Boxing fans and chance spectators alike will have noticed that boxers often come out for a fight wearing robes. Are these items just for show? A traditional robe? Or do they have some use?
The short answer to these questions is both. Robes are both a traditional item which have become ubiquitous with boxing, and a practical item which preserves heat before the match starts. Hoods also function to block out some of the sensory overload a boxer experiences when they walk out to face the crowd.
There are a few factors involved in the question: why do boxers wear robes? We will explore their function as a tradition and their practical use, as well as taking a closer look at some of the most famous robes of all time, and famous boxers who chose not to wear robes. Join us to find out more!
Why Do Boxers Wear Robes?
Boxers wear robes to:
- Retain the heat they gain during a pre-match warm-up, helping them improve their performance and minimise injury.
- Block out noises and minimise distractions using the hood.
- Give themselves a confidence boost with a personalised robe.
- Intimidate the other player by hiding their face.
The boxing robe tradition was started by Jack Johnson some decades ago. Robes are made from silk and often personalised to suit each fighter. Mike Tyson is a famous example of a boxer who chose not to wear a robe.
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Before a match, boxers warm-up behind the scenes. Warming the muscles to get ready for a fight increases their body temperatures and helps them prepare for the gruelling fight waiting for them. Popping a robe on after warming up retains this heat, keeping their bodies and muscles nice and warm.
If boxers do not warm up properly and lose this accumulated heat, they may experience a worse performance with less flexibility. In the worst case they may injure themselves when they fight.
A belt or sash ties the robe at the front, keeping that heat safely contained.
There can be a lot of standing around after walking out of the changing rooms, waiting to be announced, waiting for your opponent to be announced, and then preparations before the fight begins. It is key not to let the muscles get cold and that is also why boxers are often quite active, hopping around and swinging their arms while they wait.
As well as keeping you warm, a robe will also serve to keep your blood circulating which prevents you from feeling lethargic. Lethargy, or tiredness, is a natural response to an adrenalin rush which is often experienced before a fight. Keeping warm helps an athlete maintain their high energy levels.
Robes With Hoods
An important feature of the boxing robe is the hood. Some boxers come out with the hood up, which helps them keep their focus and avoid getting distracted by the crowd. Walking into the ring with the cheering, the announcer, the noise, can be total sensory overload. Blocking out sounds and sights helps a boxer to concentrate on the fight ahead.
Cheering or boos can be very distracting, especially if a boxer has a set routine which can be a very personal and specific set of steps they take to prepare before a fight. Some routines can be described as ritualistic. Distractions from outside the ring may disrupt their “fight zone”, so hoods can help prevent this.
Some boxers also wear the hood up to retain extra heat which can be lost quickly from dissipating through the head.
An important but often overlooked part of the entry to the ring is intimidation of the opponent. Some boxers like to wear the robe with the hood up to create a threatening impression – if their face is partially hidden this can add to the mystery and anticipiation.
Other boxers choose not to have a hood, or not to wear the hood up. This is totally down to the boxer’s personal preference and is not regulated in any way.
Wearing a personalized robe can help boost a boxer’s confidence and therefore performance. Adorning the robe with symbols and words portrays their passion for the sport, and can help them to remember what it means to them. Perhaps a picture or color reminds them the reason they got into boxing, or the reason they are pursuing their goal.
Robes can be personalized through color, symbols, images, words, the choice of whether or not to have a hood, and embroidery.
Most Famous Boxing Robes
1. The Iconic White Robe Of Muhammad Ali
The simple but impactful pure white robe of Muhammad Ali, with his name in black text across the back is one of the most iconic in boxing history. Anthony Joshua paid tribute to Muhammad Ali more recently with an imitation of this famous white robe.
2. Tyson Fury In Stars And Stripes
This classic stars and stripes style robe was worn by Tyson Fury. It is the robe worn by Apollo Creed in the famous film Rocky 4. Tyson Fury debuted this robe at the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
3. GGG Traditional Kazakhstan Patterns
Genaddy Golokovin has sported one of the most beautifully patterned robes in modern boxing. It is decorated in traditional Kazakhstan style.
4. Lucia Rijker’s Gold And Red Robes
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Lucia Rijker is both a boxing and kickboxing champion, one of the most successful women boxers in history. She has been dubbed “The Most Dangerous Woman in the World”. Her robes were a striking scarlet red with gold sleeves and hood.
5. Detonay Wilder’s Camouflage Robes
Detonay Wilder is renowned for his extraordinary and bizarre masks which he wears into the ring. In his earlier career he was also known for his amazing camo patterned robes.
6. The Celtic Robes of Michael Conlan
Michael Conlan is from Ireland, a country with a Celtic heritage. As such, his incredible velvet green robes with intricate gold Celtic cross designs.
Famous Boxers Who Chose Not To Wear Robes
The majority of professional boxers wear robes into the ring nowadays. But there have been some famous exceptions. Perhaps the most well-known was the boxer Mike Tyson. He felt that his entry to the ring was stronger when he was not wearing a robe.
Mike Tyson aimed to intimidate both his opponent and the crowd before entering the ring – he walked out without music, but a metallic clang. Choosing not to wear a robe showed he was unafraid, he wanted to bear himself to his opponent and to the crowd, to show his confidence and portray dominance.
Boxing Robe FAQs
How Did The Boxing Robe Trend Begin?
There is speculation around this, but the general consensus is that Jack Johnson, an American boxer started the trend. Apparently he tended to feel the cold easily and wanted to keep as warm as possible before a fight.
Once others realised the benefits it soon caught on and became a regular sight in the boxing world.
What Are Boxing Robes Made From?
Most of them are crafted from silk which is great an insulating body heat. Silk is also renowned for keeping the skin cool and maintaining comfort even when you are sweating.
Silk is lightweight and the flow of the material will help keep it from sticking to the body. It also does not fade easily so can be used repeatedly.