THE THUMBLESS BOXING GLOVE
Not all gloves are the same
Logic dictates that the optimum design for boxing gloves is a smooth surface to help decrease the chance that the glove will cause unnecessary injuries. Since the earliest gloves were made, designs incorporated the concept of hiding the thumb, like this patented design (illus. right) made in 1890 by J. Stewart.
The unremarkable boxing glove has been a fixture of the sport for more than a hundred years. Moreover, it was the simple glove that elevated savage back alley, mostly illegal contests, into a legitimate and hugely popular sport. It was the boxing glove that took the edge off the brutality and softened the spectacle. The boxing glove is perceived as a shock absorber somewhat lessening the impact of blows. It is the glove that has contributed to lessening hand injuries. Through the years both subtle and dramatic improvements and advancements in safety have advanced the sport immensely. Contrary to popular belief, statistically boxing is one of the safest sports in the world.
In 1983, as Product Designer of the Everlast Sporting Goods Manufacturing Company, I developed a revolutionary idea for a boxing glove design. Thoroughly tested and officially approved by most boxing authorities and commissions, my patented glove known then as the Thumbless Glove was widely used by professional boxers in New York State where it was mandated for all professional fights, excluding championship contests. In many of Michael Tyson's fights the boxers wore the new glove. US Military Academies gladly accepted and integrated the new gloves into their boxing programs. Many amateur associations including the Golden Gloves used the gloves as well.
After suffering a detached retina that threatened his career, professional boxer, Ray Leonard, was able to resurrect it by using the Thumbless Glove in training and in a comeback fight.
For the most part, the Thumbless Glove has been recognized as the optimal design for boxing gloves. Most boxing medical advisory boards and commissions (national and international) for boxing safety have recommended the gloves and still do.
So if the Thumbless Glove is so great, why isn’t it the only type of glove that is used? There are a few reasons for the lack of its visibility in boxing. Everlast first introduced the glove in 1983 after substantial investment in developing the product. Although state boxing commissions and legislations considered mandating the glove, there was a natural resistance to change and considerable product loyalty to other
manufacturers from the professional boxing establishment. The resistance grew fiercest considering that only Everlast would be able to make the gloves. No one state authority would take the ultimate risk to sanction the gloves since it would or could mean they would lose possible lucrative title fights if they insisted the contestants wear the new gloves.
Ultimately, Everlast sensing a possible backlash from the boxing community, which could have led to the company losing its own professional loyalty, decided on an alternative plan. They exchanged the Thumbless Glove design for one that has become referred to as the Tied-Thumb Glove. This was not patentable and could be shared and manufactured by all glove makers in the world. Tied-Thumb Gloves were actually an old idea first appearing in the 1920s in training gloves as a safety innovation. It includes a small strap that attaches the thumb to the main portion of the glove. Originally, the design was incorporated into gloves to restrict the thumb from hyper-extending, bending abnormally back accidentally when striking the target. The Tied-Thumb Glove became the standard for all boxing gloves. While Everlast continued to manufacture thumbless gloves, they resisted any aggressive promotion. They opted instead to allow the boxing establishment to chose their preference between thumbless and tied thumb gloves. Interest in thumbless gloves has remained small but loyal. However, since ownership of Everlast has been sold to a foreign entity and they have discontinued manufacturing in the USA, the owners have not continued to offer this unique glove.