Do Boxing Gloves Hurt More Than Fists? (Force Analysis)

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Updated on May 12, 2023

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If you’re watching a Boxing match, you’re probably wondering whether their shots would be as powerful if they just took the gloves off and fought bare-knuckled.

Well in this article, I’m put time into researching what the data of Science tells us to find a conclusion. In short, do boxing gloves hurt more than fists?

Boxing gloves hurt more than fists usually because the fighter throwing the punch is able to deliver maximum force without fear of damaging their hand. However, research has shown that the bare fists produce 776 lbs of force, higher than the 641 lbs of force with a Boxing glove.

If you’re ready to nerd out on some Scientific research and see what other interesting facts I’ve found about why a Boxing glove hurts more than bare fists, keep reading!

Force Production Of Boxing Gloves Vs. Fists

Boxer punching a heavy bag with force

I wanted to answer the question, do boxing gloves make punches harder? And after digging around, I found some fascinating research that compares the load of force produced by bare fists, boxing gloves, and even MMA gloves.

In this experiment, they had the former UFC fighter Bas Rutten hit a heavy bag with sensors multiple times to find a maximum force.

Bas Rutten would then switch between wearing Boxing Gloves for the heavy bag and MMA gloves and using his bare fists.

The most interesting discovery was that the bare fists generate the most significant amount of force over both the MMA glove and the boxing glove.

Punching Method Measured Force
Bare Fists 776 lbs
MMA Glove 651 lbs
Boxing Glove 641 lbs

At first, it’s a surprising thing to know that the bare fists deliver the most force. But let’s break it down a bit further.

Punching with a bare fist delivers the force – when performed correctly – through the knuckles primarily. Between the bone of the knuckle and the point of contact is just one thin layer of skin, which essentially creates a bone-on-bone impact such as when punching someone in the face like on the jaw.

This bone-on-bone impact is partially what makes the power of a bare fist punch so forceful.

Power Generated From Bone Strength

Bones of the arm used in punching

Human bone is one of the strongest materials when compared to its weight and density. Its strength is comparable to steel while being three times lighter. Also, it can take up to 4,000 newtons of force to break a human femur – which is a lot!

With this bone strength in mind, it’s easier to see how delivering a punch that holds the strength of steel onto a target could generate such high levels of force and damage.

From the research, it appears clear that the more padding that is added around the fist in throwing a punch translates to the lower total force being delivered.

But here’s where things get trickier between these methods of punching.

Punching with a bare fist allows you to deliver the maximum amount of force, but it’s always at the risk of severe damage to the hand.

While there is a whole skeletal frame and muscles of force being delivered through a punch, the bones in the hand are small and easily fractured. That’s where the punch is making contact and so it is in the hands where the largest rebounded force is placed.

In most stories you’ll ever hear about someone throwing a punch in a street fight (with bare fists) there’s always a really high chance that they fractured something in their knuckles or fingers by doing it. It’s not a good idea!

Boxing Gloves Prevent Hand Damage

Boxer with a broken hand

As the sport of Boxing has been around for such a long time and developed during its tenure, the boxing glove was invented to protect the wearer’s hand and stop these common breaks from happening.

Fighting has been a part of history forever and what eventually became bare-knuckle fighting then transitioned into a more organized sport of Boxing that we know of today.

It was probably very apparent to the founding fathers of Boxing that fighting without protection meant very few fights reoccurring and just plenty of injuries. The boxing glove was invented in 1743 by an Englishman named Jack Broughton. Although back then they were called “mufflers”.

With the introduction of the boxing glove, injuries went down and fights could continue to develop and become enjoyed as an entertainment sport.

It can be a bit confusing to understand why boxing gloves were introduced, especially when you’re just getting into Boxing for the first time.

The key thing to remember about boxing gloves is this:

A boxing glove is designed to protect the wearer’s hand, not the opponent’s head.

The small bones of the hand are so easily fractured and so vital to the actual delivery of the sport that boxing gloves are a vital inclusion of the sport. Otherwise, we’d see fighters have match-ups far too infrequent for it to be very exciting.

Wearing a boxing glove also provides another essential benefit which is reducing inhibitions or any fear that the fighter will damage their hand by throwing a punch.

With the extra protection surrounding their fists, it’s easier to be more confident in throwing punches with full capacity without holding themselves back.

Fighting with bare fists has obvious drawbacks as it increases the likelihood of broken hands quite drastically.

Wrists Protection & Perfect Boxing Form

Boxer protecting his wrists with hand wraps

Another consideration is the wrists. The wrists are a highly flexible joint of the body, but that is a potential safety issue when it comes to punching.

Throwing a punch with bare fists allows for a lot more risks in your wrist turning upon impact which is where most significant wrist injuries happen (I know because I’ve done it plenty!).

A modern boxing glove helps to alleviate this pressure as well because the straps of the glove usually reach at least a third of the way down the forearm and are secured in place.

There are also hand wraps used around the hands and wrists to keep them connected and secured.

This security connects the fist to the wrist in a straight line which is the best way to throw a punch without injuring your wrists.

The back of the hand should always be aligned with the top of your forearm so that everything is straight. If your wrist turns off from this point on impact, it is bad form and causes a lot of painful wrist injuries.

In another article, I discuss punching form, punching power, and the muscles used when punching in more detail.

Do Boxing Gloves Do More Damage Than Bare Knuckle?

Boxer punching a heavy bag with bare fists

Punching with a bare knuckle does more damage because it can generate up to 135 lbs more force than a boxing glove. Boxing gloves can allow a fighter to punch repetitively because of the reduced stress and damage to their own hands.

Throwing a punch with bare knuckles delivers a different kind of damage, too. The bones of the knuckle pointing out can catch contact points on an opponent’s body in another way and cause more cuts and significant wounds.

Throwing punches with a boxing glove spreads the impact across the surface area of the glove and onto the point of contact of the opponent.

Some people say that the spread of force through a boxing glove allows professional Boxers to fight more in a fight because it results in fewer cuts and bruises, which could potentially stop a fight prematurely.

While they also say that because of this spread of force, minor surface damage translates to more shockwave damage to the opponent’s brain, which results in long-term adverse effects.

But, like most “facts” you hear about Boxing, this one doesn’t have much evidence behind it and is worth taking with a pinch of salt. Another example is the myth that goes around about Boxers having to register their hands as lethal weapons.

Bottom Line: What Hurts More, A Fist Or A Boxing Glove?

The bare fist hurts more than a boxing glove because it can deliver the greatest impact of force at 776 lbs of force compared to 641 lbs of force with a boxing glove. However, a bare-fisted punch is more likely to cause the attacker injuries to their hands.

Now you should be clear about whether boxing gloves hurt more than fists and the differences. A bare fist delivers the most force, but it probably can’t be used as frequently as punching with a boxing glove instead. Now you know!

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