The beginner gear fallacy

30 November 2019

Are you a beginner wondering what gear you should buy? Or has a beginner ever asked you what gear he or she should buy?

If so, you’re probably familiar with the idea that there’s a special kind of gear for beginners: gear of significantly lower quality and cost than that used by more experienced or advanced boxers, but nevertheless adequate for the purposes of those just starting out in the sport.

You might, for example, have read about “the best gear for beginners” on one of the gazillions of review websites. You might have been told by someone at your gym that certain gear is “good enough for beginners”. You might even have given that advice to a beginner yourself.

The idea of beginner gear seems to have achieved the status of conventional wisdom across the Internet and even in many gyms. This is especially so with regard to training gloves. And, in fact, the idea of beginner gear does have a strong intuitive appeal.

For one thing, many beginners won’t go on to regularly train and compete in boxing. Given that boxing is one of the most physically and psychologically challenging of all sports, the likelihood of any particular beginner choosing to quit is (presumably) very high.

What’s more, beginners generally don’t train with the same frequency and intensity as more advanced boxers. Not only that, but they’re generally incapable of punching with the same degree of power. Advanced boxers subject their bodies (viz. hands) to a lot more punishment.

So beginners shouldn’t spend much money buying decent quality gloves and other training gear. Who could doubt that? It’s just common sense, right?

Well, maybe – but I doubt it, and very seriously so. In my opinion, it’s fallacious to claim that a boxer should buy low quality and low cost gear just because he or she is a beginner.

Why is it a fallacy?

Despite what conventional wisdom would suggest, the idea of beginner gear actually has no basis in the training needs of beginners.

A beginner is someone who has undergone little or no training in the sport. Absolute beginners have had no training whatsoever, while relative beginners have only had a bit. 

Boxing is a technically sophisticated sport. Beginners don’t pick it up in one or two training sessions. It typically takes years and years of training for someone to grasp and apply the techniques of boxing.

The technical sophistication of boxing means that beginners are much more likely than experienced boxers to commit technical errors during training. The likelihood of technical error is perhaps highest when beginners are doing solo bagwork or sparring under pressure.

Beginners also tend to be much more likely than experienced boxers to throw lots and lots of power punches. The insane megalomania of beginners can be readily observed in almost any gym. Like technical error, it’s probably most common during bagwork and sparring.

Indeed, technical error and power punching go hand in hand. This unholy alliance is the bane of the beginner boxer, as it dramatically increases the risk of injury. The majority of injuries during training result from punching hard with bad technique.

(I take it that that’s obvious enough in the case of bagwork. But it also applies to sparring. Beginners who throw lots and lots of wild power punches in sparring open themselves up to more counterpunches and therefore more injuries.)

A beginner making a fool of himself on the heavy bag

The foregoing considerations shouldn’t be controversial. Yet they militate very strongly against the idea of beginner gear. They suggest that, if anyone truly needs good quality gear, then beginners do.

To avoid misunderstanding, let me note that this doesn’t mean that more experienced or advanced boxers don’t need good quality gear as well. Of course they do. My point is just that they’re not the only ones. 

Everyone who trains in the sport of boxing needs good quality gear. I mean, just think about it. You don’t play boxing.

Do beginners need the best gear?

This stands in need of further elucidation. The fact that everyone, including beginners, needs good quality gear, does not mean that everyone needs the best gear.

In particular, beginners don’t need the best gear.

It would be absurd and counterproductive to suggest that beginners (of ordinary means) should splash out on brand new gear from Winning, Grant, DiNardo, or any of the other top-shelf, hyper-expensive brands.

If anyone really needs that gear – and I have my doubts whether anyone does – it’s high-level professional boxers and world-class amateurs.

Gear aficionados and other wannabes like myself like to say we really need the best gear, but if we’re open and honest with ourselves, I think we have to admit that that’s only a pretence to convince our ragged, starving families to allow us to buy it.

A gear aficionado’s wife and children

So although beginners need not spend up big on the best gear, they should be willing to spend a sizable sum on good quality gear. (They can always sell it easily enough on eBay or Gumtree if boxing turns out not to be for them.)

In general, however, the gear marketed to beginners by the companies is not good quality gear.

The idea of beginner gear is nowadays little/nothing more than a marketing device intended to sell masses of overpriced junk gear to masses of ignorant consumers. My use of the adjective “ignorant” here is non-pejorative; I only mean to designate normal consumers who, through lack of information, experience, or whatever, don’t know any better.

Of course, the paradigmatic examples of this kind of overpriced junk gear are the Everlast Pro Style training gloves. Nominally, they’re relatively cheap; but given their poor performance and poor durability, they’re ready for landfill the moment you buy them. They’re total rip-offs.

Even a cursory perusal of mainstream gear review sites should be sufficient to convince you that the idea of beginner gear is just another brainchild of marketing hacks. Those sites – which I’ve elsewhere called buckets of faeces – pump out review after review recommending truly appalling gear to beginners. At best, they paraphrase the marketing bunkum of the companies; at worst, they restate it verbatim. Their sole purpose, of course, is to earn commissions from affiliate marketing programs.

The idea of beginner gear enables the companies to cover off the largest segment of the gear market: the mass of ignorant consumers. It also enables the mainstream gear review sites to make money from misleading that same segment of the gear market.

What it does not enable is beginners to make good choices about the gear they need to properly partake in the sport of boxing.

What do you think of beginner gear? Let me know in the comments below!

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Posted by ScepticalBoxer

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