share it with your friends:

There have been examples of court cases where a boxer has been convicted of a crime for using their hands as a deadly weapon.

In Texas, an experienced mixed martial artist was found guilty of aggravated assault due to their experience with their hands:

Thus, when viewed in a light most favorable to the State, we conclude that the State presented substantial evidence of each element of AWDWISI, and that Defendant’s hands, feet, and teeth were deadly weapons for the purposes of AWDWISI. Furthermore, we are reminded that the jury is the best determinant of whether, under the circumstances, Defendant’s use of his hands, fists, and teeth were likely to cause death or serious bodily injury.


If you happen to be involved in a fight and you have significant boxing or martial arts experience, you could find yourself on the guilty end of a jury.

Pick your fights wisely!

Are boxing gloves considered weapons?

Boxing gloves are not considered weapons by any law. Boxing gloves help the wearer to protect their hands whilst also making the sport of boxing more visually enjoyable. It’s easier to hit your target with a bigger surface area.

The bigger your hands are, the easier it is for you to hit your target and “let your hands go”.

Is boxing more dangerous with gloves?

As most students, or even fans, of the sport of boxing, will know: boxing gloves’ main function is to protect the wearer’s hands.

But boxing gloves can be more dangerous to your opponent than being hit with a bare fist.

If you hit someone with your bare fists, you’re less likely to be able to transfer as much power.

Without the protection of the glove, you’ll be very aware that your hands are much more likely to receive damage themselves. This is likely going to cause you to pull your shots more.

Imagine punching a brick wall with your bare fist right now. Then imagine doing the same whilst wearing a boxing glove.

You’d probably only want to do the second, right? (Unless you kinda cray-cray)


Using your bare fists as weapons can cause them significant damage. Resulting in soft tissue injury and even broken bones.

If you use your fists against a hard object, it’s going to cause problems (YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE A BAD TIME!).

So a boxing glove will protect your hands pretty nicely. As well as your wrists, too, in some gloves.

It will add a new degree of confidence in a strike because there is a clear reduced impact against the bones and muscles in your hand.

But for your opponent, boxing gloves could actually be worse for them.

When you are wearing boxing gloves and have added protection and confidence with it, you’ll let your hands go more often.

That’s going to mean more heavy strikes to the head for your sparring partner.

When the head is struck suddenly with a strong force like a heavy punch, it rattles the brain and can cause it to come into contact with the inner skull.

Sometimes if the brain jolts into the inner skull suddenly, it can cause blackouts.

Do this enough times and it can result in permanent brain damage. So just try not to take too many big blows to the head, friends!

Do boxing gloves do more damage?

Wearing padding on your hands isn’t only for your own or your opponent’s protection.

Having gloves on can actually help you to transfer more power. Deal more damage. And be more successful in your strikes.

A great example of this is the sport of MMA. Did you know that the UFC began without any gloves?

(As well as no weight classes, which is crazy! But a story for another time)

It’s only after years of the sport being alive that more protection and rules were introduced. Like weight classes and the MMA protective glove.

Back in the early days, wearing a glove in MMA was a choice among other MMA equipment.

And those fighters that chose it, worked out they were far more successful in their fights when wearing gloves.

By wearing protection on their hands they were able to open up more freedom in their strikes.

They could transfer more force and injure themselves less, making them more likely to come out on top and win.

The same is true about regular boxing gloves. The freer you are to throw punches with confidence, the more force you can deliver. And more often.

Would boxing gloves be considered valid weapons for self defense?

Boxing gloves are designed for protecting the wearer’s hands and not the opponents.

Does it make sense to use boxing gloves as a valid weapon for self-defense?

Carrying around a pair of boxing gloves in your bag all day in case a fight breaks out might be a bit impractical.

Not only for the extra space in your bag but for the time it takes to get your gloves on.

It’s unlikely that your attacker will wait 30 seconds for you to lace up your gloves.


It isn’t practical to use boxing gloves as a self-defense weapon. They’re for bag/pad work and sparring.

But using the skills you learn in a sport like MMA could help be a good tool for self-defense if you need it.

Is it illegal for a boxer to street fight?

There is a rumor that a boxer has to state their expertise three times before they retaliate if engaged in a street fight. But there’s no law making it illegal for a boxer to a street fight.

Oh ok thanks Mr. professional boxer, I won’t continue with this fight. Good day sir!

If a boxer or martial artist gets in a fight then they will have certain rights to defend themselves like you or me.

BUT should this fight get out of hand and end up in court, then as I wrote earlier they could end up with a lot of trouble.

The skill they have with their hands could make them considered as deadly weapons like using any other blunt or sharp object.

It’s important here for the fighter, whatever unique level of experience they have, to only use their skills to act in self-defense.

If you’ve got the power to break someone’s jaw and you’re actively going after an opponent when they are no longer posing a threat, then you could quite easily end up being charged with aggravated assault.

Were Bruce Lee’s hands registered as lethal weapons?

Bruce Lee’s hands were never registered as lethal weapons because there isn’t a legal requirement for it. This myth came from the film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” in which the Bruce Lee character, played by Mike Moh, describes his hands to be “registered as lethal weapons”.

Whilst Bruce was such a knowledgeable martial artist that he even created his own, called Jeet Kune Do, he didn’t have to put his fists as weapons on any register.

It’s a little white lie going around that Bruce Lee himself had his hands registered as lethal weapons.

This one is a more recent creation as it comes from the film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

In the scene, Bruce Lee (played by Mike Moh) argues with another character, Cliff Booth (played by Brad Pitt):

Lee: You’re the one with the big mouth. And I would really enjoy closing it, especially in front of all my friends. But my hands are registered as lethal weapons. That means we get into a fight, I accidentally kill you, I go to jail.

Booth: Anybody accidentally kills anybody in a fight, they go to jail. It’s called manslaughter.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

Is Mike Tyson’s hands registered as lethal weapons?

Mike Tyson’s hands are not registered as lethal weapons because there is not a governing body or law that requires this, even for a professional fighter with knockout power like Mike Tyson.

Animated GIF of Mike Tyson's lethal uppercut

I know I wouldn’t want to feel one of Mike’s body hooks or uppercuts. Even inside the ring!

Many boxers might talk about the lethality of their hands and their ability, but it’s all just a big load of ego-boosting and publicity hyping to make the upcoming fight all that much more exciting.

Are UFC fighters hands registered weapons?

Mixed martial artists may have some of the deadliest hands on the planet, but they still do not have to register their hands. Even professional fighters, like those under the UFC promotion, don’t have to register their hands, legs, elbows, or any other lethal limb they have.

Fighters for the UFC are typically split up into several weight classes to make sure they are fair fights as much as possible.

Professional mixed martial artists are some of the most dangerous mofo’s on the planet as they typically have not just talents with their fists but also with things like leg kicks, takedowns, and submissions.

But despite any of these, no, UFC fighters do not have to register their hands anywhere even if they are potentially lethal. They don’t have to register any of their body parts.

As discussed earlier in this article, having skills with your fighting ability could make you a higher risk in a court of law. So use your skills wisely.

Final word on boxers registering their hands

So do boxers have to register their hands as lethal weapons? No, they don’t!

There are many myths about boxers and martial artists.

The majority of these are not true. It’s nothing except for publicity intended to generate excitement around a boxer or fighter.

These are just common misconceptions that turned into myths, often perpetuated by beginner Boxers who are a tad too excited!

If you have a lot of skill with using your hands in boxing, they could be lethal weapons in court.

It turns out that some have been convicted of assault crimes because of their expertise.

If you’re an experienced fighter, think twice about using your skills in a fight that isn’t worth it!

Learn how to land the perfect punch (with 25% off!)

MMA Hive readers get 25% off the Boxing Fundamentals Course by Day One Martial Arts. Use code MMAHIVE:

90-page instructional ebook

EVERYTHING a beginner boxer needs to know

24 boxing video workouts

16 hours+ of videos to train at home whenever you want

200+ guided drills

Every fundamental boxing step, move and strike detailed

Boxing Fundamentals Course

Leave a Comment