What is the difference between boxing and Kickboxing?


What is the difference between boxing and kickboxing and which one should you choose to study?

For someone new to martial arts, this can be quite the head-scratcher.

Especially in our modern times where, we are drowned in a large variety of different martial art styles, with new ones popping up left and right.

Now with the advent of mixed martial arts (MMA) taking center stage, it seems both combat sports are being brushed aside.

But even though both combat sports have seen better days, that doesn’t make either one of them any less effective in combat or helping you stay fit.

Whether you’re a puncher, kicker, or someone that loves to do both, you’re bound to fall in love with either one of these martial arts.

In this article, we’ll be exploring what the differences are between the two martial arts and help you decide which one to take up.


difference between boxing and kickboxing: punches

As the name suggests, boxing is a combat sport that involves the use of one’s fist to attack an opponent, usually wearing gloves and fighting in a ring for a predetermined amount of time.

Boxing has ancient roots that date back to the 3rd millennium BC in Iraq and has existed all throughout various regions including Egypt, India, and Greece, where it became popular as a sport.

The Romans also enjoyed watching boxing matches at amphitheaters, where fighters would don either heavy leather thongs wrapped around their fists or even metal battle gloves called Cestus. Often matches would be a fight to the death!

But due to excessive barbarity, it was eventually abolished and boxing didn’t make a comeback until the 16th century in London.

Now kickboxing, on the other hand, at least the modern version of it started in the 1950’s when a man named Tatsuo Yamada combined Karate with techniques from Muay Thai.

By the 1960s, Japan had invited Muay Thai fighters to come compete with Japan’s finest fighters in matches under modified rules.

By the 1970s and 1980s, the sport of kickboxing really started to take off especially in North America and Europe where fans couldn’t get enough of it.

Nowaday’s the sport has enjoyed revived popularity through various Japanese fight organizations such as K1 which has become the poster child for modern kickboxing.



One of the biggest glaring differences between the two martial arts is the use of kicks.

Whereas boxers would only be using their hands to strike at an opponent, kickboxers on the other hand also employ the use of their legs to take out their opponents.

You will typically see kickboxers use a variety of different kicks such as a front kick, side kick, roundhouse kick, tornado kick, spinning hook kick, and spinning back kicks in a match.

And once you add in different combinations into the mix such as a punch followed by a series of kicks, you have endless attack variations compared to boxing.

In addition, in some fight promotions such as K1, the use of lower leg kicks similar to what you would see in Muay Thai is also allowed or even the use of knees during a match.

Furthermore, clinching may or may not be allowed depending on which style and fight organization you are fighting under. In American full-contact kickboxing or semi-contact kickboxing, clinching is not allowed.

Boxers, on the other hand, are pretty limited in how they attack you due to only using their hands.

You will typically see boxers throwing the following punches when striking:

  • Jabs
  • Cross/Straights
  • Hook
  • Uppercut
  • Body blows
  • Combinations
  • Clinching

For the most part, the punches that you see being used by boxers will be nearly identical to those used by kickboxers.

Jabs, hooks, crosses, uppercuts are all used by kickboxers. The difference is how they are being thrown as both boxing and kickboxing use different fighting stances.

In addition to striking, there are vast differences in how fighters defend against attacks.

In boxing for instance, typically a boxer can either duck, bob and weave, parry, or counter punches with one of their own.

However, in kickboxing, if a fighter were to try and duck or bob and weave, they risk getting kicked in the face by a kickboxer.

Rather instead, fighters typically either try to avoid getting hit all together or they absorb shots by always keeping their hands held high to protect their head.


Another big difference between the two combat sports is the type of stance that is used.

In boxing, fighters typically adopt either a very compact fighting stance where their shoulders and arms are held up very high to protect themselves and create a smaller target such as the classic Peekaboo style that was employed by Mike Tyson or a more relaxed guard stance whereby one arm is lowered to around the stomach area while one hand is held up really high.

This allows the fighter to have a better defense to block body shots, while also defending against head shots through using their shoulders to roll off punches. A good example of this is the style that Floyd Mayweather Jr uses.

Furthermore, a boxer’s stance is typically much narrower compared to a kickboxer’s stance. This allows them to slip in and out relatively quickly during a match in boxing, however, it leaves them quite susceptible to getting kicked in the legs and becoming off balanced if they were to face a kickboxer. In addition, boxers tend to be a lot closer to their opponents compared to a kickboxer.

One of the reasons for this is due to the shorter reach that they have with their punches. For guys that are sluggers and in-fighters, this means getting even more closer to their opponent to force them into a slugfest.

Kickboxers, on the other hand, tend to have their hands and arms held up high to protect their head and adopt a similar fighting stance as Muay Thai fighters, especially under K1 fighting rules. Their stance is more square and their legs and knees are pointed slightly outwards which allows them to check and defend against low leg kicks.

Now if were are referring to American Kickboxing style, especially the semi-full contact rules, then you will typically see a lower guard and the fighters having a narrower type of fighting stance. Instead of sliding across the ring to advance towards their opponents, kickboxers under this style tend to have a spring-like skipping motion when they want to attack someone. There’s a lot less stability in their stance compared to a Muay Thai fighter’s stance. However, they make up for this loss of stability with speed.

Lastly, kickboxers tend to keep a wider distance from the opponents so as to avoid getting kicked and also allowing them to chamber their legs to generate the most amount of force to unleash on an opponent when kicking.


The rules are quite different between the two in active competition, and furthermore there are differences in the rules between different kickboxing styles as well.

Some of the noticeable differences between the two include:

  • The number of rounds in a match (boxing typically has around 12 rounds while kickboxing has 3-10 rounds)
  • The time of rounds (3 minutes for boxing, and 2-3 minutes for kickboxing)
  • The types of moves that are allowed in a match
    • Boxing: Only punches allowed, clinching is allowed, no kicks allowed
    • Kickboxing: Clinching may or may not be allowed, kicking allowed, knees and elbows may be allowed depending on which ruleset

In both combat sports, competitors usually win a match either by knockout, technical knockout, decision, an opponent getting disqualified, or an injury that prevents the match from continuing.

Which One Is Right for You?

difference between boxing and kickboxing: boxing match

This will depend on what you enjoy and what your goals are.

If you are looking at getting into great shape then both martial arts will help you accomplish this goal, as they are both known for being great at helping with fat-loss due to the high amount of calories that are burned in a class.

In terms of practicality and being used in a self-defense situation, both martial arts excel in these areas as well, although kickboxing provides you with many more tools at your disposal.

Whereas boxing is mainly focused on using your fists to attack and defend yourself, kickboxing introduces leg kicks into the mix which makes it a more well-rounded style for fighting.

Also, If you’re a tall person with long legs, you may want to opt for kickboxing instead to take advantage of your reach.

In addition to fitness goals and practicality for self-defense reasons, you may want to consider what you enjoy doing more.

If you’re more of a punching person then boxing would probably be better suited for you, whereas if you enjoy kicking more than kickboxing would be a better choice for you.

But regardless of which one you pick, you’ll get an amazing workout in and learn a tonne of useful techniques to defend yourself with.


In this article, we looked at the differences between boxing and kickboxing and which one you should study.

We examined various differences between the two combat sports such as:

  • Origin of each combat sport
  • Striking techniques used
  • Stances used
  • Competition rules

Furthermore, we also discussed when it would be most appropriate to select one over the other such as when you have a preference for either punching or kicking or if you’re a really tall person.

Both combat sports have pros and cons and it’s up to you to decide what you value most.

But at the end of the day though, you really can’t go wrong with either one of these martial arts as they both offer tremendous value and benefits for anyone willing to take them up.

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