Bare-knuckle boxing/fighting is not safer

If given a choice between being in a bare-knuckle fight, versus one with gloves, most people without hesitation would choose gloves. Yet these ‘experts’ and sportswriters, who prize their purported expertise above human instinct and commonsense, say gloves make fights more dangerous. There seems to be a very common misconception online that the introduction of gloves protects boxers’ hands and or that gloves makes boxing more dangerous due to increased risk of concussion.

Here’s an example such an argument:

I don’t know about a comparison but one thing of note, head injuries went up as the use of boxing gloves increase. In an oldschool boxing match you couldn’t punch someone in the head more than a couple times or you risked breaking your hands in the first or second round out of 12. As glove size and padding went up, so did headshots and so did long-term head injuries.

Even Robin Hanson weighed in on this debate, arguing, like many, that gloves make fighting more dangerous.

To demonstrate empirically why this is wrong, make a fist and tap your lower jaw. Notice how your jaw and head probably hurts more than your hand. You can imagine that if you applied much more force maybe your hand would hurt but your jaw would be messed up to the point of not being able to talk or eat. In fact, you wouldn’t even try. Obviously, not all bones are equal, even though they are all hard. Competent fighters aren’t going to deliver blows to your forehead (the hardest part). They go for the jaw, which is the weakest part because it has the most nerve sensitivity and is delicate, and also it’s large and prominent. The damage inflicted by punching your opponent in the jaw or in the face will likely exceed any return damage to your hand. Also, unless you have the hands of a 12-year-old girl or Johnny Depp, it’s not like your hands need that much protection anyway, especially given that the soft tissue of the human face can be considered a form of padding anyway.

Although everyone focuses on the head, hands, and concussions, blows to the torso are potentially more dangerous, and because the torso is soft, hands are protected. Repeated blows to the torso can easily cause internal bruising and bleeding that can be fatal without medical attention. I would rather have some brain rattling than be blind in an eye, or have to eat out of a straw for 4 months, or die of internal injuries. This explains why rubber bullets are more dangerous than regular bullets and why snipers and other elite military personal always use rubber bullets, because the rubber protects the bullet and not the target. Obviously, I’m being sarcastic, but it shows how stupid this argument is when applied to an example that shows how demonstrably false it is. But that’s not to say gloved fighting isn’t dangerous and doesn’t lead to fractures, swollen eyes, and other serious injuries.

Yes, gloves may result in more concussive injuries, but these are not as immediately life threatening, nor as disfiguring and disabling damage to the jaw and other fragile body parts. So why is this ‘gloves protect hands myth’ so pervasive? Probably for the same reason people believe other stupid stuff.