Does wearing headgear make you feel sheepish?
If you feel like a dork wearing headgear, you are not alone.
Sporting cauliflower ears, a broken nose, cuts, bruises, scars, busted jaws or having your eyes swell up so bad you can’t see, is also not a good look.
Headgear is necessary if you are sparring, fighting or boxing with a partner.
I am going to cover one important misconception regarding headgear, how headgear protects you, the different types and styles of boxing and MMA headgear, how to choose the best one for you, and finish of with a review of 13 of the best.
- Should Wear Headgear?
- How can Headgear Help Protect Your Head?
- Headgear Types for Boxing and MMA
- What is the Difference between Boxing vs Muay Thai vs MMA Headgear?
- What to Keep in Mind before Choosing Headgear
- How to Wear Headgear – Getting the Right Fit
- Top 13 Best Boxing Headgear Reviews 2018
- Ringside Competition Boxing Muay Thai MMA Headgear
- Contender Fight Sports Competition Boxing Headgear
- Twins Special Headgear Boxing MMA
- RDX Maya Hide Leather Boxing MMA Headgear
- Cleto Reyes Traditional Headgear
- Cleto Reyes Redesigned Headgear Wide
- Winning Headgear Fg5000
- Winning Headgear Fg2900
- Ring to Cage Full Face Headgear for Boxing and MMA
- Fairtex Headgear w Diagonal Vision
- Rival Boxing RHG30 Mexican Style Headgear
- Fighting Sports No Contact Headgear
- Amber Fight Gear Headgear With Face Mask
Should Wear Headgear?
Many were shocked to learn that male boxers in the 2016 Rio Olympics would not be wearing headgear.
The change came about based on two studies sponsored by AIBA Amateur International Boxing Association that implied not wearing headgear was safer than wearing it.
The studies and resulting changes to Olympic boxing, were conducted by AIBA, and some say the AIBA made changes for reasons of publicity and promotion, not boxer safety.
It should be noted that the two studies did not track actual concussions or injury; they tracked referee stoppages due to head blows.
Dr. Kevin Curley, with Winthrop University notes that the two studies are not peer reviewed and further study and review should be conducted before making such a sweeping change in policy.
The AIBA is not a medical association. Logically they should involve medical professionals in this decision, right?
Neurologist Paul McCrory criticized the AIBA for changing the rules of amateur boxing to be more like professional boxing. He believes that changes should be made with guidance from international concussion groups and he says:
Recently, the AIBA removed its current president CK Wu for issues pertaining to rigged judging and financial mismanagement. Wu was replaced by Gafur Rakhimov, a man thought to have links to organized crime and heroin trade.
The bottom line:
Before you decide if you should wear headgear or not, carefully consider the source of your information.
Veteran boxing Coach of 40 years, Sid Kahn, believes amateur boxers should be wearing head guards and disagrees with the AIBA ruling.
How can Headgear Help Protect Your Head?
Reason 1, Your brain, like butter
Cyclists, Motorcyclists, Football players, Baseball Players and countless other athletes wear helmets or protective headgear of some type.
The answer seems obvious. To help protect the brain. I don’t care what the AIBA says, I am going to listen to the neurologists and experienced boxing coaches and wear headgear in the ring.
It is true that headgear alone can not completely prevent concussions, but that does not render them useless. In fact, this study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine says headgear will help reduce the risk of superficial injury and concussion .
Frankly, I think there needs to be more study of headgear and how it related to injury prevention, but until then, I will keep my helmet on, thanks!
Reason 2: Your nose
Most boxers and MMA fighters can agree that your nose is at risk as you are sparring.
One kick or hit to the face can break your nose or damage the cartilage. If you do not take steps to protect your schnozzle, you may end up with one like Owen Wilson.
Reason 3: Your eyes cuts and swelling end a match
It seems so obvious, but if you are an amateur boxer, or you practice MMA for exercise and enjoyment of the sport, you probably are not willing to risk your face, your beautiful face, or your health, for the sake of the sport.
One cut on the face can end your match, not to mention scar you-possibly for life.
Facial cuts can be pretty serious because they tend to bleed- a lot. If you can’t get the bleeding under control, you may need to make a visit to the hospital for stitches.
Headgear can prevent many serious cuts.
In case you did not know:
Some boxers, not you or anyone at your club of course, have been known to sneak in a head butt. If you are not wearing a headguard, the head butt not only hurts like heck, but can gash open your forehead and really ruin your day.
In addition to that:
Repeated hits near the eye area can cause your face to swell to the extent you can not see.
Good headgear will protect your eyes.
Reason 4: Your jaw
I hate to even bring this up, because it is just so gross, but a jaw injury might be one of the worst boxing or MMA injuries you can experience.
A hit to the face can dislocate or fracture your jaw, or worse.
The first best protection against a jaw injury is to not get hit.
The second best protection is to keep your head down. That is why coaches are always saying “Keep your head down”.
The third best protection is headgear with a chin bar.
Headgear can offer some jaw protection, but as with all combat sports, your jaw is vulnerable, headgear or not.
I am not going to insert a picture here of a boxer with a broken jaw because I like you, and I don’t want to ruin your dinner.
Headgear Types for Boxing and MMA
Cage style headgear has a cage made of metal or hard plastic that covers the face area.
This is the least common style, and while it does offer a lot of protection, it can really limit visibility, so you may not see the punch or kick coming in the first place.
The Facesaver style of headgear has a bar over the nose, mouth, or chin which is designed to prevent injury. The facesaver is usually effective at protecting the face, but it does cause some problems.
The bar on the facesaver makes it challenging to see the floor, and of particular importance, it makes it hard to see kicks and knee hits coming up from the floor.
Some say the facesaver style is better for boxing than MMA. Others disagree. Does not matter, really, it is up to you to decide what works best for you.
This is the style of gear you get to prevent (hopefully) breaking your nose or injuring your jaw.
The Two Open Face Styles
Like the name implies, the face on this headgear is open. It may have cheek protection. It can be either Full Face or Mexican style.
What it does better than other styles allow you to see better. Facesaver style headgear has better visibility than other styles, but less face protection.
Most competition headgear is Full face.
Full Face Open Face Headgear
Full face headgear has an open face with some cheek protection at the sides. It usually has a chin strap to secure the mask, but no padded bars covering any part of the face.
Mexican Style Open Face Headgear
Mexican style open face headgear is similar to full face headgear.
The difference is that Mexican style headgear has larger cheek pads which theoretically protect the face, specifically cheeks and nose better.
What is the Difference between Boxing vs Muay Thai vs MMA Headgear?
Some say closed face ‘facesaver” style headgear for is better for boxing, while others think it is the best headgear for MMA sparring.
The reasoning is that the face bar on facesaver style headgear impedes downward vision, and MMA fighters need to see what is going on from the ground, and boxers do not as much.
Others think facesaver headgear is best for MMA because the face bars protect your face from kicks and elbows that occur in MMA fighting.
Ultimately, the choice is up to you, what you find comfortable and effective.
What to Keep in Mind before Choosing Headgear
The best boxing headgear for 2018 is built with what some manufacturers call “Three Point adjustability”.
Just what does that mean?
On full face and Mexican style headgear, there are three potential places you can adjust the headgear.
- The chin strap- this should be adjustable, ideally with a buckle and not Velcro because Velcro can lose its “stick”.
- The drawstring type lace at the top, or crown of the head. The best boxing headgear for 2018 has a drawstring like this that you simply cinch tighter to make the faceguard mold to your noggin.
- The back closure– it can be lace up, or Velcro. Large up is best, but it is not common, most use Velcro, and that’s OK, but it may lose it’s stick.
With these three points, you can adjust the headgear for a perfectly aligned, tight fit. So look for headgear with all three points.
The headgear should be tight, even to the point of leaving impressions on your cheek, but not to the point of giving you a headache. Snug headgear does not shift, which means you won’t need to adjust it constantly as you are sparring.
Adjusting headgear is the last thing you want to do while sparring; it leaves you wide open for a hit.
Don’t worry if new gear seems snug. Using it, sweating in it, getting hot in it will break it in, and it will eventually conform to your face better than when it was new.
Visibility is best with full face style headgear because there is no face bar to obstruct your view.
However, visibility varies by maker, and by your face anatomy and shape.
Headgear is a very individual thing, and what works well for one fighter, may not be best for another, so you will likely try a few before finding your perfect headgear.
The best sparring headgear is made from real leather. There are some decent choices out there, such as the RDX headgear which is made from synthetic leather, that have good quality too.
It’s what’s inside that counts
The material that lines the inside of the headgear matters. Microfiber or some other breathable, moisture wicking, cooling material is preferred.
You do not want sweat to accumulate in the headgear because it can cause the headgear to slip and slide, which means adjusting, which means you are open to a shot to the face. Capiche?
Competition or training?
This is easy. Either the gear is rated for competition, or it is not. If you are competing, even as an amateur, you may be required to use headgear that is USA boxing approved if you are in the US.
Companies usually make a big deal out of being approved, so it will generally say so in the product description. If not, you can assume it is not USA boxing approved.
Plenty of good headgear is not approved, so do not take approval as a sign of a superior product.
How to Wear Headgear – Getting the Right Fit
Line up the viewing window
Getting the right fit for your headgear starts with putting it on so the eye windows top edge is about ½ inch above your eyebrows.
Remember, as you are fighting, you need to keep your chin down, so do not place it so low you block your vision.
Next, tighten the chin strap
Then start tightening at the crown, using the drawstring lace at the top.
Finally, secure the back, so the headgear is quite snug. Be sure to press down hard on the velcro to make sure it is secure.
Top 13 Best Boxing Headgear Reviews 2018
Ringside Competition Boxing Muay Thai MMA Headgear
Review: This Ringside headgear is competition level USA Boxing approved, full face headgear. You will not regret giving this ringside headgear a chance.
It is lightweight, the strap secures it so well, it will not slide around, the headgear does not hinder your vision and it is comfortable to wear.
- Genuine leather interior and exterior.
- USA Boxing Competition Approved.
- Full Face.
- Strap up close.
- Runs small, some say strap is too short.
Contender Fight Sports Competition Boxing Headgear
Review: This contender fight sports headgear is competition approved, full face boxing headgear.
No need to adjust this headgear in the middle of a match, it uses a chin strap to secure the headgear for a perfect slip-free fit.
- Leather outer shell, synthetic liner.
- Strap adjustment for a perfect, snug fit that won’t move.
- Full face protection.
- Slightly obstructs vision, buckle mar rust when exposed to sweat.
Twins Special Headgear Boxing MMA
Review: This full face sparring MMA headgear is a sturdy piece of protective gear designed to withstand full contact sparring, including knees and elbows. This model employs a Velcro chin strap t secure the headgear.
- High density foam.
- Full face protection.
- Real premium leather shell.
- Runs small, note inside is actually white, not black as pictured.
RDX Maya Hide Leather Boxing MMA Headgear
Review: This RDX MMA cage style headgear is made with a detachable face grill, which, when removed, has a chin bar that goes over the chin (but not under) so you are not completely exposed.
The face guard will put your fears to rest, as it does not leave your face exposed at all, however it could fit snugger and have better visibility.
- Removable face grill.
- Protects the nose.
- Fabric lined, comfortable.
- No chin strap, secures with Velcro so it does not get a super snug fit.
- Limited visibility.
Cleto Reyes Traditional Headgear
Review: Serious protection for serious sparring, this facesaver style headgear has a lightweight bar covering the face, uses an adjustable chin strap close, and has an angles viewing window to help visibility.
Three points of adjustment for the perfect fit are the adjustable chin strap, the Velcro back, and the drawstring tightens at the crown.
- Three points of adjustment for an excellent fit.
- Lightweight front bar protects nose and mouth.
- Angled vision window so you can see what is coming your way.
Cleto Reyes Redesigned Headgear Wide
Review: This headgear has all the features of the traditional Cleto Reyes headgear, including the same three adjustment points.
What makes this headgear different is the redesigned viewing window and face bar. This facesaver style redesigned model has a larger, more rectangular window and the face bar sticks out farther.
Some people like this because the bar is not too close to the nose and mouth, while others prefer the more snug traditional design.
- Face bar sits out farther off the mouth and nose.
- Three points of adjustment for a perfect fit.
- Genuine leather outer.
- Protruding bar can block vision.
Winning Headgear Fg5000
Review: The Winning FG5000 facesaver style headgear is designed for boxing because the padding is softer and meant to absorb punches, not knees or elbows.
This model has an adjustable chin strap and drawstring style tighten at the crown, allowing it to fit like a dream. It is super light and soft, very comfortable.
- Only weighs 15 oz.
- Soft and flexible, perfect cushion for boxing.
- Adjustable chin strap and drawstring on top for the best fit.
- Too expensive to be made with faux leather.
Winning Headgear Fg2900
Review: This full face FG2900 boxing headgear is the lightest and most comfortable headgear I have found.
It weighs only 9.5 oz and is similar designs to competition headgear, so it is the perfect choice to get ready for the ring (although it is not competition certified).
The narrow window protects the eyes well, while the low profile precision injected foam mask sit low enough so you can still see.
- Adjustable chin strap, drawstring at the top, and laces in the back make for a great fit.
- 9.5 ox, very, very light and comfortable.
- High density Foam is machine injected and molds to your face.
- No chin protection- keep your chin down!
Ring to Cage Full Face Headgear for Boxing and MMA
Review: This full face style headgear works for boxing and MMA alike. It is made from layered molded foam and gel tech, and has a face bar to protect your mouth and nose.
This headgear is real leather on the outside, with a sweat wicking fabric on the inside and is made to last.
- Stays secure without slipping thanks to adjustable chin strap and drawstring top.
- Good visibility, angled window with molded ridges at the side for face protection.
- Good for MMA.
- On the heavy side.
Fairtex Headgear w Diagonal Vision
Review: This full face fairtex headgear fits sung on all sides, and feels like a part of you as you spar. The material is streamlined, so visibility is good, and offers good protection with a chin bar and cheek protection that guards the nose a bit.
- Genuine leather, inside and out.
- Velcro back close with drawstring adjustment at the top.
- Good peripheral vision.
- Leather on the inside may accumulate sweat, wear a skullcap to absorb sweat.
Rival Boxing RHG30 Mexican Style Headgear
Review: This Rival Mexican Style headgear offers fuller cheek protection, along with a snug adjustable fit you would expect from high quality gear.
- Adjustable leather chin strap.
- Microfiber lining- comfortable.
- Adjusts well to stay tight and slip free.
- Kind of heavy- but can be used for MMA.
Fighting Sports No Contact Headgear
Review: This facesaver headgear by Fighting Sports fits snug and has a protruding facebar that protects the nose and mouth well, even large noses.
- Dual density foam, protects from punches and MMA kicks, elbows and knees.
- Very shock absorbing.
- Good visibility especially considering it has a face bar.
- A bit heavy.
Amber Fight Gear Headgear With Face Mask
Review: This cage style headgear is some of the best boxing headgear for eye protection. It has an adjustable leather chin strap.
- Genuine leather.
- Removable Face cage.
- Full Face style headgear under face cage.
- A little weighty.
This concludes the best boxing headgear reviews. I hope that you find headgear in this list that suits your style and needs.
Don’t wait, pick up your headgear today!
IMHO, the best boxing headgear is the Winning FG2900 because it is so light and form fitting, and for MMA, I like the Ringside Competition headgear because it has such good visibility and comfort while still protecting the cheeks and being lightweight.
But I want to hear what you think!
Drop me a line in the comments and let me know what your headgear of choice is.