Boxing vs Muay Thai: Which Style Is Deadlier?

Boxing and muay thai are two combat sports that are known for their brutality. Many fans of each sport often debate the other over which style is more deadly.

Let’s review these popular striking arts and see which style is deadlier. This article compares everything about boxing and muay thai from their history, rules, technique, and training.

We’ll also go over the benefits of using each style within MMA.

Let’s dive in.

What Is Boxing? 

The sweet science known as boxing is the art of striking that is strictly punching only. It has been practiced for centuries, but it’s a little over 300 years old as a sport.

The very first recorded boxing match took place in Britain in 1681. For the next two hundred years, boxing matches were held sporadically, but nothing very organized. 

It wasn’t until John Graham Chambers created the Queensbury Rules that were published in 1867. These are the accepted rules of boxing that all boxing organizations abide by to this day.

Queensbury rules made it so that all boxing matches were held in rings with a referee present. Boxing gloves were added in the 1890s, and boxing began to grow into a sport.

As boxing evolved, a wide variety of boxing styles and techniques also began to develop. 

Today, boxing is by far the most watched and practiced combat sport in the world. 

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What Is Muay Thai? 

The art of eight limbs or “muay thai” is Thailand’s national martial art and sport. It was first developed in the 13th century by soldiers of the Sukhothai Kingdom.

Muay Thai evolved from elements of the ancient Thai martial art Muay Boran and other Thai martial artists. What differentiates this striking martial art from other types is the variation of strikes used.

Muay Thai is called the art of eight limbs because you use almost your entire body to strike an opponent. Everything from punches, elbows, knees, and kicks are taught within muay thai.

The Thai martial art was also heavily influenced by western boxing as the sport of muay thai became more organized. Thanks to the influence of western boxing, rings and boxing gloves were eventually added to muay thai bouts in the early 20th century.

Today, muay thai is practiced worldwide and is more popular than ever.

Muay Thai vs Boxing Rules 

boxing vs muay thai

Although the rules and structure of muay thai were influenced by western boxing, they have vast differences from each other. Here are the outlines of the rules of muay thai vs boxing.

Muay Thai Rules 

  • Rounds: All muay thai fights are three minutes long, with bouts lasting for five rounds. Between each round, there is a two-minute break.
  • Legal Strikes: You can strike your opponent with punches, elbows, knees, and kicks. Just no low blows or eye gouging is allowed.
  • Ways To Win: Knockout, referee stoppage, doctor stoppage, or judge’s decision.

Boxing Rules

  • Rounds: A boxing match can range from 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 rounds, depending on the sanctioning organization. Matches with 12 rounds are strictly for title fights. Between each round, there is a one-minute break.
  • Legal Strikes: Only punches to the front of an opponent’s body and above their belt line.
  • Ways To Win: Knockout, referee stoppage, doctor stoppage, or judge’s decision.

Muay Thai vs Boxing Techniques 

Muay Thai does share some of the same punching techniques as boxing but is vastly different from the sweet science. Here are the lists of the techniques in muay thai vs boxing.

Muay Thai Techniques 

  • Punches: jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts.
  • Kicks: Roundhouses, wheel kicks, teeps(front kicks).
  • Elbows: Slashing elbows, smashing elbows, reverse elbows, and spearing elbows.
  • Knees: Frontal knees, flying knees, and diagonal knees.
  • Sweeps & Throws
  • Defensive Techniques: Punch blocks, kick blocks to the body and head, and checking leg kicks.

Boxing Techniques

  • Punches: Jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts
  • Head Movement: Slips, feint, and ducks.
  • Punch Defense: Parries, blocks, and catches.
  • Counters: Blocking or evading a punch and delivering your own punch or combination.
  • Foot Work: Being able to float around the ring evading shots and setting up your combos.

Boxing vs Muay Thai Training

muay thai vs boxing

Even though boxing and muay thai teach vastly different techniques, their training structures are very similar. Muay thai fighters and boxers do many of the same things in training to prepare for fights.

Road Work

Running or road work, as many call it, is a big part of the conditioning training in both muay thai and boxing. Both types of fighters will run up to ten kilometers a day to build up their wind for a fight.

Warm Ups

Boxers and Thai boxers do many of the same warm-ups. Both will do jump rope and shadow boxing rounds followed by stretching to prepare for a training session.

Bag Work & Pads

The main part of both a boxing or muay thai training session is hitting punching bags and doing pad work. Generally, some fighters will be on the punching bags while their teammates hit pads and switch after so many rounds. These training sessions will typically last from an hour to ninety minutes and are possibly repeated later in the day.

Sparring

Even though boxers and Thai boxers do spar, the way they spar is very different. Boxers usually go harder in sparring, while Thai boxers do more technical sparring. 

The contrast in sparring methodology is due to a difference in culture. Thai boxers also fight more often than boxers, so they try not to hurt each other in sparring.

Conditioning

The two striking arts also have similarities in how they do conditioning. Both boxers and Thai boxers do a lot of calisthenics, along with hundreds of pushups and abdominal exercises. Each fighter will also use lightweight workouts tailored for their sports to build muscle endurance.

Strength and conditioning methods for boxing and muay thai are still somewhat primitive but have evolved significantly over the past decade.

We recommend following a strength and conditioning program designed explicitly for fighters.

Boxing vs Muay Thai For Fitness 

boxing vs muay thai

Boxing and muay thai are phenomenal choices for getting in shape. Each striking style not only improves your cardiovascular health but also improves your strength at the same time.

They are both full-body workouts that can burn up to a thousand calories during each session. Boxing or muay thai are great choices if you want results fast while learning self-defense.

Boxing vs Muay Thai For MMA

Muay Thai and boxing are MMA’s most used and effective striking styles. Almost all MMA fighters practice muay thai and boxing techniques in their training. 

They each have proven beneficial for an MMA fighter’s striking in competition. Here are the benefits of boxing vs muay thai in MMA.

The benefits of boxing in MMA

  • Punching: To succeed in MMA, fighters must be technically sound in boxing. Being able to throw short explosive bursts of punches to take out their opponents.
  • Head Movement: Knowing how to evade punches with head movement properly is a must in MMA. An excellent example of this is the first fight between Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou. Miocic was able to evade Ngannou’s bombs using solid boxing head movement.
  • Blocks: Learning to keep tight guards to block incoming strikes from your opponent.

The benefits of Muay Thai in MMA:

  • Best Variety Of Strikes: Muay Thai offers the best variety of strikes for MMA that are quick and powerful. Being able to hit an opponent from long range with kicks, elbows, and knees from in close.
  • Attack The Legs: Leg kicks have been the deciding factor in many MMA fights, and muay thai has by far the best leg kicks.
  • Defend Kicks: Not only does muay thai teach you how to throw kicks, but also how to properly defend against them.

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Which Style Is Deadlier?

In debating which style is deadlier, we would have to put muay thai over boxing. The deciding factor in this debate is that muay thai is a multi-dimensional striking art, while boxing is one-dimensional.

Muay Thai offers various ways to brutalize opponents with punches, elbows, kicks, and knees. Boxing, while a tremendous striking art, only consists of punching.

That is why if you have to pick a deadlier combat sport, the answer would be muay thai over boxing.

Learn both Muay Thai & Boxing

If you’re a martial artist looking to improve your striking, it would be beneficial to learn both muay thai and boxing. You’ll be an incredibly effective striker on your feet with the ability to land a variety of different strikes.

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Gareth Davies

I'm a martial arts competitor and enthusiast. Over the last 15 years, I have trained and competed in several martial arts. I live in Manchester U.K working as a strength & conditioning coach when I'm not travelling and exploring martial arts around the world.