The upcoming match-up between an undefeated superb boxer and arguably the best mixed martial arts fighter in the world, is a super match made in heaven. The specter and anticipation has the interest of the world in a way that hasn’t been seen in years.
McGregor & Mayweather will wear 8 oz. gloves for their middleweight bout instead of the 10 oz. gloves typically mandated for fighters in the 154 lb. weight class. In granting this request, which was made jointly by the fighters, the commission has ignored a plea from the Association of Ringside Physicians. In theory, the lighter gloves will make for more powerful punches, especially for McGregor according to a New York Times article. This sideshow amusement has added an interesting controversy and bonus to hyping up the fight.
Despite the perceived advantage to McGregor, the reality is that the weight of the gloves amounts to nothing more than a curious diversion. I know a bit about this subject since I made and designed fight gloves for most of the major matches of the past half-century as the Chief Product Designer for Everlast. Since boxing gloves became mandatory in fights in the late 19th century, the weight of the gloves has had nothing to do with their scientific properties. The weight of a fight glove mainly has to due with its size. Simply, smaller boxers got smaller gloves, which weighed less; bigger boxers got bigger gloves, which weighed more. Gloves were no more than leather mittens stuffed with curled animal hair (horse or hog or a combination). Conventional thinking is that more hair padding, more protection for the hand and softer punches. Large 16 oz. gloves were principally designed and used for training for this reason as they were thought to be softer and less impactful. This is how the designation of weight in ounces became the size scale for gloves.
For much of the 20th century, Everlast gloves were the standard used in sanctioned boxing matches. Athletic commissions’ regulations and rules simply approved the Everlast gloves. They determined that certain weights of gloves would be designated for certain boxer classifications. Nobody paid attention to any science.
When Ali fought Liston in 1964 for the heavyweight championship, Liston had unusually large hands. Since the boxing commission sanctioned only 8 oz. gloves for the fight, Everlast had to construct special large size fight gloves expressly for the bout. This was a trick since a larger glove would take more leather lining and more hair padding and would certainly make the glove more than 8 ounces. Everlast introduced a layer of foam instead of additional curled hair in the padding to maintain the 8 oz. threshold. The new gloves were marked #21086 (the six for extra large). This was the first major change to the specifications of fight gloves. Still, little attention was given to how this would affect any fights.
By the late 20th century, boxing commissions designated 10 oz. gloves mostly for heavier boxers’ weight classes. This decision was not based on any science, instead it had to due with the introduction of the Mexican-made boxing gloves, which could not be made in 8 ounces and therefore weren’t large enough for bigger boxers.
When Everlast introduced the Thumbless fight gloves, which I designed in the 1980s, the specifications of the gloves changed again. To construct the gloves the curled hair was completely replaced with foam rubber padding. At Everlast, we extensively tested various properties of padding for gloves with two major institutional studies in Canada and at the US Naval Academy. A lot of science about glove padding was determined in these studies. Regardless of the padding, natural physics says that weight times speed = force. Therefore a 10 oz. glove punch going at the same speed as an 8 once glove would pack more punch, albeit insignificant, maybe a percentage or two. All in all, the distribution of the glove’s weight is not uniform from glove to glove. Hardly scientific.
The weight of the gloves is interesting to consider, but it will probably not make much of a difference in the outcome of Saturday night’s bout. May the best man win.