Can you box with Asthma? – Detailed Explanation

Asthma affects different people differently and there’s no definitive answer to this question. But for the majority of asthmatics, boxing training shouldn’t be an issue with the help of a prescribed inhaler. However, other people may really struggle with boxing due to the severity of their asthma. The best way to determine whether boxing is a sport you can pursue with asthma is by speaking with a medical professional.

In regards to professional boxing and competition, there are no stipulations that prevent asthmatics from boxing, providing they can pass medical examinations. However, the use of an inhaler during a contest is often prohibited. This can also be the case for professional Mixed Martial Arts. To determine whether or not you can use an inhaler during competition, you’ll have to contact the athletic commission that is particular to your location.

Boxing with Asthma comes with its own set of challenges. That doesn’t mean its impossible, in fact, there are several fighters who have been incredibly successful despite being asthmatics. For instance, Shannon Briggs, a former two-time heavyweight champion. However, it often means that Asthmatics need to take certain precautions when boxing.

Training Boxing With Asthma

Training Boxing with Asthma comes with some challenges but it’s fundamentally dependent on what triggers your Asthma. Providing that your Asthma isn’t triggered by physical exercise, boxing training should be relatively straightforward. You still may need to be precautious about the environment in which you train but with physical exercise excluded as a trigger, it should be much easier to deal with.

Listed below are some common triggers sourced from the NHS website:

  • infections like colds and flu
  • allergies
  • smoke, fumes, and pollution
  • medicines 
  • emotions, including stress, or laughter
  • weather 
  • mould or damp
  • exercise

Ensuring that you’re training in an environment where your identifiable triggers aren’t present is another good measure to put in place.

The other factor that has to be considered is the severity of your Asthma. Some people who have mild symptoms can train vigorously without Asthma being triggered and without the use of an Inhaler. However, there will be others who may struggle under physical exertion. But regardless, its always advisable to keep an inhaler close by if you’re training with Asthma.

Lastly, it may be worth letting your trainer and/or the people you train with about your Asthma, especially if its triggered by exercise. In the event of an emergency, there should be someone who understands the severity of your condition and what to do. For some, this may seem excessive, especially their symptoms are mild but everyone is different. Ultimately you have to make the decision on whether you feel your Asthma is significant enough that it could potentially require aid in a training situation.

Competitive Boxing With Asthma

As we briefly mentioned, the usage of inhalers for either amateur or professional boxing varies and is dependent on the governing bodies in your region.

Some places will allow you to use your inhaler before the bout takes place and will prohibit it once its starts. Other places may allow the use of inhalers during the breaks in between rounds. But regardless, its important to know the specifics before entering a professional bout. The best way to find out is by contacting the athletic commission that applies to you and asking them directly.

Since Inhalers contain lots of substances and steroids to open airways, some people will make the argument that their usage is unfair. While this may seem slightly extreme, there have to be tight regulations in combat sports to prevent cheating or any unfair advantages.

Some people speculate that Athletes use inhalers to cheat during competition. PED use has become a major issue in sports in general, so its imperative that inhalers can’t be exploited.

For instance, professional Mixed Martial Artist, Greg Hardy had his unanimous decision win again Ben Sosoli overturned due to the use of an inhaler. In this instance, there was a lack of discrepancy in regards to the regulations on his part. The fight took place in Boston, Massachusetts. This meant that unless the use of an inhaler was pre-approved by the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission, it would be considered illegal.

So while it may seem negligible, inhaler usage during fights is incredibly important. Both the fighter and trainer should clearly understand how and when an inhaler is permissible.

Fighters Who Have Asthma

Shannon Briggs – Professional Boxer, Former Two-Time Heavyweight Champion

Shannon “The Cannon” Briggs has been very open with his struggles with Asthma. In a sport where cardiovascular endurance is imperative, Briggs had to adapt in order to become successful. Briggs was a fast starter and he was very explosive when he was fresh. He would often come out in the first round hard and fast, looking to take his opponents out early. This strategy proved incredibly successful with Briggs holding the record for the most first-round knockouts in the heavyweight division. During his career, Briggs went on to capture the heavyweight crown twice and faced the likes of George Foreman and Lennox Lewis.

Teofimo Lopez- Professional Boxer, Former Lightweight World Champion

Teofimo Lopez is another fighter who has been particularly vocal about his experiences with Asthma. After capturing the Lightweight Title and dethroning Vasyl Lomachenko, Lopez explained:

“I’ve been having asthma since I was six years old. And I almost died three times because of it. I was either 10 or 11 years old and I got an asthma attack.”

“Really bad, really severe. To the point where I had to go to the ICU for that whole week and they told my parents that my oxygen level was too low. They said if I didn’t bring it up, I was going to pass away.”

Teofimo Lopez –

Greg Hardy – Professional Mixed Martial Artist

The UFC Heavyweight gained lots of attention for being an Asthmatic after the controversial decision to have his win overturned. Hardy was under the impression that he was allowed to use the inhaler in between rounds. However, the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission went on to say that the use of an inhaler is completely illegal. This resulted in the fight being ruled a no-contest.


The fighters above are proof that Asthma doesn’t necessarily have to stop you from pursuing a career in combat sports. It comes with its own set of challenges but for a lot of people, it is achievable. Of course, everyone’s situation is different, and unfortunately, some people won’t be able to pursue this kind of career. But it is truly dependent on the individual. As we mentioned earlier, the best way to determine if competitive boxing is viable with your Asthma is by speaking to a medical professional.

In regards to the athletic commissions, I doubt they will be changing the stance on inhaler usage any time soon. While it seems massively unfair to Asthmatics, it would be giving them an unfair advantage. The crisis with PEDs isn’t helping this issue and the governing bodies don’t want to create any more opportunities for athletes to abuse substances.

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