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Boxing vs. Bodybuilding

author image Henry Halse
Henry Halse is a Philadelphia-based personal trainer, speaker, and writer. He's trained a wide variety of people, from couch potatoes to professional athletes, and helped them realize their own strength, determination and self-confidence. Henry has also written for various fitness and lifestyle publications, including Women’s Health, AskMen and Prevention.

Boxing and bodybuilding are both sports in which you'll test your character and find out what you're made of. In the boxing ring, it's just you and your opponent. In bodybuilding, it's just you against the weights.

Bodybuilders are focused on getting as muscular and lean as possible. Boxers want to hit more than they get hit, constantly figuring out how to punch their opponent and simultaneously defend themselves. In the boxing ring, you need lightning-fast reactions; in bodybuilding you need months of methodical planning. Each sport has completely different, but equally effective for their respective goals.

Weight Classes

A boxer wants to be as lean and small as possible when they step into the ring to fight. There are very strict weight classes in boxing to make sure that no opponents have a significant size advantage. In boxing, the leaner opponents tend to be taller, which gives them a reach advantage. Short and stocky fighters weigh more and, therefore, often fight taller opponents. Whoever has longer arms has an easier time controlling the ring.

There are multiple bodybuilding organizations that have different weight classes set up. According to National Physique Committee (NPC) there can be up to six male weight classes and four for women.

They are similar to boxing in that the weight ranges are around 10 to 15 pounds until you get over the heavyweight class weight limit, which is over for 225 for men and 140 for women. Once you pass that weight limit, you are a super heavyweight and the sky is the limit.

Read More: How to Become a Body Builder

Aesthetics Vs. Athletics

While boxers want to be lean when they fight, their appearance does not matter at the end of the day. The only goal of a boxer is to win their boxing match. To do that, they want to be strong but, more importantly, fast and technically sound. Hours of practice will go into honing their skill, perfecting their punches and rehearsing defensive techniques to avoid getting hit.


With all of that skills practice, there isn't as much time to hit the weights. Boxers usually train by jumping rope, running and doing other endurance-based activities. They don't need to be incredibly strong to box well, because the only weight that they have to move is the weight of their own bodies.

Endurance is key to the sport because they need to be able to keep up with their opponent for anywhere from three to 12 three-minute rounds. Once a boxer is fatigued, they are in trouble — it makes them a sitting duck for their opponent and drains the power from their punches. That's why a boxer will focus on increasing endurance over strength-building.


Bodybuilders are all about strength-training and muscle-building. They have to get as muscular as possible with very low body fat to show off those muscles. Almost all of a bodybuilder's training will be done in the weight room, with the exception of some cardiovascular training to burn body fat.

Heavy weights and high reps will be used to strain the muscle and make it grow. This type of training would beat a boxer up to the point where they couldn't continue.

Fueling Up

Leading up to the competition, both boxers and bodybuilders need to be meticulous about their training. Both of them will compete on a single day and set their sights for peak performance on that date. Because they both need to watch their weight, proper nutrition is crucial.

Neither boxers nor bodybuilders want to be overweight when they show up to compete. Both will eat meals with lean protein like chicken, plenty of vegetables for vitamins and fibers and easily digestible carbohydrates such as rice.

The biggest difference between bodybuilders and boxers is that a bodybuilder goes through a bulking phase in the off-season, purposefully gaining weight to increase muscle mass as fast as possible. It's easier to build muscle when your body is in a caloric surplus, which means you have to eat more calories than you burn. Boxers never have to go through this phase because they don't need to build muscle, so they stay at roughly the same weight year-round until they have to cut for a fight.

Competition Day

During competition, boxers and bodybuilders have very different jobs. For a bodybuilder, all of the hard work in training finally comes to a head and they can enjoy themselves and their physique by posing on stage.

Boxers show up on their fight night with months of training that lead to this moment of max effort. The hardest night is fight night because they have to perform their best. It takes a lot of mental and physical effort in the ring to win a match — not to mention that boxing can be very dangerous. There are a lot of concussions in boxing, as well as cuts on the face. Broken fists are also fairly common.

Read More: Negative Effects of Boxing

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