The reason for boxing gloves seems obvious enough.

To protect the person getting hit.

Bare knuckles would obviously do more damage, so the person on the receiving end needs protection.

That’s common sense.

The problem with common sense is it isn’t always right.

In fact the real purpose of boxing gloves wasn’t to protect the opponent at all.

Quite the opposite.

It was to protect the fighter wearing them.

Before boxing gloves, bare-knuckle fighters suffered broken hands, specifically the little finger.

The head is a hard object for a hand to connect with.

That’s why a common injury at hospital A&E departments on Saturday nights is a broken little finger.

In a pub everyone’s drunk, a fight breaks out, someone throws a punch and, with no protection for their hand, they break their little finger.

Bare-knuckle fighters knew this, so they avoided punching to the head.

They’d try to win with blows to the body.

Punching away until they broke their opponent’s ribs, or one of them was exhausted.

So fights went on for hours and hours, and each round lasted until someone went down.

Because of the danger of hurting their hand, and because there was no time limit, most of the bout was spent circling each other waiting for an opportunity.

Obviously, several hours of this got pretty boring for spectators.

So the rules were changed to make it more exciting.

The Marques of Queensbury Rules.

Each fight was a maximum of 15 three-minute rounds.

No one was allowed to help the boxers up.

Not getting up for 10 seconds was considered a knockout.

And the boxers had to wear padded gloves.

The time limit meant the boxers couldn’t spend hours wearing each other down.

The definition of a knockout meant more punches to the head.

And the protective gloves meant boxers could punch a lot harder.

Now there was nothing to stop them punching their opponent’s head as often and as hard as they liked.

So boxing was much better to watch.

And nowadays most punches are to the head.

A punch is the equivalent of a cushioned hammer hitting the head at 20 mph.

That’s why 15% of retired boxers have some form of brain damage.

That’s why 400 boxers have died in the last fifty years.

But the most amazing thing for me is the gloves.

What I always assumed was a humane way to soften a brutal sport was actually a way to make it more brutal.

More exciting to watch.

It was for the benefit of the audience not the boxer.

Which is a great lesson for those whose business it is to predict the way the mind works.

A great lesson for everyone in our business.

Our minds can take a fact and misinterpret it by 180 degrees.


Simply by joining up the dots in the wrong order.