Punch mitts are also called striking mitts, focus mitts, punch pads, or hand pads. These are large rubber pads worn over the hands that protect a trainer from the force of the blows they are catching.
Usually, they will have some sort of a target or “sweet spot” on the front that the boxer will aim for. Working the punch mitts with a fighter allows a trainer to get a better view of their fighter’s technique, as opposed to having a view from the side while watching a fighter work a bag. The straight on view allows a trainer to easily see bad habits such as a fighter is dropping his hands before throwing a punch or being lazy and not returning their hand back into position after. This is harder to discern from a side angle.
Joe Frazier says that “Working the pads is the next best thing to being in there with a live opponent.”1 The reason for this comment is that your trainer can throw punches at you with the mitts on that you either block or dodge. This gives it more of the back and forth feel of combat, as opposed to heavy bags that don’t hit back or double-end bags that can really only come at you straight.
Most fans probably don’t realize this, but boxers can actually improve their own game by training other fighters. Working the punch mitts with other boxers is a great example. Christy Halbert says, “Boxers can also benefit from holding focus mitts for a less-experienced boxer, since doing so can develop the skill of watching punches as they are thrown, thus sharpening the defensive eye.”2
1. Frazier, Joe. Box Like the Pros. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005.
2. Halbert, Christy. The Ultimate Boxer. Brentwood, TN: ISI Publishing, 2003.