Boxing is a purists sport that is often full of rules and rituals that can be hard to understand for the interested fan and the beginner boxer. One of these rituals is the use of Vaseline on the face and nose of a boxer, usually done in between rounds and at the start of the fight.
It is the cut man who applies the Vaseline and many people struggle to understand the purpose of this ritual. The rituals’ true inventions are actually really important and useful to a boxer. Read more to understand this specific ritual in boxing.
What Is Vaseline?
Vaseline is the brand name of a specific brand of petroleum jelly.
Vaseline is the common term for petroleum jelly but is actually just a single brand. petroleum jelly has many uses as it is both moisturising and is also a great lubricant, while also having healing properties as well as being waterproof.
The actual substance that the cutmen are using isn’t always 100% petroleum jelly. Oftentimes, cutmen mix different mixtures of petroleum jelly with other, similar, substances in order to create a salve. This salve may have further healing properties, or have a purpose such as a coagulant.
So, Why Do Boxers Use It?
There are many reasons why cutmen chose to cover their fighters face in Vaseline. While this is simply a ritual for some fighters and can help them get in the mindset to box, or is purely superstitious. However, there are real reasons why Vaseline is used by cutmen.
Vaseline isn’t just used in boxing, it’s actually an implement in nearly all combat sports, MMA, Kickboxing and Muay Thai, to name a few.
On a dry face, if you punch it with a leather glove there will be a serious amount of friction between dry skin and leather which can damage the skin seriously. You may wonder why cuts occur in Boxing when there are no sharp implements used. Well, friction is your answer.
The friction created on a dry face will often lead to cuts. Cuts should be seriously avoided when boxing, or in any combat sport, as there are a plethora of problems that can occur.
Firstly, the referee could stop a fight purely based on the cuts sustained by the fighter in order for them to be treated quickly with the fighter’s safety in mind.
Cuts can also cause blood to drip into the fighters eyes which are the organ you rely the most on while boxing – if you can’t see your opponent this is a serious issue, which the referee could also stop the fight for.
Vaseline, if anything, is a serious lubricant.
One of the main reasons Vaseline is used by cutmen is that it can lubricate the face of the fighter causing the attacking glove to slide right off the fighters face causing less damage and reducing the chance of cuts appearing and potentially stopping the fight.
Vaseline is waterproof which has advantages and disadvantages to the fighter. Firstly, a waterproof jelly like this can be really useful when cuts do, inevitably, occur. As mentioned, stopping bleeding and containing it can be really important to a fight.
The waterproof quality of Vaseline and other petroleum jelly means that it does well to contain the blood from a cut. Moreover, it can actually help the cut from getting worse due to its lubricating effect, if there is further contact.
Some cutmen will actually use a petroleum jelly that has been mixed with a coagulant to further stop bleeding. The coagulant helps stop bleeding while the petroleum jelly works to control it. Vaseline, or a mixed salve like this, is quick and effective at stopping cuts.
One potential disadvantage to the waterproof quality of petroleum jelly is that it can cause sweat to run off the face a little more. On the one hand this does cause more sweat to potentially run into the fighters eye which could impede their eyesight.
Although some cutmen will argue that the sweat will run off their face more rapidly with use of petroleum jelly. Some argue that placing Vaseline above the eyebrows will stop sweat from entering the eyes of a fighter. Its true effects remain debated.
Does Vaseline Have Any Healing Effects?
Not in the way that we think it does. Vaseline is a good moisturiser, so when applied to cuts can help soften scar tissue and generally speed the healing process.
It is common for cutmen to combine petroleum jelly with adrenaline chloride so that the injury is getting a constant supply of adrenaline that in turn keeps the wound numb and stops bleeding to an extent.
Vaseline is not an effective method of healing cuts in the long term. YOu must understand that Vaseline is utilised to deal with cuts in the short term.
If petroleum jelly is used on a cut that hasn’t been previously sanitized then the occlusive substance will actually trap bacteria within the confine of the jelly, which if left too long could cause potential infections.
Knowing all this about the use of Vaseline in boxing may have you wondering if the substance is legal within the complex rules of boxing and its commissions. Well, here is what the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combat Sports says in their rule book on prohibited substances:
‘Only discretionary use of petroleum jelly will be allowed on the face, arms or any other part of the boxer’s body.
In the case of a cut, only the topical use of the following is allowed:
- A solution of adrenaline 1/1000.
If these regulations are followed then petroleum jelly is legal within boxing. This means that all substances that are a mixture of these healing compounds will have to be checked by the necessary commissions.
One of the reasons why these mixtures are checked is to do with the banning of Monsel’s Solution. This is a widely outlawed homeostatic, it stops the blood flow by chemically burning the scar tissue.
This can be recognised in older fights where boxers’ cuts appear blackened rather than red. This was the main substance in question around the 1964 bout between Sonny Liston and Muhammed Ali.
Ali reported to his corner that his eyes burned, which his own corner confirmed by putting their finger in Ali’s eye and then their own. It came to be that Monsel’s solution was to blame which had been applied to Liston’s face to stop his cuts bleeding.
This likely travelled to his gloves when shelling up and then into Ali’s eyes when he punched him. This was one of the events that led to its banning.
In other sports such as MMA, the UFC, as well as other organisations, rule that you cannot apply petroleum jelly to any part of the body beyond the face.
Some UFC fans may remember the ‘#greasegate’ during UFC94 where BJ Penn accused Georges St. Pierre of using Vaseline on his body so he could easily slip out of submissions. In MMA competitions they actually towel down the fighters bodies in between rounds to prevent this.
The Final Bell
Vaseline, or petroleum jelly, is often used by cutmen in order to prevent cuts and in the occurrence of a cut, petroleum jelly or a healing salve mixture can be used to prevent and control bleeding. It is used across combat sports for the same reasons.
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