Review: Winning NG-2 Knuckle Guard

29 October 2019

My struggle with knuckle pain began shortly after my first ever training session on the heavy bag.

I’d trained with the frenzy typical of beginner boxers, utterly absorbed by the sensation of my own power, and utterly ignorant of technique. It was haymaker after haymaker for a full thirty minutes, all delivered in my A$20 pair of Rock bag gloves from Rebel Sports. And I shall never forget it. For the megalomania of working out on the heavy bag is perhaps the closest ordinary men can get to experiencing the mental lives of extraordinary men like Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon.

But there’s no escaping reality, especially the reality of one’s mediocrity.

As the delusional intoxication of my megalomania waned, the real pain in the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint of my left ring finger waxed. It felt as if the knuckle bones and cartilage had been crushed into paste, though of course they hadn’t. My knuckle was simply very sore and tender as a consequence of the blunt force trauma I’d repeatedly inflicted upon it over a period of thirty minutes. If you’ve ever had serious knuckle pain from punching the heavy bag, you’ll know what I mean.

I thought the knuckle pain would eventually go away with further “conditioning” of my hands. But although it did come and go, it never disappeared completely, not even as my gloves progressed from Rock to Punch, Hayabusa, Rival, Cleto Reyes, and finally Winning itself. It seemed as though knuckle pain was my destiny. In desperation, I invented crazy coping mechanisms. For example, I imagined that the degree of my knuckle pain was somehow indicative of my commitment to the sport.

And then one day I read about knuckle guards on the Internet, probably somewhere on the Sherdog gear forum. The knuckle guards in question were Winning NG-2s.

Description

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The Winning NG-2 knuckle guard is a very simple device. It comprises (apparently two layers of) gel padding encased by some kind of stretchy, elasticised fabric, with a strap or loop to hold the gel padding down.

One of my pairs of Winning NG-2s

The gel padding is intended to sit on top of the four MCP joints involved in striking. The rectangular pads are roughly 11cm long, 5.5cm wide, and 1cm high, which is presumably enough for most people’s knuckles.

To use the Winning NG-2 knuckle guard, you must insert your fingers through the loop until the lengthwise axis of the gel padding roughly aligns with the four MCP joints involved in striking.

Lengthwise axis aligned with MCP joints

You then apply your hand wraps. If you normally run your wraps between your fingers, you may find that doing so while wearing an NG-2 pushes it up and onto the back of your hand, thereby defeating the purpose of wearing it. In that case, it it’s easiest to forget about your fingers and simply run the wrap all the way around your hand, though it’s also possible to first make a “barrier” behind the NG-2 with the wrap and then run the wrap between your fingers.

You can simply run the wrap around your hand…
…or you can make a wrap barrier…
…and run the wrap run between your fingers.

Winning is famous in the world of boxing for its understated – even non-existent – marketing claims. The company doesn’t have much to say about the NG-2s, other than that they’re gel pads which provide protection for your knuckles in addition to that provided by your gloves. And, indeed, that’s what the NG-2s are, and that’s what they do.

Evaluation

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Performance

The NG-2s provide superb protection for the four MCP joints involved in striking. They are highly effective in both preventing the development of knuckle pain and alleviating pre-existing knuckle pain.

My own experience with the NG-2s was almost magical.

When I first got them, I made sure to give my battered and bruised knuckles a week or two to recover. Then I got back into hard training. For someone obsessed with boxing, it was like being born again.

The NG-2s had an incidental benefit for me as well. I’ve always preferred the fit of my gloves to be snug, but as I have small hands, this preference has often gone unsatisfied. Not now. The gel padding of the NG-2s makes my wrapped hands bulkier, thereby making the fit of my gloves snugger in general. I like it.

Of course, one man’s pleasure is another man’s pain. Many people with larger hands complain that the NG-2s make their wrapped hands too bulky for their gloves. More specifically, if you have big hands, the use of NG-2s may make it harder for you to put your gloves on, or even prevent you from doing so altogether. 

Another common complaint is that the NG-2s can be a bit fiddly to get right, especially compared to gel quick wraps like these:

Sting gel quick wraps

That may be true, but it’s a trivial issue in my opinion. It’s also outweighed by countervailing considerations. Gel quick wraps are notorious for lacking the support of traditional hand wraps. The NG-2s, on the other hand, are intended to complement traditional hand wraps, not replace them; so with NG-2s you don’t have to compromise support for your hand.

Durability

The gel padding inside the NG-2s seems pretty much indestructible to me. Of course, it’s not really, but I’ve had several pairs of NG-2s for years now and I have not detected any changes whatsoever in the effectiveness or structure of the gel padding. The stretch fabric covering the gel padding, on the other hand, does show some signs of wear and tear, but nothing beyond what one would reasonably expect from that kind of material.

Wear and tear on fabric loop

Aesthetics

The NG-2s are only available in baby blue and they tend to get slightly discoloured with regular use – none of which is really worth knowing, let alone worrying about. After all, the NG-2s are purely functional devices and you wear them under your wraps whenever you use them.

Value

Taking into account that they’re Winning products, the NG-2s are actually reasonably priced – if you know where to get them.

In the USA, things are straightforward enough. You can just buy the NG-2s from Amazon US. They only cost US$22, which is nothing relative to the utility they confer on those with knuckle pain. You can also get them cheaply on eBay US.

In Australia, as usual, you need to be a bit more circumspect in your dealings. MMA Fight Store, the leading rip-off merchant of the Australian boxing scene, sells the NG-2s for a whopping A$55! In this case as in most – but not all – others, I would advise against giving MMA Fight Store your custom. Instead, go to eBay and get NG-2s from Japan for only A$35 inclusive of shipping. You can also import them through Amazon Australia, but that’ll cost more than eBay with shipping.

Overall

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If your hands are not big, and either you suffer from knuckle pain or you want to prevent it, then you should give serious consideration to buying the Winning NG-2 knuckle guard. It’s an effective, durable, and reasonably priced device for protecting your knuckles.

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Posted by ScepticalBoxer

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