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Boxing Headgear
Paul Bingham Wants to Know What Kind to Use: 1/29/2023
© 2023 James LaFond
JUL/27/23
Below I have condensed a text and phone question by Paul:
“Sir, hope all is well. I am training at a good ghetto gym, where men train for competition. I have lost body fat, though not weight. I am on a raw milk and liver diet and it has been good for the body fat reduction. The liver was hard to choke down at first. The raw milk is sold for a dollar a gallon by the Amish.
“It is time for me to get headgear and the gym I train at sells it, so I wanted your opinion, because they are going to recommend what they sell. What is you opinion on that particular equipment? I want to be well prepared for boxing in May at Man Weekend and would like to take some masters fights as well.”
Do keep in mind that my headgear experience is now 20 years out of date and their might have been great strides in this protective gear. In that light, look at this answer in the context of what is being protected.
Paul, there are four issues here, in order of importance:
-1. neck damage,
-2. ear damage, [1]
-3. eye damage and
-4. cutting.
Headgear does nothing to minimize brain damage.
I recommended two sets of head gear, one for general training and one for preparation for a specific USA Boxing masters fight. Find what headgear is used by the local USA Boxing or Silver Gloves association and train in that for the final month before a fight.
Avoid the white collar boxing face guard head gear. These are all about nose protection and it is important to learn how to behave after a nose punch. Besides that extra face gear threatens the neck and increases brain tilting and rotation, can make concussions worse.
Boxing for longevity, especially in the Masters Division which is for men over 35, the focus should be on minimizing neck injuries. Men over 35 weigh a lot more than in their teens and twenties and this means they experience more neck impact when hit. Not only does the head gear cause you to get hit more often, to get hit by unseen punches, it applies more leverage against your neck.
Amateur competition headgear tends to have too much material for preparing for survival or longevity boxing. Indeed, I won’t use headgear, as it punishes my neck. Go with competition headgear recommended by your coach for that last month.
However, for general sparring and into older age, find some open face “old school” headgear like pros used to use in the 1930s though 60s. This head gear was designed mostly to protect the ears from being broken and filled with crystalized blood and becoming big painful targets and for protecting the ear drum from being busted by hooks, which happned to Mickey Ward in one of his Arturo Gatti fights.
Amateur fights are generally stopped for bleeding early. There is the whole issue of expenses for HIV blood testing here to consider. So amateur head gear has prevention of cutting and maximum eye protection dialed in to the point where there is some obstruction of periferal vision. The classic head gear gives less of this. An unseen hook is even worse than the one that is seen. But in the amateurs it is the image of safety first as much as the actuality that matters.
All boxing headgear I have used has good ear protection, externally and internally.
Avoid martial arts “marshmallow hats,” as they are no good for continuous contact and spin.
Head gear should buckle.
For sparring get the headgear that has the least bulk and weight.
In about 2000 I bought a pair of washable blue soft head gear in the same design as USA Boxing approved headgear that was lighter and no more bulky than the harder leather head gear. Wearing this lesser rated head protection I experienced less impact then wearing the hard leather competition rated headgear due to reduced weight. It was also softer against the head and yielded.
Cutting is primarily a concern for the professional fighter in training and most sparring head gear has been designed with making sure that the sparring fighter does not sustain abrasians on the brows that will set him up for a loss on cut stoppage in his bout.
Fighters training for MMA and bare knuckle need to avoid cuts and also need to develop their side vision in combat. So, I suggest that a lot of light sparring be done without head gear, and that test sparring to see what needs worked on under stress should be done in a more open and/or lighter head gear like the washable or old school.
For preparation sparring at full power, which I do not recommend be done often, then the exact headgear used in competition should be used, the same weight glove as well.
Glove weight is a huge issue for brain damage and in sparring the heavier gloves cause more brain jarring. The heavier glove in sparring is for saving hands, saving ribs and building punching stamina. Glove weight in sparring should be specific to the size and condition and injuries of the fighters involved and can be asymmetrical. [2]
You have to abide by the rules of your gym here. But for general sparring I recommend light gloves and light contact, going easy, for most sparring. Competition oriented gyms will go hard as they are looking for success next week and could care less what condition their fighters are in next decade. For rock-em-sock-em -robot action, I recommend light head gear to minimize neck shock and heavy gloves to minimize rib damage.
Good luck, Paul.
Notes
-1. I am not suggesting that the ear is more important than the eye, but am noting that head gear can more fully protect the ear and that encasing the head in protection can still result in damage to the retina and convergence insufficiency between the coordinating eyes. Also, protecting the eye with coverage makes it more likely to get hit from a blind angle where there is no such danger with ear protection. Note that ancient boxing head gear was only ear gear, exactly like that worn in modern wrestling.
-2. Glove size, beyond weight is an issue, as some boxing methods that work, offensively and defensively, with large gloves will not work at the same rate or in the same way as these same methods done with lighter gloves or no gloves.
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