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Do You Really Need Hand Wraps For Boxing or MMA Answered

A boxer wrapping his hands with red boxing hand wraps.

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Outside of sticking it in a meat grinder, one of the most dangerous things you can do is punch a hard object. As your hand is a complex collection of small bones with connecting tendons and muscles. It does not take particularly well to heavy impacts. So in that case, do you need to use hand wraps when boxing or doing MMA?

Hand wraps are used widely in both boxing and MMA. While a few fighters in MMA, grapplers specifically, decide not to use wraps due to their restriction of movement. All boxers use them as their hands are their only weapon where grappling is not required.

And while it may sound like a pretty simple yes or no answer. Science is in and we do know what can and does happen. It should follow that using hand wraps goes without saying, but that is not always the case.

But as far as we know they have been around since pretty much the first instances of boxing. As ancient drawings show fighters wearing wraps, most likely made from leather or other gauze-like material during their fights.

So in that sense, wraps actually predate boxing gloves. As the concept of wearing a full glove to cover the hand didn’t occur until the mid-1700s.

Are Hand Wraps Necessary For Boxing

Boxing gloves have existed since 1743 when Englishman Jack Broughton first came up with the concept. The original idea behind using gloves was to help protect young students from receiving too much damage.

Hand wraps in differing forms have been used for generations. And when coupled with the added protection of the boxing glove offered unrivalled protection for the fighters, at least that was the original concept behind their idea.

Two red and white boxing gloves on ground.
A pair of red and white boxing gloves.

So today all amateur and professional boxers wear them as part of their arsenal. Giving their hands added protection and the ability to punch harder than ever before.

However, the wraps used by active fighters don’t resemble the ones you see used in gyms. Training for fights is one thing, but in sparring, punches are not meant to be thrown with full power, but that of course, is also not always the case.

Along with the fact that traditional hand wraps don’t offer the same amount of protection as the gauze and tape used during fights. So depending on the situation there is a range of hand wraps being used across the board.

That being said, make sure to do your research before settling on any one style. And I would even personally advise that you start with Mexican-style wraps. As their elasticated design means you get a better fit and more support.

How About With MMA Gloves

MMA fighters also use hand wraps, even under their little 4oz gloves as for many, they are an essential part of the kit. And with significantly smaller gloves the wraps do offer up some great protection.

But again you have to be sure that you are getting the right wraps for your hand size. As MMA gloves don’t allow much room for manoeuvre. And if done incorrectly, they can become more of a hindrance than a help

How To Use Handwraps with UFC Fighter Chris Camozzi

Can I Hit The Heavy Bag Without Wraps

Most fighters will advise that if you are going to be hitting the heavy bag, then you should absolutely use wraps. But what I would add here is that it depends! What bag will you be hitting, how hard do you intend to hit the bag?

If we are talking about the wrist-breaking heavy bag then absolutely. However, if we are talking about a double-ended or speed bag, then I would say that there is not always a requirement.

Providing you are not overdoing it and not hitting anything too dense with too much power. Forgo the hand wraps just work with your gloves or bare fist. As often just doing some light work without them can also be a help in conditioning your hands.

What Size Hand Wraps Should I Use

So if you are going to get yourself some nice brightly coloured new wraps. Make sure to do yourself a favour and get ones that are the right length.

As I can tell you from personal experience that when they are too big they mess with making a proper fist. The glove will be too tight and you will feel as though your fingers are exposed because they are not sitting in tight to the palm of your hand.

Adding to that the more material you have the longer they are to put on. This is one of the many reasons I have heard as to why some people simply don’t use them. But they are your hands, so if you want to take that risk go right ahead!

Hand circumference (cm) Cloth hand wrap length (cm)Under-glove
14-162754-8 years
8-12 years
17-1835012-14 years
Boxing hand wraps sizing chart

You can also buy wraps which are too short. Not going around the wrist and hand enough times and maybe leaving you feeling a tad insecure. So just make sure you take a look below and get the right size now to save you hassle further down the line.

*As a side note, the only fighters I know of in MMA who required 3XL-sized MMA gloves. UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar and interim heavyweight champion Shane Carwin.

Fighters Who Don’t Use Hand Wraps

And while hand wraps are the norm and used by hobbyists and professionals alike. There are actually some who don’t use them at all and I’m not referring to the hobbyists.

As if you hang around on some of the many combat sports forums. It’s pretty common to hear from fighters that they don’t in fact use them at all. While some never used them from the start. Others decided to try without and some simply because they get in their way.

This last point is more so true in terms of MMA as opposed to boxing. As in mixed martial arts, some of the fights may end up on the ground. And it’s here where grapplers rule that wraps can sometimes get in the way.

Bantamweight Eddie Wineland poses for the camera.
MMA fighter Eddie Wineland.

By definition, wraps are put on to help protect the hand and wrist. But a side effect of this can be that the hand is somewhat restricted. So a fighter who likes to grapple can lose a certain range of movement.

So apparently it’s a good enough reason to dispense with them completely. Allowing themselves to maximise the benefits they get in their particular area of specialisation. And with some of the very best in the world including those listed below doing it, who are we to argue?

  1. Gunnar Nelson
  2. Eddie Wineland
  3. Royce Gracie

Tampered with Hand wrap Controversies in Combat Sport

Unfortunately, through the years, there have been several controversies involving the use of hand wraps, which have consumed the world of combat sports, particularly boxing. As with some high-profile fights, boxers have been caught manipulating their gloves and or wraps. So that they could do more damage and swing the fight in their favour.

Take Antonio Margarito for instance who when caught trying to use wraps dipped in plaster powder. And he was then accused of doing the exact same thing by his previous opponent Miguel Cotto who had been severely beaten and cut in their fight.

Margarito received a 12-month suspension and on return rematched with Cotto. Who paid him back in kind for their previous unfair encounter by handing him a loss.

But in an even more brutal act of cheating. Irish Billy Collins was badly beaten in his fight against Luis Resto. Resto’s trainer had not only dipped his fighter wraps in plaster.

But also cut out a section of padding so the punches did even more damage. In a fight that did long-term harm to Collins, making him partially sighted and bringing an end to his boxing career. With a spiral into severe depression following soon after, Collins would be dead a year later by suicide.

But the story was different for legendary puncher Iron Mike Tyson, who was known for knocking most of his adversaries out cold. Highlighted by a comment he made after stopping his opponent in just twenty seconds, then holding up his hands and saying;

“Nothing here but gauze, flesh and bone.”


In Conclusion

Excuse the pun, but I just had to go there. But seriously, you have seen the arguments for and against using hand wraps. It all really boils down to what you will be doing and to what degree.

As if you are strictly boxing, then they are a must. Boxing requires a focus specifically on punches, as your hands will be your only weapon and will be giving and taking 100% of the punishment.

But when it comes to MMA, there are at least a few outliers. These are particular fighters who in order to grapple need completely free movement in their hands.

But you will usually find across the board using hand wraps is the norm, and I would say that you should always have several pairs at the ready. So you don’t find yourself arriving at training having forgotten the wash them since the last time. So get in there get it done and the best of luck to you on your personal combat sports journey.