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Boxing Vs Judo – 6 Differences & Which Is Better

Boxing and judo are two very well-known martial arts and are very popular the world over. While both boxing and judo are martial arts, they do have some very distinct differences. In this article, I will explain the differences between boxing and judo and which is better (in my opinion).

The six major differences between boxing and judo are:

  1. Judo has a far larger number of techniques than boxing
  2. Many judo moves rely on your opponent wearing a strong jacket
  3. Boxing is far better paying for top competitors than judo
  4. Judo involves virtually no striking
  5. The way a competitive match ends is different
  6. Boxing doesn’t all any grappling at all

In this article, I’ll take a look at:

  • An overview of the main difference between boxing and judo
  • The six major differences between boxing and judo
  • Which is better out of the two and why (in my humble opinion!)
Boxing training in a gym with a punchbag

Boxing Vs Judo – A Quick Overview Of The Main Difference

Some of the differences between boxing and judo are related to the fact that boxing is a striking martial art, whereas judo is a grappling martial art. 

Judo essentially involves:

  • Grappling
  • A focus on throws
  • Joint locks
  • Chokes to subdue an opponent

On the other hand, boxing focuses simply on using punches to knock out the opponent.

This overarching difference feeds into many smaller differences that I’m about to go into…

The 6 Main Differences Between Boxing And Judo

1. Judo Has A Far Larger Number Of Techniques Than Boxing

Judo has over 100 different techniques.

On the other hand, boxing only has 4 major punches. These 4 punches are either targeted toward either the head or the body. Therefore, an argument could be made that there are in total 8 punches (4 to the head, 4 to the body!)

However, regardless of this fact, judo has FAR more techniques. And I mean way way more!

These include many different types of throws, submission holds and choking techniques. The punches in boxing are:

  1. Jab
  2. Straight (also called a right hand, or straight right hand)
  3. Hook
  4. Uppercut 

In judo, the techniques are divided into the following categories:

  • Kansetsu-waza – joint locks
  • Shime-waza – choking techniques
  • Osaekomi-waza – pinning techniques
  • Yoko-sutemi-waza – side sacrifice throws (person gets into a disadvantageous position)
  • Ma-sutemi-waza – back sacrifice throws (person gets into a disadvantageous position)
  • Ashi-waza – foot sweeping techniques
  • Koshi-waza – hip techniques
  • Te-waza – hand techniques

Each of these different categories of moves in judo have around 5 to 30 different techniques each (source: Kodokan Judo Institute).

So, judo has more techniques than boxing in a single category of techniques. Not to mention, the entire judo curriculum!

2. Many Judo Moves Rely On The Other Person Wearing A Strong Jacket

In judo, many of the throws rely on a strong grip on the collar of a person’s jacket, the front of the jacket, or the sleeve.

On the other hand, in boxing fighting is exactly the same whether a person is wearing no shirt, or is fully clothed. 

For example, here’s a short video that shows some basic judo choking techniques:

Many of the throws in judo also rely on a strong jacket where the person doing the throw can have a very strong grip.

In boxing, the only ways of attacking and defending are fists and arms.

Therefore, it makes next to no difference whether a person is wearing clothes or not.

The one consideration which would limit the effectiveness of boxing in a self-defense situation is if a person is wearing a helmet. In the real world, this could be something like a bicycle helmet or a motorbike helmet. 

3. Boxing Is Far Better Paying For The Top Competitors Then Judo

Judo and boxing are both Olympic sports. However, Olympic athletes don’t typically get paid much.

Also, the national and international judo tournaments don’t pay very much. Judo competitions also involve a large pool of competitors, and any payments get seriously watered down because of this.

In Judo, only the top 3 places get recognized and earn the lion’s share of the prize money.

The prize pool for a standard international competition is about $200,000 total split between all competitors (source: Most of the winnings go to the first place prize.

Even for the best judo competitors in the world, the winnings are very small, especially in comparison to what boxing competitors earn. 

For example, in the boxing match between Connor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather, the winner – in this case Floyd Mayweather – earned $280 million, and the loser – Connor McGregor – earned $130 million.

This is nearly 1000 times what a judo competitor would earn if they won a tournament.

This is an extreme example because it was one of the most anticipated boxing fights of all time. A more fair comparison is the fight between Canelo Alvarez and Caleb Plant which occurred a fair few years ago in 2019 for the WBA, WBC, and WBO middleweight titles. 

In this bout, that Canelo Alvarez won, he is estimated to have earned $30 million dollars. Caleb Plant (who lost) won $10 million.

This means that on the low end, the top boxing competitors earn about 100 times more than the top judo competitors.

4. Judo Involves Virtually No Striking

If you attend judo classes and work your way through the belts, you will notice the curriculum has no strikes.

It’s true that a person training judo can be aware of strikes a potential opponent can throw. 

But, the primary aim in judo is to close the distance, grab their opponent, and trip or throw them.

This is in stark contrast to boxing, which as you may know, involves only striking. As I’ll cover later, boxing competitors are not allowed to grab or hold each other for more than a few seconds before the referee will split them up.

judo hold between two students
Judo focusses more heavily on grabs and holds than strikes

5. The Way A Competitive Match Ends Differs Between Boxing And Judo

In boxing, there are 6 ways a fight can end. These are:

  • The corner of the fighter throws in the towel (gives up)
  • The referee calls the fight off because a fighter is taking too much damage
  • A person can’t stand up in 8 seconds after being knocked down
  • A person is still not fit to fight even though they are standing after 8 seconds
  • A fighter is injured and the doctor says it’s unsafe to continue
  • All rounds that were scheduled are finished (goes to the judge scorecards)

On the other hand, in judo a bout ends when:

  • One person executes an excellent, a 20-second pin, or a submission – all of which are called ippon
  • 2 decent throws in a single match, or one person pins another opponent for 15 seconds twice in a match. 1 of these 2 requirements to end a match is called a waza-ari.
  • Winning is based on total points which are awarded for a decent throw, a sub-par throw, and one person pinning the other for 10 seconds or less.

The rules of a judo competition can be simplified by the three designations

  1. Ippon
  2. Waza-ari
  3. Yuko

Points are awarded for Yuko, the worst of the three. However, these points CAN NOT add up to completely end a match.

Whereas, 2 Waza-ari = 1 ippon and will end the match (source: Olympics).

On the other hand, a boxing bout ends when there is a knockout. This is where a fighter sustains such a strong punch that they are unconscious.

The referee will also stop the fight if they deem one fighter can’t continue. 

This is commonly known as when one boxer ‘out classes’ another boxer. Simply put, one boxer is clearly landing too many strikes on another boxer, even though the other person can take the strikes and stay on their feet.

In many cases, a fighter can put on an excellent performance, but in the later rounds start taking too much damage. This happened in one of the most famous fights in boxing between Connor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather.

Connor McGregor was very competitive and was in the fight up until a pivotal moment in the later rounds, where Floyd Mayweather started landing a significant amount of unanswered strikes. 

The referee decided to call off the fight.

In some cases, these types of stoppages can be a bit controversial and in some cases, the fighter who ‘lost’ is very adamant they want to continue.

The referee can judge this. But, the corner men of one of the fighters can also throw in the towel on behalf of their fighter.

They literally throw a towel into the ring. When this happens the judge will see this and stop the fight.

6. Boxing Doesn’t Allow Any Grappling At All

In boxing, it’s common for fighters to clinch each other especially when they have taken a heavy punch. When a person takes a heavy punch they can get what is called ‘rocked’.

If a fighter is rocked they can recover after 30 seconds to a minute. 

However, during this time, their reactions are slowed, and they have much more difficulty defending and throwing strikes. Therefore, when this happens, a boxer will often grab the other person multiple times to give themselves time to recover.

When this happens for more than about 3 seconds the referee will tell the fighters to break. They must let go of each other and continue boxing. 

Another common situation is where one boxer manages to maneuver the other boxer against the ropes or into the corner.

When this happens a fighter will often grab the other boxer to stop them from throwing strikes. After the referee tells them to break, the fighter who was in a bad position will use the opportunity to quickly shuffle to the side and try to get into the center of the ring.

Which Is Better Overall? Judo or Boxing?

If you’re looking to take up a new martial art, or getting into martial arts for the first time it’s good to know which is better and why. Having done a little bit of both, and being a long-time student of martial arts, here is which is better overall in my opinion out of boxing and judo…

As a general rule, judo is better overall. Judo has an emphasis on moral development as well as fighting. Judo also is less likely to cause minor or major head and body trauma which is now known to have negative effects that only become pronounced later in a person’s career.

Interestingly, the history of judo is that it was adapted from a military fighting style which was called jiu-jitsu. This is also the origin of the name of the now popular martial art Brazilian jiu jitsu.

The name judo was a rename of jiu-jitsu. It could alternatively be spelt ju-jitsu, and judo could alternatively be spelt ju-do.

In reality, the techniques and moves are virtually exactly the same.
While most boxing academies don’t necessarily lack these values, it’s not built into the curriculum and training structure to develop these morals.

And therefore, is up to each individual boxing gym what values and culture they have.

Which Is Harder – Boxing or Judo?

Many martial arts are similar in their effectiveness for self-defense and for mixed martial arts. However, it’s also the case that some martial arts are easier to learn than others. So, here is which is harder: boxing or judo.

Overall, judo is harder than boxing. I carried out a survey of over 425 people, and found that boxing was voted as one of the easiest martial art to learn. On the other hand, judo was voted as one of the hardest. The hardest martial arts are judo, Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ), and wrestling.

Interestingly, most of the striking martial arts were voted as the easiest. This included kickboxing, karate, and boxing. 

The main reason is that striking martial arts have far fewer techniques than grappling martial arts. Therefore, the total time it takes to learn all of the techniques in a grappling martial art is significantly increased.

However, the physical fitness required to do both boxing and judo is about the same.

If you have a look at the training that tops judo competitors and boxes do, you’ll see they are virtually identical. 

The main difference is the very large number of techniques that judo has compared to boxing. Judo has about 10 times the techniques that boxing has. Therefore, it takes longer to learn the entire art and get good at each of the techniques.