If you want to start sparring in boxing, then you will need a good set of head gear to protect yourself. Head gear stops you from getting cuts, protects your ears, and protects your nose. It can help to stop a lot of the damage that repeated impacts to the face can do, by absorbing them.
Now, head gear won’t stop you from getting punched in the face – and being punched can be scary. However, it will help to lessen the intensity of the blows, so while you gain experience with protecting yourself, footwork, and head movement, you shouldn’t end up getting too flinch.
Head gear can be expensive, so it’s a good idea to do a lot of research, and ideally try a few different designs, before you spend a lot of money on it.
Check out headgear with face cages, nose bars, and mouth bars, and try on some designs with extra padding and large cheek guards so that you can see what the differences really are. Depending on how heavy you are, the kind of partners you spar regularly, and your style, you might have a strong preference. Some people like the extra protection of face cages, some people feel that the face cage obstructs their view too much and they prefer something more open. Neither choice is “wrong”.
Cheap Headgear vs Certified Headgear
Cheap, $30 headgear will be fine for sparring in the gym if you have a good instructor and responsible sparring partners. If you just plan on sparring in the gym occasionally, and you don’t want to pay for “competition quality” head gear, then a decent Everlast head guard will do the job. However, you should note that you cannot do an amateur boxing fight in that kind of gear. If you plan to fight, you’ll need something that is certified by USA Boxing.
Certified headgear will cost you more than $100, but it is well worth it. Features to pay attention to, other than a clear statement that the head gear is certified by USA Boxing, include a lace-up top so that you can adjust the head gear for a nice snug fit, and a high quality chin buckle.
Many versions come with velcro – and velcro may seem like a convenience, but buckles are a better choice because velcro tends to wear out.
Whatever you choose, make sure that you can adjust the headgear so that it fits snuggly. If it is too loose then it will spin around when you are hit, and could obscure your view.
There are special “Masters” headgear products for people aged over 35. The difference between standard headgear and Masters headgear is that masters versions have a lot more padding. This makes it heavy, and it makes it stiff. The padding sticks out a lot, and it can impede your vision too.
Some tournaments require masters headgear for people who are looking to compete when they are over the age of 35. If you need it, then yes, buy it. If you have a job where you absolutely, positively cannot afford to get hit in the face, then maybe you will like how thickly padded the headgear is. However, most people find that it is too bulky, too heavy, and actually makes things worse because you can’t see properly.
Headgear won’t protect you from the “shaken” effect if you don’t tuck your chin and you get hit clean. If you’re getting hit repeatedly while wearing headgear you could still suffer brain injury, so don’t use head gear as a crutch. Rather, try to learn to cover up, move your head, and manage distance. A good coach will teach you all of that.
If you’re not sure what to buy, talk to your coach and people at your gym. Try on as many different brands as you can. See if you can borrow head gear for a few sessions.
Don’t cut corners and buy head gear just based on price. It’s better to pay $130 for a set that will last a long time, rather than waste money on something that won’t last for more than a year.