As a boxer, no matter how well trained you are, you’ll never get any special training on how to take a punch on your skull. Rather, you are taught how to keep your guard up, dodge, bob, and weave to take each hit with the least amount of force possible. But keeping in mind that your opponents are skilled to land effective punches mostly on your head, it’s certain that some hits will break your guard. And that’s where the need for the best boxing headgear comes in.
The primary role of a boxing headgear is to remove cuts and bruises from the equation. But the heavily padded head guards also offer a little protection from the cumulative impact.
Head size is not universal. And this means that getting the perfect boxing headgear that won’t compromise your comfort and vision when sparring or in competitions can be a little bit hard.
While we have a comprehensive guide on how to buy the best boxing headgear later in this article, we’d also advise you try out a few; most boxing gyms have a communal head guard or you could borrow or loan from someone.
Of course, communal and borrowed head guards have several disgusting factors; sweat, spit, blood, grime, and germs that you’ll need to persevere. But they give you a solid overview of what to look for in terms of size, style, and brand at least.
8 Best Boxing Headgear in 2018
Our first contender in our best headgear reviews is currently the most expensive in this list, but it’s also the best that money can buy today. It goes without saying that a formula that every other brand is trying to replicate is bound to be a masterpiece. And Winning- a Japanese company- seems to have it.
Construction quality and design
Winning is famous for its premium quality fighting gear ranging from gloves to head guards. And the fact that the FG2900 is one of Manny Pacquiao’s best boxing training headgears is an assurance that it is not an exception.
This head guard features synthetic leather on the outside- not what we actually expected considering the price but a closer inspection reveals that it isn’t another run-of-the-mill synthetic leather. This is one of Winning’s most durable leather-like materials and will definitely offer you years of durability.
What gives this headgear an edge on the market is its Mexican-style design coupled by its unique lacing enclosure system at the back that just can’t be beat. These 2 features mean that you get a perfect fit that you won’t need to adjust after taking a few blows.
Padding and vs. comfort and vision
This headgear’s excellent padding is actually what makes it the best headgear for sparring. It has the most heavily-padded forehead and cheeks that uniquely extend to give your nose a good amount of protection too (unique for a headgear that isn’t a face-saver!).
The sides and back have minimal to non-existent padding though. Thus, you don’t want to smack down backward on the mat.
The padding is made up of 2 layers of foam that perform distinctively to give this helmet its overall great feel. The outer layer is dense and stiff for excellent shock absorption while the inner layer is less dense to conform to your head’s shape for a perfect fit.
Another great feature of this head guard is its excellent vision. Even with its heavily padded cheeks and forehead, it still manages to offer you a clear peripheral vision so you can see all low and middle kicks and punches coming.
If its premium price tag isn’t an issue, we highly recommend you to go with this head guard. It has everything that you could be looking for from a sparring Mexican-style headgear and a few more. What we really like about it is its excellent fit, padding, and comfort. And we also appreciate that it is available in several sizes and a choice of 11 eye-catching colors.
Hint: If you find this model so pricey for your budget, the Ringside FightGear Master’s reviewed later in this article might interest you. It is several folds cheaper but features an exact design and almost similar level of protection.
The Hayabusa T3 failed to clinch our first slot due to the fact that it’s available in one size only. Otherwise, if durability was our main concern, no other model in our reviews of the best headgears 2018 would be able to take this model down; not even the Winning FG2900 above!
Crafted for durability
The T3 has one of the most striking construction designs that we came across- and what you see on the image above is exactly what you get (but it is not as heavy as it seems). The outer shell has been engineered from pure full-grain leather and features quality stitching for ultra-durability.
The main advantage that leather has compared to synthetic is that it’s resistant to tear, abrasion, and cracking. But what most pro boxers love about it is that its feel tends to get better and better with age.
Leather combat gears take some time to break in completely. Although this applies to the Hayabusa T3, the good news is that it has been molded from pre-curved and flexible material to offer you a good fit right from the box.
As we told you, this helmet comes in only one size. But as most boxers affirm, it fits snugly and, therefore, won’t move around with every punch. Neither does it try to squeeze the brain out of you.
On the same subject, this headgears inner lining is fabric. It gets a really good boost from the supple leather shell, the mesh ear guard and open top design to create a cooler environment for heated training sessions.
The only issue that we have against it is that the chinstrap is fixed. This means that if you have a big head, you might not be able to lower your jaw and gasp for oxygen freely.
The Hayabusa is with no doubts a great pick for those who are not sure about the right size for their boxing headgear. This helmet can be used for both boxing and MMA and has a good amount of padding. It also performs well in terms of comfort thanks to its breathable interior and an open-top design. Even better, if durability is your major concern, the 100% fine-grain leather used for this guard will definitely appeal.
There’s always something good with combat accessories made from Thailand more so if they are from huge brands such as Venum. This is one of the best boxing headgear brands today and a go-to manufacturer for boxing and MMA enthusiasts who want affordability without compromising protection.
Made for elite fighters
The Venum Elite is a big brother to the Challenger 2.0- another highly recommendable model that we’ve reviewed below. As its name depicts, this head guard is designed with the elite boxers in mind. And this is actually the main difference between these 2 models.
The Elite has a much lower profile and streamlined design and it’s also notably lighter than the Hayabusa T3 Kanpeki above. This combination makes it easy to dodge and counterattack in time.
Handmade equals comfort
One reason why Venum products always make an appearance in almost every list of the best items is that most of them are hand-made. Yes, this matters big time and it’s a guarantee that the headgear is crafted by an experienced craftsperson and not a robot. This also means that each stitch is made with precision and with quality assurance.
The Venum Elite headgears have an outer shell made from skintex leather. This isn’t pure leather but it’s hands down, one of the best imitations of real leather and what makes Venum so popular. It’s relatively durable for its price and the good thing is that it does not require an extensive break-in period.
This helmet also makes a mark in terms of padding and offers full head protection on your chin, cheek, and forehead. This manufacturer also offers you a good amount of protection around the ears for those instances when a punch misses your face narrowly.
The Venum Elite is a mid-range headgear that seems to impress so many people from the forum comments. Some of its highlights include its lightweight design that makes punch evasion possible and a great feel off the bat. It has minimal padding and it’s, therefore, best suited to elite fighters with quick head movements and reflexes. For starters, check out the Venum Challenger 2.0 reviewed below.
The RDX Facesaver is currently one of the most sought-after headgears for people who want total protection of the head when sparring or training. Considering that it comes in all sizes (small, medium, large, and x-large), this model also makes one of the best boxing headgears for children as most parents’ sentiments affirm in the reviews sections.
RDX is known for upgrading its strategies and approach in crafting their combat gear to blend in with the latest fighting styles. And that’s exactly what they have done in this face-saver. We were honestly intrigued by the level of protection technology that this manufacturer uses on this model.
This face-saver uses what RDX has dubbed tri-slab max shock foam padding all around the commonly targeted areas. Simply put, this is a 3-layer system that consists of EVA-lution foam, spongeX, and Calibrated Impact Diffusion Sheet foams that work in collaboration to absorb shock and distribute it around to minimize impact.
The ear has also been nicely guarded by a nicely compressed EVA-lution sheet and with a large opening to boost aeration. It does not have a horizontal bar that we saw with the Venum Elite, but that’s no cause for alarm.
Removable plastic grill
To add to its ingenious protective design, RDX then went ahead to throw in a high-quality plastic grill. This is what appeals to most parents and it’s assurance that no punch goes through. This, however, is a trade-off between safety and vision. The good news, however, is that it is removable.
If safety is your biggest concern, then the RDX Facesaver is what you should be looking for. This is an amazingly affordable and well-built headgear that comes in all sizes and an array of colors to match with your other fighting gear. Among other things, we appreciate that its outer shell is crafted from Maya leather (the closest that synthetic leather can go to replicate genuine leather) and it’s heavily padded so you can train hard.
A family boxing firm founded in the 1940s in Mexico, Cleto Reyes is one of the most renowned brands in this industry. Most of its products including gloves cost top dollar mainly because they are made of nothing else than genuine leather.
The Cleto Reyes Traditional Headgear is our number 1 recommendation for the best boxing headgear for nose protection. But it also has a lot more to offer besides.
If we were to rate this headgear’s build quality on a 1-10 scale (10 being the best), we would confidently rate it at 9.8. Reason: it uses genuine leather not only on the exterior but for its inner lining too.
Most headgears use synthetic inner linings perhaps to keep the cost down. Their major drawback, however, is that they tend to generate a lot of heat and this might be very annoying especially if you sweat a lot. A leather lining, on the other hand, is highly breathable so you don’t have to take it off mid-training to wipe the sweat off. Another bonus is that this lining does not slide a lot- a feature that gets a good boost from this headgear’s 3-point adjustment design.
This headgear’s leather panels again have a solid stitching that we expect to hold up well for quite some time.
The Cleto Reyes Classic Boxing Headgear also scores a lot of marks in this department. It boasts thick latex padding on the forehead and cheeks that allow you to face your trainer and sparring partner with confidence.
Unique from other models in our headgear reviews, this guard has a pointed nylon face bar. This front bar sits nicely on the nose and it’s heavily padded to minimize the risk of nose bleeding.
Weight and vision
Putting its all-leather construction, heavy padding, and nylon face bar into consideration, you might expect this headgear to be notably heavy, right? Well, that’s not the case. This helmet weighs an unbelievable 20 ounces to allow you to slip punches without being weighed down.
What about visibility? Well, this headgear performs better than the RDX Maya Face-saver above in terms of peripheral vision. However, the face bar may affect your sight slightly especially when your opponent is at close range.
Overall, this is one of the best headgears for boxing, MMA, and kickboxing from Cleto Reyes. It is a little bit pricey but has an amazing combination of protection, weight, and visibility. It’s also designed to last for years thanks to its all-leather construction and solid stitches and has received a high rating in terms of fit and comfort.
The Venum Challenger 2.0 is an affordable alternative to the Elite that we saw earlier. It also boasts more padding thereby fitting our recommendations of the best boxing headgear for beginners. It is predominantly black with bold and vibrant highlights that create its 3 color options. If you love keeping a low-profile, the all-black model might be the head guard for you.
But is it worth its current rave?
Materials and design
This is a full-face headgear with a pretty substantial padding around the most sensitive areas; cheek, chin, and temples. This padding is fairly thick and gets as good as 1.5 inches around the cheek and temple protectors for advanced safety.
Worth noting, while the chin protector features a single layer of compressed hard foam, its cheeks and temples are double-layered. These sections boast a hard foam on the outside and a soft padding on the inside with the essence of dispersing as much impact as possible while retaining a good and comfortable fit inside.
Similar to the Venum Elite, you also get top-notch protection around the ear thanks to the thick padding around it.
This is a one-size-fits-all head guard with a lot of flexibility that allows you to get a good personalized fit according to the size of your head. Most people around the internet report that it fits well although we did come across several complaints from buyers with overly large and small heads.
The Venum 2.0 Challenger has been lined with skintex leather on the outside. Of course, this is not a match to Cleto Reyes genuine leather, but the price difference says it all. All in all, this skintex has a comfortable and soft feel and so is the fabric lining on the inside. Another thing that we liked is that this headgear does not seem to build up a lot of heat on the inside compared to similar models.
For the price, the Venum 2.0 Challenger is a recommendable headgear for beginners and intermediate level strikers. While it does not promise decades of use, it has a lot to offer in terms of protection, comfort, and fit. It also performs fairly well in terms of visibility and can, therefore, be used for boxing, MMA, and Muay Thai.
Next up is a Master’s-approved competition headgear that has been professionally engineered to absorb punishment- something that it does with a lot of passion! This is the best headgear 2018 for starters and intermediate fighters who tend to eat lots of shots. It might also appeal if you are looking for a communal head guard for your gym.
Construction and Design
Does the shape of this helmet ring any bell? If it does, then that’s because it is designed to mimic the Winning FG2900. However, it has a few differences that give it an edge over our top pick and a few setbacks as well.
The first thing that we like about the Ringside Master’s is that it’s made of all leather. This is an assurance that with proper care, you might be able to reap a good number of years from this head guard. Besides durability, this leather material feels great both on the outside and inside and also does a good job of keeping your head cool.
Sizes and fitting
Ringside understands that one size does not fit everyone and it offers most of its helmets in different sizes to meet everyone’s needs. This helmet is available in small, medium, large, and extra large sizes and has hook and loop rear enclosure and a buckle chinstrap for a personalized fitting.
On this note, however, we should mention that these sizes might feel a touch smaller due to the elastic that holds the back padding in place. This might not be an issue if you are at the lower end of the recommended size. Otherwise, you might want to go a size larger.
Padding, protection, and visibility
Protection is one area that the Ringside Master’s edges out the Winning FG2900. It has an overall thicker and softer padding that has been fairly distributed around the face. The cheek protectors are approximately 1.25’’ thick. If you have a narrow or square face, these cheek protectors will wrap around to offer you a good amount of nose protection.
If you have a tapered face that protrudes your nose though, the cheek protectors might be pushed out thereby leaving the edge of your nose uncovered. Thus, it might be touched by the gloves.
Does it impede visibility?
Well, considering its heavily padded cheeks, the Ringside Master’s isn’t the best performer in terms of visibility. You might find it decent if you are used to Mexican-style headgears though. Otherwise, it might take a few training sessions to get used to it.
If you want the best boxing headgear in the world but can’t afford the Winning FG2900, this is a great pick. This guy is a beast in terms of shock absorption and protecting your face and nose from cuts and bruises. It’s also durable thanks to its all-leather construction and solid stitching and also notably lightweight at around 20 ounces.
Our last recommendation in our best headgear reviews is what we consider to be the most affordable headgear for boxing. Affordable here also means low-level construction. That being said, we’d only recommend this guard if you are totally strapped for cash but you still want some form of protection during light sparring. It’s also a good option for people who are just getting their feet wet in boxing and want a feel of a headgear before investing on a high-end model.
Design and Fit
The Everlast Everfresh is an open-face style head guard made from synthetic leather nicknamed Everhide by this manufacturer. This material isn’t the most durable of the bunch but it might hold up well if you don’t spar every day.
On the inside, Everlast has used Everfresh- the same fabric that it uses for most of its gloves. While we are not completely certain of the benefits of its antimicrobial treatment, what we are sure of is that it has a good feel and it does offer a good fit after several sessions.
Speaking of a good fit, this is a basket style head guard with a single-piece synthetic leather strap at the top, an adjustable chinstrap, and 2 straps at the back. These straps use a strong Velcro closure system that makes this gear a one-size-fits-all.
Padding and Visibility
Designed for light sparring, the Everlast Everfresh features a single layer of padding that only aims at protecting your skin from bruises and cuts but won’t do much in terms of shock absorption. Even with its light padding, we like that it offers a good amount of nose protection as well.
This padding does not come without some issues though. For instance, it could be a nice touch if the padding around the cheeks was curved to wrap around the cheeks as opposed to pointing outwards. Secondly, although most users report that the Everlast has decent visibility, we feel that the cheek protectors are notably bulkier and might obstruct your vision, especially when dealing with uppercuts.
The Everlast Everfresh might be worth considering if you are on the market for the most affordable headgear. This is a budget-friendly option with basic construction design that targets beginners who participate in irregular and light sparring sessions. For hard sparring and if you practice boxing as a career, consider other models in this list.
The question of whether a headgear really helps in a fight is a serious issue of contention today. As a matter of fact, since 2013, the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) banned the use of head guards for male-senior open-class elite fighters claiming that the fighters are at a higher risk of suffering brain damage with the padded helmets on than without.
In one of the theories in their study, protective boxing headgears impede vision thereby making it hard for boxers to dodge blows on time. And this, as they explain, was responsible for the high rates of concussions in boxing competition.
This leads us to a very important question, ‘‘do the best boxing headgears prevent concussions?’’ Well, the jury is still out on this issue. However, considering that a well-trained boxer can deliver a punch weighing up to 1000 pounds, it’s very unlikely that even the best padded boxing headgear will ward off the risk of your brain jarring due to the impact.
In addition, a head guard tends to offer a false sense of protection to the fighters thereby encouraging them to take greater risks that may be detrimental to their well being.
Headgears, however, have been found to prevent lacerations and serious facial cuts and head injuries that might bring a sparring or a competition to a halt.
Most gyms today have left the decision on whether or not to wear a headgear when sparring solely to the boxer. And that’s why it’s not uncommon to find some boxers training in these protective helmets and others without.
The main role of a boxing headgear is to protect you from cuts and facial injuries. Although the padding may also help in minimizing the impact of the punches, that’s no excuse to neglect your guard and defense techniques. In addition, it’s highly important that you get a helmet that fits you nicely without slipping around or blocking your vision. The next section has a few pointers on how to buy the best boxing headgear for sparring and competition.
HOW WE CHOSE THE BEST BOXING HEADGEARS
Style vs. Discipline
Combat headgears look similar in almost all aspects. However, if you’ve scoured around, you must have realized that some are marketed as the best for boxing while others are recommended for other branches of martial arts including MMA and kickboxing.
So, what’s the difference between boxing headgear and kickboxing or MMA head guard?
Your head is the major target in boxing. That being said, the best boxing head guards sport a more streamlined design that allows better visibility of your opponent’s movements and punches. This allows you to react in time.
Before falling for any model that is listed as a boxing headgear, you need to note that these again differ depending on what you’ll be using them for; competition or sparring.
Boxing competition headgears are much more streamlined and also have fewer blind spots. They also have lesser padding than their sparring alternatives with the aim of allowing you to make quick head movements. If you are looking for a head guard purposely for competing, you’ll need to make sure that your target model meets the requirements of either AIBA or US Boxing. Otherwise, you might not be allowed to don it in the ring.
Sparring headgears are notably more heavily padded than real-fight helmets. These models may, however, differ depending on the additional protective features on them. For instance, some offer full-face protection and have, therefore been nicknamed Face Savers. These styles offer the most protection from bruises and cuts on the face. Their major drawback, however, is that they greatly impede visibility.
The next category of sparring headgears is those that major in cheek protection. They are also known as Mexican style guards and are a little bit hard to find and when you do, chances are that they’ll be notably pricier than the full-face alternatives. These are a hybrid between open-face sparring headgears and full-face gears in that they protect a large portion of your face without minimizing visibility a lot.
Open-face sparring headgears are just that… they leave a large part of your face open. These models are the easiest to find both online and in most local stores and appeal mostly to people who don’t like the feel of being enclosed (claustrophobia). Their main advantage is their excellent visibility. But this is their biggest downside as well since a large part of your face namely the cheeks, eyes, and chin are left open to strikes that may cause bruises and bleeding.
Muay Thai headgear
These headgears are pretty much similar to boxing head guards and you may not tell one from the other. Yes, this also means that you can use either whether you are into boxing or Muay Thai. Worth noting, however, is that helmets that are crafted for thai from scratch tend to have a slightly harder padding due to the additional fighting techniques involved.
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA headgear)
MMA headgears are completely different from other disciplines’ head guards both in terms of construction and the amount of padding. In mixed martial arts, a variety of mixed martial art techniques including boxing, catch wrestling, holding, and ground and pound take precedence. Consequently, MMA headgears tend to have a firmer padding compared to boxing and Thai headgears that are notably softer and less dense.
Construction materials and overall quality
A nicely constructed boxing headgear can last you over a decade. But a cheaply-made model will not only require regular replacement but it could also get you a good beating.
When thinking of the overall quality of the boxing headgear, you need to think of the construction materials used (inside and outside) and the stitching. Of course, you don’t want a guard that will rip open along the seams with just a few blows.
It goes without saying that leather is the best material for combat accessories thanks to its durability, breathability, and overall great feel. Its only drawback is its high initial cost.
Synthetics offer an economical alternative if you are operating on a budget though. Most of these don’t last as long as leather gears but the best in class can give you a good value for your money with great care.
Fit and Comfort
Fit and comfort go hand in hand in boxing headgear. A helmet that fits you perfectly without squeezing you too much or being too wobbly will allow you to concentrate more on your offensive and defensive techniques rather than struggling to position it amidst raining punches.
You might not be lucky to get a headgear that conforms to your head’s shape. But the idea is to get something that won’t stress you.
There are 2 major sources of distractions that you need to keep a close eye on when shopping for the best type of boxing gear. First, ensure that that the chinstrap isn’t too tight to create a choking feel. On the other hand, it shouldn’t be so loose to make the entire gear to move around whenever you receive a punch on the head.
The inside lining of the helmet is also another common source of annoyance for most people. This is a matter of preference though as some are objected to smooth interiors while others feel that furry linings hide dirt, especially in communal and borrowed helmets.
A headgear is all about protecting you from potential bruises and cuts. And that’s to say that a good padding is of paramount importance. The amount of padding in a headgear may depend on a few factors including the intended use of the helmet (competition or sparring) and the type of brand (Muay Thai or boxing).
Competition headgears have a thinner padding in favor of a lightweight helmet that allows you to move your head swiftly when dodging punches. Models that are designed for sparring, however, are thickly padded to protect you from scratches when training.
If you engage in professional boxing, we strongly recommend you to have both of these headgears; one for hard training and another one for real fights.
Coverage vs. visibility
As we said earlier, boxing headgears come in different types depending on the amount of coverage that they offer. For instance, full-face protectors cover the entire head while the open-face models leave a portion of your face uncovered. More coverage in headgears comes as a trade-off against visibility. Vice versa is true.
At the end of the day, everything boils down to what you value most; protection or visibility. There is an age-old saying in the boxing community that says that it’s the invisible punch that knocks you out. In the light of this saying, our advice would be to value visibility more then up your defense game.
Q: How do I get the right size for my headgear?
A: Getting a head guard with the perfect size for your head is everything. Most people point out that small helmets cause headaches after just a few minutes of having them on. On the other hand, oversize headgears not only give your opponent a larger target but they also make punch evasion almost impossible.
Most brands offer these accessories in different sizes usually in terms of head circumference but others feature a one-size-fits-all design.
Helmet sizes range from small to XL. But it’s important to note that the exact size differs greatly from one brand to the other as shown in the images below.
Q: Which is the best type of padding for a boxing headgear?
A: Well, this is a matter of personal preference. Foam is the most commonly used type of padding in headgears today perhaps because of its affordability. However, gel padding has received a good press in the recent pass citing its ability to retain its shape even with regular punches, unlike foam that decompresses and loses its shape after some time.
Q: What type of enclosure system should I go with?
A: Different headgears use different types of closing systems ranging from buckles to Velcro strap. Hands down, Velcro is the way to go if you are looking for a system that you can undo in a split second. It also offers excellent adjustability depending on the circumstances. The major drawback, however, is that it tends to stretch and lose its grip easily during intense workouts or fights. This causes the helmet to move around uncomfortably and may even block your vision or expose a part of your face to blows.
Buckles don’t budge and this means that the helmet remains intact all the time. On the downside, most of them might take a few more seconds to undo.
Q: Can I train in competition headgear?
A: Well, you could. But it’s not advisable. Similar to competition boxing hand gloves, competition headgears are crafted with speed and mobility in mind and, therefore, have less padding. This means that they offer minimal protection against lacerations, especially in hard sparring. If you are preparing for a competition, the last thing that you want is to have an injury even before the real fight.