If your eyesight is bad to the point where you are physically impaired without glasses, then you probably shouldn’t competitively box. However, eyesight usually isn’t an issue in boxing unless it’s really poor. The vast majority of people who are short or long-sighted will be fine in the ring.
If you can’t see a few meters ahead without glasses or contact lenses, then boxing will be a difficult sport to compete in. However, this doesn’t mean you won’t be able to box all-together. There are lots of training elements in boxing that would still be accessible to those with particularly weak eyesight.
Essentially it depends on whether you can see your opponent clearly in front of you and can gauge the distance. Governing bodies need to ensure that fighters are able to protect themselves. Hence why its mandatory for professional boxers to pass medical inspection to ensure they are in a fit condition to fight.
Boxing with poor eyesight
If you have to wear glasses or contact lenses in order to be able to see at all, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be able to practice boxing. There are lots of training elements of boxing that don’t involve being hit in the head and near the eyes. You could also try body sparring so you can wear glasses or contact lenses without worrying about damaging them or hurting yourself. Below we’ve listed some exercises that are great for people who want to learn boxing, but have particularly weak eyesight:
- Body sparring
- Heavy bag training
- Speed bag training
- Shadow boxing
If you have poor eyesight and want to compete, then it would probably be wise to speak to an ophthalmologist. Laser eye surgery could be a viable option for some people but would need prior discussion with professionals to determine its application in regards to boxing.
Technically, there’s also nothing stopping someone with poor eyesight from sparring without any visual aids. The only person who can genuinely determine their ability to see in the ring is themselves, and if they feel you are competent enough to protect themselves and can clearly see their opponent, no one in a boxing gym will ask anything about it.
Boxing eyesight requirements
Most athletic commissions and governing bodies will mandate the boxers past a medical examination to prove that they are in the correct physical condition to fight. In amateur boxing, they tend to be more lenient with the requirements, however, in the professional ranks, boxers will the rigorously tested to prevent mishaps from occurring in the ring. The testing process and passing conditions may vary from different countries and states, but the majority will be thorough in their examination. Glasses and contact lenses are also prohibited in boxing because of the risks they pose. However, MMA fighters in the UFC are able to wear contact lenses during their bouts.
As an example, below are the rules regarding eyesight from the WBF’s (World Boxing Federation) website that preclude boxing:
Eyes: The following conditions preclude boxing:
- Significant astigmatism
- Myopia greater than five (5)
- Diopters or any variant of optic nerve degeneration,
- A (pre)retinal detachment, hemorrhage, or gross fundal pathology
- Wearing of spectacles or contact lenses in the ring.
If you’re unsure about whether you’re eyesight will qualify for boxing, speak to an ophthalmologist and get the relevant information from the boxing governing bodies specific to your whereabouts.
Does poor eyesight affect my boxing ability?
Not necessarily. If you struggle to actually see your opponent in the ring then any ability you have will be compromised. However, for the vast majority of people who are long or short-sighted, this will be negligible. Most people will still be able to see their opponent clearly from a few meters away which is the typical range for boxing.
This means that eyesight won’t affect your general athleticism in boxing. Boxing ability essentially is made up of two segments. Firstly, the physical, which is everything regarding power, speed, reflexes, etc. The second is the mental element, which is the strategic aspect of boxing and the willingness to face adversity and push forward. So providing that your eyesight isn’t weak to the point where it has made you physically impaired, there is no reason it should impact your boxing ability.
Take, for instance, the current UFC lightweight champion, Charles Olivera. While he isn’t a boxer, he still faces the same challenges in Mixed Martial Arts. Olivera has expressed the difficulties he faces when fighting without glasses. However, in the octagon, he is still able to perform and beat the best opposition in the world.
Can you wear glasses or contact lenses for sparring?
Wearing glasses or contacts for sparring could be dangerous and expensive. Firstly, the lenses for glasses are made of glass which could potentially shatter during sparring. This could cause physical damage to the eyes, impair vision during sparring, and almost certainly destroy the glasses that are being worn.
Contacts are less of an issue than glasses when sparring, but there are still risks. Firstly, they could drop out from a punch which may hinder your ability to protect yourself. Secondly, they could also slip behind deeper into your eyes making them uncomfortable and difficult to remove, especially if your eye has swollen up from punches.
Larry Holmes actually wore contacts in his fight against Evander Holyfield back in 1992. Since then, we’ve discovered that the liabilities outweigh the advantages because of the risk of contacts slipping back, being difficult to dislodge, disrupting fights, and causing injuries. Also, some fighters would blame their contacts for their losses which would cause controversy.
Light sparring could be a suitable alternative for those who wear contact lenses. However, there is risk involved despite it being reduced. Light or technical sparring involves slow punches with very little power but there is still a chance for issues to occur for someone wearing contacts.
However, I think the best solution would be body sparring. The absence of head punches prevents eye injuries all-together.
For the most part, poor eyesight shouldn’t be something that stops you from boxing. There are lots of ways around the issue and even for those who can’t compete, there are still ways to practice boxing.
- If your eyesight is really poor, check with the relevant governing bodies if you are eligible to compete
- It isn’t permissible to wear glasses or contacts-lenses in the ring
- Being short or long-sighted doesn’t make you any more or less skilled or athletic.
And lastly, boxing is a sport that requires lots of resilience. If you’re someone who has particularly weak eyesight and you still feel confident enough to box… Well, then that’s a sign of great resilience, and its difficult to stop someone who’s determined.
Where there is a will, there’s a way. Whether that’s through laser eye surgery, body sparring, or even something as simple as shadowboxing. There is always a way to get involved in boxing.