Boxing or MMA: Which One is Better?

Boxing or MMA: Which One is Better?

MMA has become more and more popular lately, so people are often wondering which sport is better – MMA or Boxing? In this article, we will tell you all the differences between these two sports, their advantages and disadvantages, and give you enough information so you can choose one to train.

Boxers are better when it comes to boxing. MMA fighters are better when it comes to MMA. In a fight without rules, MMA is far better because MMA fighters are familiar with more styles (standing or ground styles), while boxers can only utilize their hands.

To get a better understanding of boxing and MMA in general – keep reading.

Generally About Boxing

Boxing is a martial arts in which opponents of similar body weight punch each other wearing padded gloves. The fight takes place in a fenced rectangular ring, in 3 to 15 rounds of three minutes each. The object of the fight is to give the opponent as many blows to the parts of the body above the belt (head, torso) as possible while avoiding the opponent’s blows.

A boxing match can be won by knockout (KO mark, from the English term knock-out), i.e. when the opponent fails to rise for ten seconds after being thrown to the ground, by technical knockout (TKO mark), i.e. when one fighter has no power to continue or the winner is determined by the decision of the referees after the agreed number of rounds.

Due to the fact that boxing is not allowed to hit the opponent while on the floor, and that there are strict rules in which part of the body and how the opponent is allowed to hit, boxing is often called a ‘noble art’.

A brief history of boxing

Situations where two people fight with their hands to prove their power and strength are known from the very beginning of civilization. In doing so, the rules varied substantially, from the manner and duration of the match, the use of gloves, rules, etc. Often these fights were brutal and even deadly.

The first boxing rules of modern times stem from 18th century London, where the rules defining the space for fighting, banning blows to the head and under, etc., were defined. In 1867, The Marquis of Queensberry published systematic rules of combat in line with those London rules, and today these ‘Queensberry’ rules are considered to be the first official boxing rules. These rules determined three-minute rounds, ring size, banned under-the-belt blows, and other unsportsmanlike punches, and passed the bulk of the rules that remain in the boxing world today.

Today, there are two basic areas of boxing: amateur (often called Olympic) boxing practiced at the Olympics, and professional boxing, managed by several different boxing federations. Each federation sets its own specific rules regarding the ranking of the boxer and the ways of winning the title, although the boxing rules themselves are basically very similar or even identical.

Boxing equipment

Basic boxing equipment consists of boxing gloves and bandages. Bandages wrap around the bones to tighten bones and prevent injuries when striking, and gloves partially cushion the impact and prevent injuries such as scratches, etc. Gloves have the prescribed weight for competitions under the rules of each boxing federation. Suspensions and gums are also very important, and women’s chest protectors are also important.

The fight takes place in a fenced-in ring, the prescribed size depends on the federation.

Boxers in amateur boxing must wear a sports jersey and wear a boxing helmet, which has the function of preventing major injuries. However, the helmet does not protect against the fact that, when struck, the brain of the struck boxer is subjected to contusion, that is, hitting the skull walls due to a concussion. Also, the helmet does not protect the boxer’s beard, which is also exposed to direct impact. Boxers in professional boxing do not wear helmets, nor do they have to wear a jersey on their upper body, but are usually above the naked belt.

For the full list of boxing equipment, check out our guide to everything you need for boxing.

Boxing rules

The basic goal of boxing is to give as many blows to the opponent as possible while receiving as few as possible. Well-placed powerful punches can knock your opponent off their feet. It is not allowed to hit the opponent while he is on the floor, but he is given 10 seconds to recover and eventually continue the fight.

Blows are only allowed in the upper body, above the waist, and only from the front. Each well-placed shot is scored, and those points, in the event that both fighters meet the last of the predicted number of rounds on their feet, determine the winner.

A boxing match is usually followed by multiple referees. One in the ring to ensure that the rules are followed during the fight, and three or more of them (usually an odd number, to avoid a split decision) around the ring to follow the fight and score punches.

The match is played in three-minute rounds. The number of rounds varies, in amateur boxing, it is boxed in four rounds, and in the professional, it is from 5 to 12 rounds.

For a better understanding of the boxing scoring system, check out the article we wrote on how are boxing fights scored.

Weight categories in boxing

To ensure equal combat, boxers compete in the weight classes. The following weight categories are most commonly used, sorted by boxer weight:

The Olympic boxing system has these categories:

  • minimumweight, 105 pounds (48 kg)
  • light flyweight, 108 pounds (49 kg)
  • flyweight, 112 pounds (51 kg)
  • super flyweight, 115 pounds (52 kg)
  • bantamweight, 118 pounds (53.5 kg)
  • super bantamweight, 122 pounds (55 kg)
  • featherweight, 126 pounds (57 kg)
  • super featherweight, 130 pounds (59 kg)
  • lightweight, 135 pounds (61 kg)
  • super lightweight, 140 pounds (63.5 kg)
  • welterweight, 147 pounds (67 kg)
  • super welterweight, 154 pounds (70 kg)
  • middleweight, 160 pounds (72.5 kg)
  • super middleweight, 168 pounds (76 kg)
  • light heavyweight, 175 pounds (79 kg)
  • cruiserweight, 200 pounds (91 kg)
  • heavyweight, unlimited

For cadets and women, slightly different categories are used:

  • flyweight, not more than 106 pounds (48 kg)
  • bantamweight, 112 pounds (51 kg)
  • featherweight, 119 pounds (54 kg)
  • lightweight, 126 pounds (57 kg)
  • light welterweight, 132 pounds (60 kg)
  • welterweight, 141 pounds (64 kg)
  • middleweight, 152 pounds (69 kg)
  • light heavyweight, 165 pounds (75 kg)
  • heavyweight, 179 pounds (81 kg)
  • super heavyweight, any weight over 179 pounds (81 kg)

And there are Women’s Olympic boxing categories:

  • flyweight, 106 to 112 pounds (48 to 51 kg)
  • lightweight, 123 to 132 pounds (56 to 60 kg)
  • middleweight, 152 to 165 pounds (69 to 75 kg)

Professional boxing has several other intermediate categories, and the names sometimes differ depending on the international boxing association. The weights are determined by the British measurement system, in stones (“stone” = 14 pounds; abbreviation for stone is st) and pounds (abbreviation is lb and lbs, respectively).

Boxing technique

There are several basic ways of boxing. The basic boxing stance envisions standing in a gap, arms raised at shoulder height with fists in front of the head as a shield. This arm set is called a guard.

There are also several types of punches such as uppercut (downward strike, often in the opponent’s beard), then straight, crouch, half-stroke, etc. When fighting, fighters take different positions depending on the style of each fighter, so it is known fighting technique from a distance when fighters are away from each other by arm lengths or more, or eg a clinch fight when fighters are in close proximity to each other. Fighter, depending on the position, select the most effective shots and methods of defense.

In boxing, legwork is also important, because the fighter can use it to quickly move to a more favorable position, and the defensive skill of avoiding blows is also very important. However, the basis of each boxer must first and foremost be the speed and power of the punch that he is able to direct towards the opponent.

Professional Boxing Federation

Professional boxing is run by boxing federations, which, through their promoters, draw up challenger lists and arrange title fights. Unfortunately, in the forest of different federations, the average fan finds it difficult to cope, and sometimes it is not clear how relevant a ‘World Champion by XY’ title really is.

However, among the many federations these stand out as the most famous and the only ones relevant:

  • World Boxing Association (W.B.A.)
  • World Boxing Council (W.B.C.)
  • International Boxing Federation (I.B.F.)
  • World Boxing Organization (W.B.O.)
  • World Professional Boxing Federation (W.P.B.F.)
  • International Boxing Organization (I.B.O.)

In boxing circles, the title of champion according to boxing magazine The Ring has been esteemed and reputable.

Here is the full list of boxing organizations.

Generally About Mixed Martial Arts (MMA)

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), also known as ultimate-fight, free-fight, and Vale Tudo (Portuguese means everything is worth it) is an art that uses a combination of the vast majority of martial arts to defeat an opponent.

MMA Fight

There are three stages in which combat can take place:

  • Stand-up
  • Clinch
  • Ground

Every fight and round starts on the feet, and boxing, kickboxing and Thai boxing techniques are most commonly used in such combat.

If a leg fight turns into a clinch fight, techniques from boxing and Thai boxing are most commonly used to strike.

If a fighter wants to go to the ground, he will use wrestling, samba, and judo techniques. Fighters use the same techniques in the clinch when there is an unlikely possibility of finishing the fight with hits, that is, they want to finish the fight with a submission.

When the fight goes to the ground, the techniques of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, wrestling, sambo, and judo are most used.

Possible endings to the fight are by referee stoppage or by scoring.

The referee stoppage of the fight is caused by a knockout, a technical knockout, that is, the surrender of the opponent after the use of submission, choking, or any other wrestling or judo action that compels the opponent to give up or surrender.

The judge may also announce the stoppage if he finds that the wrestling or judo intervention (submission, choking) takes too long, or threatens to seriously endanger the opponent’s health and life.

Also, the opponent can hand over the fight regardless of the submission or choking – he may judge that he is exhausted, not feeling well and cannot continue the fight, as he estimates that he would seriously endanger his health and/or life by continuing the fight.

There is also the possibility of the opponent’s corner handing over the fight, judging that the fighter is overestimating the ability to endure the fight without threatening serious injury (because the situation is not yet such that the referee has to declare a stoppage).

Scoring is decided by the judges (unanimous or split) if the match does not conclude before the end. Then, in addition to successfully given blows and throws, the referee also looks at the initiated blows (regardless of success), that is, attempts to throw, choke and submission, or activity in combat.

The fight may end in “no contest” status. This is most often the case when there is an accidental injury to an opponent. For example when the opponent receives an accidental blow to the genitals, and this type of ending of the fight also occurs in certain head injuries (Cikatic in one of his first fights in this sport), an arcade (Emelianenko vs. Minotaur at the Grand Prix) and the like.

MMA Rules

Mixed martial arts rules vary from organization to organization and this is the biggest obstacle to making the sport internationally recognized.

PRIDE FC rules

PRIDE’s rules do not allow elbows hits to the head, and “sensitive zone” strikes. The first round lasts for 10 minutes and the remaining 5 minutes with breaks of 2 minutes each.

UFC rules

The UFC rules are different from PRIDE’s in that elbow kicks are allowed, but kicks to the head while the opponent is on the ground are not allowed. The rounds last 5 minutes each, with 1-minute breaks between rounds.

Here are a list of illegal blows in the UFC, and the UFC scoring system guidelines.

Which One Is Better, Boxing or MMA?

As you could probably see from this article, it all depends on how you, as a martial arts practitioner, look at it.

To be good at boxing you have do develop excellent boxing skills and techniques. But, you are restricted to using your hands, and that is it. Yes, you do learn how to move around the ring, and you learn that a lot, but when it comes to hitting, you have only your hands, or better to say blows with your fists.

On the other hand, if you chose MMA then you have a lot of techniques at your disposal. You could say that MMA fighters are more dangerous and better because they use and learn all those skills. But, then you see a boxing match between Connor Mcgregor, an excellent MMA fighter, and one of the best boxers in history, Floyd Mayweather, and you see how MMA fighters are really no match for champions in their martial art field. Samo would happen if MMA fighter would go to Wrestling, Judo, BJJ or some other ring. They just can’t learn all those skills so go that they can fight with best in their sport.

The best proof for that ‘lower’ standard in MMA (in this case UFC) is Brock Lesnar. He is and was before coming to UFC, ‘only’ a professional WWE wrestler, with no background in real fighting, and he swept the floor with all the best UFC fighters. Have he came in boxing, or BJJ, or something like that, he probably wouldn’t have any chance in those sports.

To see how boxing and MMA compare to other martial arts when it comes to self-defense, be sure to check out the analysis we made on that particular topic.

If you chose only one martial art, like boxing in this example, you have your whole life to develop only one technique and develop it well, while if you choose MMA, you will learn your whole life all sorts of techniques, and maybe never be very good in any of them.

On the other hand, MMA is surely more fun, today you box, tomorrow you do BJJ, then you wrestle some and so on. Great change of pace, fun, and almost every day you learn new and interesting things.

As we saw, on the example of Mayweather and McGregor, if only looking at a boxing match, MMA fighters usually have no chance. We haven’t had a reverse example, but in that case I wouldn’t bet on a MMA fighter, even though Lesnar showed that not that much is needed to be great at MMA as well.

It doesn’t mean I don’t think MMA and UFC fighters can’t fight, it just means that they don’t have the same amount of time to master one technique when they have to learn them all to be able to defend and attack with and from different martial arts.

In the end, it all gets back to you, would you be master of your own domain, or would you probably be average in all, but have fun in doing so.

Stefano Secci, French Savate Boxing, and Martial Arts champion
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Stefano Secci

Stefano Secci was born on the outskirts of Genoa. He began practicing sports at 11 by enrolling in a Ju-Jitsu class; from there, I have not stopped playing sports until today. At 16, he switched to French Savate Boxing, which I married and has remained my first and only true love. Our testing and reviewing method.
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