Muay Thai vs Boxing

Two striking martial arts that commonly get compared with one another are Muay Thai and boxing. Both striking arts go hand in hand with one another but have some big differences between them.

Let’s match them up and see what the similarities and differences are between Muay Thai vs boxing. Going over the history of both sports and if it is beneficial to learn both striking styles.

The development of Muay Thai vs Boxing

Both Muay Thai and boxing have long and rich histories that are centuries old. You also may not know it, but both Muay Thai and BJJ have intersecting stories. 

The development of Muay Thai

We already went over the development of Muay Thai in our Muay Thai vs BJJ article. But for those that haven’t read that or need a refresher, here’s a quick history of Muay Thai.

Before the modern sport of Muay Thai was developed in the 19th century, the techniques were used for thousands of years. The warriors of Siam used an early form of Muay Thai that is known as Muay Boran or Toi Muay.

For years, the Siam warriors were considered some of the fiercest fighters in the world. Around the 15th century, the best Siam warriors began having competitions at festivals for the Siam king.

They would do the Wai Kru in the ring and have friendly matches. Before rings were introduced, Muay Thai matches would fight in dirt circles and wore hemp rope around their hands.

During WW1, the western world was exposed to Muay Thai. Thai officers would frequently set up exhibitions between their best troops to entertain their men.

Western boxers and French Savate practitioners would even compete against Thai fighters. This exposure influenced the birth of modern Muay Thai as a sport.

They were inspired by western boxing to add rings, gloves, rounds, and a governing body. Muay Thai was already the national martial art and also became the national sport of Thailand.

Today, the martial art is now practiced on nearly every continent in the world and is only getting more popular.

The development of boxing 

Modern boxing dates back to the late 18th century. But the art of boxing dates back thousands of years before the creation of the sport of boxing.

Boxing was actually one of the very first Olympic sports that was first held in Greece during 600 BC. The rules of course were very different from modern boxing, but it just shows how long humans have been boxing.

What we know as boxing today started in the late 18th century. Welsh sportsman John Graham Chambers wrote the Marquess of Queensbury Rules in 1865 and was published in 1867.

A form of the rules are still used today by just about every major governing body of boxing. They included that all boxing matches were to take place in a regulated ring.

At first boxing matches were done bare knuckle from 1865 to 1891. Then in 1892 boxing gloves were made mandatory and were included in all boxing bouts from that point on.

For years, boxing was seen as a brutal sport that was extremely dangerous. It took decades for good safety procedures and equipment to be implemented in boxing.

In the western world for the last century, boxing has been considered the top combat sport. Millions of people tune in and buy pay per views to the very best boxers in the world fight every year.

It is one of the most practiced combat sports with nearly 10 million practitioners worldwide.

The differences between Muay Thai vs Boxing 

Muay Thai and boxing are both striking arts, but they are vastly different from one another. Here are some of the biggest differences between the two.

Muay Thai has more types of strikes

The most notable difference between the two styles of striking is that the striking in Muay Thai is more diverse. It includes punching, kicks, knees, and elbows, while boxing only includes punching.

More head movement in boxing 

If you watch a boxing match, you’ll notice that there is way more head movement in it than in Muay Thai. That is because in boxing, you don’t have to be worried about being hit with kicks or knees.

Trying to do boxing head movement in a Muay Thai match is not a great idea. You are likely to either eat a kick or knee to the head if you dip your head down too low.

The stances 

One thing you’ll notice if you put a Muay Thai fighter and a boxer side by side is their stances. They have vastly different stances from each other.

A Muay Thai fighter stands more frontal with their feet closer than a boxer. Boxers generally stand at more of an angle with their front shoulder and foot more forward.

The guards

Not only are the stances different, but so are how they hold their hand up. Boxers generally hold tighter guards than Muay Thai fighters and are more compact.

Muay Thai fighters hold their hands up a little wider, so they can defend kicks and grab/block clinches.

The kidney punch is permitted in Muay Thai

If you didn’t know Muay Thai is one of the only combat sports, where the kidney punch is permitted. (See our article on the kidney punch if you want to know more about this strike.)

In both boxing and MMA you are only allowed to punch to the front of an opponent’s body. No strikes to the back are allowed, which are where the kidneys are located.

Rule sets

Muay Thai and boxing also have completely different rule sets from each other. Here are the rule sets of each sport.

Muay Thai Rule Sets 

  • 3 Minute Rounds
  • 5 Rounds(Title Fights)
  • Fight From Standing
  • Punching, kicking, knees, and elbows are permitted
  • Win by KO/TKO or decision

Boxing Rule Sets

  • 3 Minute Rounds
  • 10-12 Rounds(Depending on organization and if a title fight)
  • Fight From Standing
  • Only punches are allowed
  • Win by KO/TKO or decision

The similarities between Muay Thai vs Boxing 

Muay Thai and boxing actually have a lot of similarities between one another. Here are some of the similarities that the two striking arts share.

Muay Thai includes boxing 

Muay Thai actually includes boxing within the fighting form. Many of the same boxing strikes and combos are also used within Muay Thai.

Both are done from standing

Both styles of fighting are strictly done from standing. There is no fighting on the ground in either Muay Thai or boxing.

Both have 3 minute rounds

They have a different number of rounds, but both Muay Thai and boxing both have rounds consisting of 3 minutes. 

Muay Thai & boxing are fought in a ring 

Most Muay Thai bouts take place in a boxing ring just like in boxing. This is mainly due to the influence of boxing on Muay Thai, which is why rings are used in Muay Thai.

Boxing influenced the sport of Muay Thai 

Not only did boxing influence Muay Thai to include boxing rings, but also the sport as a whole. Because of boxing, the sport of Muay Thai included gloves, three minute rounds, and a governing body to oversee fights.

Who would win in a fight? A Muay Thai fighter or boxer

The winner of a fight between a Muay Thai fighter and a boxer would depend on the rule set. Each fighter would have an advantage over the other if they fought within their discipline.

A boxer would have problems dealing with a Muay Thai fighter in a Muay Thai rules match. They can punch, but would not have an answer for leg kicks, knees, or elbows.

Boxers would also have problems with the clinch in Muay Thai since clinching is not allowed in boxing.

The same would be said for a Muay Thai fighter fighting a boxer within a boxing rule set. Muay Thai fighters know how to punch, but their punching ability is not as sophisticated as a boxer.

They would also have problems dealing with the longer bouts in boxing. A championship boxing match is twice as long as a Muay Thai match.

Is it beneficial to learn both boxing and Muay Thai?

Learning both Muay Thai and boxing is extremely beneficial. Especially if you’re a Muay Thai fighter trying to improve your punches.

Many Muay Thai fighters have spent long periods of time working on their boxing to improve their hands. It has proven extremely beneficial for many Muay Thai fighters and has improved their overall games.