Thursday, January 31, 2013

Does a fair fight in boxing fit like a glove?

While the sport of mixed martial arts may only date back a little over 19 years, the sport of boxing has a history that is not hundreds nor thousands, but possibly millions of years old. While boxing, as we know it, may actually only be about 150 years old, give or take a few years, there are documented Egyptian carvings dated around 3 million B.C. where bare fisted contests are depicted. Add to that the earliest evidence of glove fisted fighting can be traced to Minoan Crete in the Greek Islands circa 1500-900 B.C.; this would seem to makes sense since the birth of boxing "as a sport" was considered when the ancient Greeks accepted it as an Olympic game in 688 B.C.

Granted, with such a long history obvious changes have been made over time. The first known rules to have been introduced were instituted by a fighter named Jack Broughton circa 1743 and they were brought about to protect fighters who were many times dying when engaging in such activity. In the early to mid 1800's the "London rules" were initiated, which introduced fighting in a ring surrounded by ropes and then in 1867 what is known as "The Marquess of Queensbury rules" (12 rules in all) were adopted to insure that fights should be a "fair stand-up boxing match." (This would suggest wrestling was part of boxing, which would make it MMA; that's a story for another day.)

Some of those rules still used today included three minute rounds with a one minute rest interval in between, a ten second count if a fighter is knocked down and the introduction of gloves to be of "fair size." That brings me to boxing today and one of the biggest issues I have with it, which is the use of gloves in professional boxing and what is considered "fair?"

I remember growing up as a kid in the '70's, when I would watch prize fights with my uncles all the fighters appeared to be wearing the same gloves. They were always black and they were always Everlast. That's because the Everlast brand has been around for over 100 years and is the brand name most synonymous with the sport. However, with time came the evolution of the sport; and more importantly the glove.

Over the last 20-30 years there have been numerous changes to the boxing glove as we know it. That has a lot to do with the introduction of numerous boxing glove manufacturers such as Grant, Reyes, Rival, Winning and Balazs just to name a few. With so many different producers of gloves now there are many nuances in the style, including structure, padding and even color; gone are the days of standard black Everlast gloves being at the end of precision punches and knockouts.

Thus, with so many different styles to choose from it would only be normal that some fighters would prefer a certain style glove over another. Boxers with fast hands, but chronic hand problems may prefer 'Winning' brand gloves because of the extra padding they are known to possess, often being referred to as the "Pillow glove." Heavy handed punchers on the other hand (no pun intended) may prefer 'Reyes' brand gloves, which are known to have less padding around the knuckle area. That's all fine and dandy, but it doesn't sound quite "fair" to me.

In 1983, journeyman boxer Luis Resto and his trainer Panama Lewis were found guilty of illegally removing padding from Resto's gloves, which gave him a decided advantage in his fight against the then undefeated and highly touted prospect 'Irish' Billy Collins. Resto pounded on Collins's face so bad, that Collins had to retire from the sport and Resto and Lewis were ultimately banned from boxing for life. So, if removing padding from a glove is considered a crime, how is it that a fighter is allowed to go into a fight wearing a glove that is clearly manufactured differently than the one his opponent is wearing?

I posed the following question to professionals in the industry ranging from fighter to journalist to see what they think; "Do you think two fighters wearing different gloves in the ring is considered a fair and level playing field?" These are the responses I got:

"I don't think it makes a difference because the gloves still have to weigh the same. The bottom line is either you can punch or you can't." ~ Ronald Cruz, WBC Continental Americas welterweight champion

"It's fair because the fighters agree beforehand what they are going to use in the ring."Muhammad 'King Mo' Lawal, Professional MMA fighter and former Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion

"While I do agree that gloves are made differently, the boxing commission gives you the option before a fight to produce, which glove you would like to use. Thus, if the commission allows it, there is nothing wrong with two fighters wearing different gloves." ~ Lemuel 'Indio' Rodriguez, Professional boxing trainer

"A knockout is a knockout; it is not the glove, it is the fighter. Fighters have been cut, bruised and KO'ed with every style of glove." ~ Jacob 'Stitch' Duran, Renowned Boxing and MMA cutman

"No, it's absolutely 100% wrong; it's absurd, it's ludicrous. Why commissions would allow it is absurd to me." I mean would we let one pitcher in baseball use a different ball that would help his curveball better; I don't think so." - Al Bernstein, Hall of Fame Boxing Analyst and Journalist

As you can see differing opinions to say the least, although surprising to me the majority tend to feel it is okay. They don't necessarily say it is fair, but they all tend to feel that either the glove has no bearing on the outcome or that if the commission says it's okay, who are we to judge? it is hard to argue with the experts and professionals in the industry.  

However, I tend to side with Al Bernstein in that I think it is 100% wrong. As long as two fighters are not using the same gloves, there is no way that they are competing on a "level playing field." Thus, how can you truly gauge who is the better fighter? In the photo above, Floyd Mayweather wore 'Grant' gloves when he fought against Miguel Cotto, who wore 'Everlast', last May.  

While Mayweather is universally recognized as the number one pound for pound fighter in the world and it may be fair to argue that in the end Mayweather is just a better boxer than Cotto, can we really say that with 100% conviction considering they fought each other wearing different gloves? I'm not saying that a different outcome may have been had if they both wore 'Reyes' for example, but can it honestly be called a fair fight? As Arsenio Hall used to say, "Things that make you go hmmmmmm?"

1 comment:

  1. OT: Hey guys and girls, The Manny Pacquiao Headphones are now available! Yeah. Gotta have me one of those baby!


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