During a boxing match, fighters are often hit in the face which can result in nasty cuts and tears. A face streaming with blood is unsurprisingly unhelpful during a match – trying to hit your opponent with blood running into your eyes is not easy!
Cutmen are the ones responsible for patching a boxer up. They carry a whole kit of specialised equipment for the treatment of a range of facial injuries like swelling and cuts. But they have to be quick, applying their tricks of the trade before the next round begins.
So what do they put on boxers’ faces to stop bleeding? Well, a whole range of stuff depending on the type and serisouness of the injury. Vaseline is applied to the face to prevent cuts, while adrenalin chloride is daubed on to stop bleeding.
But how and why is this done? We’ll reveal the contents of a cutman’s kit, some famous cutmen, and discuss the way in which they prevent and stop bleeding from boxing wounds.
What Is A Cutman?
Combat fighters are constantly at risk of injuring themselves during intense bouts, and boxers are no exception. A sharp hook to the cheekbone could split the skin right open, and open wounds are not ideal when fighting a match.
A fighter has to keep their head in the game, focusing solely on their opponent. They can’t afford to have their vision restricted, potentially hampering their performance. This is where cutmen come in.
Between rounds, you may have seen somebody attending to a boxer’s injuries – these people are called cutmen. They carry a kit of intriguing and highly specialised items aimed at quickly and efficiently treating a boxer’s wounds. These medical attendants also help to prevent injuries. Cutmen can be found at a whole range of combat sport matches including kickboxing and MMA.
At professional level, cutmen are hired in for each boxer. In amateur bouts the cutman may also be an additional coach or attendant who have been allowed in as part of a boxer’s corner.
What Do They Put On Boxers Faces To Stop Bleeding: A Cutman’s Corner Kit
To answer the question surrounding what is put on a boxer’s face to stop any bleeding, we need to take a closer look at the contents of a cutman’s corner kit. While the exact items may vary depending on the preferences of the cutman and the boxer, and the regulations set down by the governing body who has organised the bout, the key items remain the same…
1. Vaseline Or Petroleum Jelly
This is perhaps the top substance you may have heard about being applied to boxers’ faces during matches. It’s not a rumor, it’s true! Cutmen apply vaseline to a boxer’s face before the match, and may reapply it between rounds too.
The vaseline is applied generously to the face, and especially parts which are vulnerable to cuts suchas the the cheekbones and eyebrows. This protects the face from getting cut up by incresaing the chance that the opponent’s glove will slide right off rather than tear the skin on impact.
If a boxer receives a heavy blow to the nose, the cutman may daub vaseline up the nose to prevent blood flowing down the face. A blow from a leather boxing glove can cause friction burns on the face without cutting it. Vaseline helps to prevent this too.
Vaseline and petroleum jelly are widely allowed by governing bodies, although a referee may ask a cutman to remove some of the vaseline if they think the build up is too thick. The risk here is that your opponent’s gloves might pick up the vaseline, and a subsequent blow to the eye may cause problems with vision and irritate the eye.
Vaseline alone is not applied to an open wound and will not stop any bleeding by itself. In fact, it should be kept away from deeper wounds as it may lead to problems with healing later if the wound needs further medical treatment after the match. But sometimes it is added to a shallower along with the next item, adrenalin chloride, to stop bleeding.
2. Adrenalin Chloride (Epinephrine)
This medical solution is excellent at constricting blood vessels. It is applied to cuts by cutmen in order to stop bleeding and to help a clot start forming.
Adrenalin chloride (also called Epinephrine) is allowed to be applied at a 1:1000 ratio during matches. This is the most popular and most widely allowed medical substance used to stop bleeding through constricting blood vessels and helping the blood to coagulate.
Other substances that may be used for the same purpose (depending on region and governing body) include:
- Avitene (microfibrillar collagen hemostat) – this is also a coagulant mostly applied in powder form when the surface of application is also dry. Pressure is applied with dry gauze.
- Thrombin – similar use to avitene but used when the application area is not bloody.
- Surgicel and Gelfoam – these are also coagulants but are used more rarely compared to the above substances.
3. Bottled Water
A simple yet vital bit of kit. Bottled water is used to dampen washclothes for cleaning blood away or for creating cold compresses to apply to the boxer’s forehead or areas of swelling and bruising.
It is also used for pouring over the boxers head and for drinking of course!
4. Lint-Free Dressings Or Cotton Swabs
These are used to apply the adrenalin directly to the cut. It is important the dressing is lint free to avoid getting fibers in the open wound which could lead to complications at a later stage. Most cutmen use 100% cotton swabs.
5. Enswells (Face Irons)
Yes, you read it right, cutmen may use an enswell or face iron on a boxer’s face during a match! This small metal iron can come in different shapes depending on the body part it will be applied to: flat enswells for flatter regions like the temple or cheek, and rounded enswells for contoured areas such as around the eye socket.
These irons are kept on ice through the entire match, and brought out to treat swelling and bruising. Applying the smooth side of the iron to the face with light pressure helps to constrict the blood vessels in one concentrated area, decreasing blood flow to that area.
6. Ice Pack
Each cutmen have their own preference when it comes to ice packs. The standard ice pack used to be made from rubber, but nowadays cutmen may use sandwich bags filled with ice, or instant ice packs.
These are also applied to injuries to constrict blood vessels and protect the area of injury from becoming worse.
7. Other Small Items
Other essential items include:
- Nitrile gloves for hygeine – protecting both the boxer and the cutman
- Nasal plugs for stopping nosebleeds
- Conforming bandages and gauze
- Paramedic shears for cutting gauze of bandages
- A pen torch with a pupil gauge
- Zinc Oxide boxing tape
Famous Cutmen In Boxing
Some cutmen are so good at what they do that they become renowned in the world of boxing. Many have worked with boxing legends are are constantly seen on the TV during big matches, which leads to them becoming famous and well-respected. A few of the most famous include Jacob “Stitch” Duran (see an interview with the legendary cutman here!), Chuck Bodak (above) who worked with Muhammad Ali among others, Rafael Garcia who worked with Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and Al Gavin who worked with Lennox Lewis.
How Do Cutmen Stop Bleeding?
First, pressure is applied either side of the wound. Second, adrenalin is applied directly to the wound also with pressure using a lint-free swab. Vaseline is generally kept away from the wound to prevent problems with healing at a later stage when the cut may have to be sutured. The cut is not wiped or dabbed as this interferes with the clot that is being formed with the aid of the adrenalin chloride and pressure.
You can find a video on advanced cutman techniques from Ted Lucio, a famous cutman, right here.
What does UFC use to stop bleeding?
UFC fighters use all the kit mentioned above, notably vaseline and adrenaline chloride.
Why Are Fighters Only Allowed To Use Vaseline on the Face in UFC?
Vaseline is only allowed on the face and not on other areas of the body because this would give a fighter too much of an advantage – a slippery opponent is a difficult opponent to face! A load of Vaseline knocking about in the ring could make injuries more likely and will make a proper mess.
Skin is stretched tighter over the face and especially contours like the brows and cheekbones. This makes it particularly vulnerable to cuts and lesions.
Why Don’t Boxers Want to Bleed During a Fight?
If blood restricts the vision of a boxer, the match may be stopped by the referee. Blood loos should also be avoided as far as possible because it can start to cause serious problems such as becoming light headed.