Although they both share similar names, there are key differences between boxing and kickboxing. In this blog, we’re breaking down those differences so you can find the right sport to fuel your fight.
And make sure to check out our blog on boxing vs. MMA to learn even more about the unique history, benefits, and challenges of different combat sports.
Boxing vs. Kickboxing: What’s the difference?
Boxing is a highly specialized fist-fighting combat sport. There are no kicks, take-downs, or use of knees, elbows, or shins to defeat your opponent.
That means the boxing pros need complete mastery over one specialization: their fists. But it isn’t just about throwing punches, boxing also requires incredible footwork and quick reflexes for both offensive and defensive moves.
Take a look at this professional boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Marcos Maidana to get a feel of what this looks like in action:
Kickboxing is a combat sport that involves striking techniques such as punching and kicking. Like boxing, kickboxing is a stand-up form of fighting. This means there’s no ground fighting, unlike MMA or wrestling. 
But as the name suggests, kickboxing also involves a wider range of martial arts moves evolved from karate that you won’t find in boxing, like roundhouse kicks or jump kicks. In other words, kickboxing uses the same fist-fighting fundamentals as boxing (like jabs, crosses, and uppercuts) while mixing in other moves like kicks and knee strikes. 
The rules of what’s allowed depend on the style of kickboxing you’re using, like Dutch-style, Kun Khmer, Sanda, or Muay Thai. Most styles of kickboxing only rely on kicks and punches to take down an opponent. But others also allow moves like head butts, grappling, and elbow and knee strikes. [1,3]
Kickboxing might look a lot like boxing. But fighters aren’t just throwing punches, they’re using their legs to take down their opponent as well. Take a look at this video to get a feel for what kickboxing looks like in action:
The popularity of kickboxing has also extended outside the ring into what’s called cardio or Tae Bo kickboxing.  This is a non-contact aerobic exercise program that involves kicks and strikes to stay in shape.
Muay Thai vs. Kickboxing
Muay Thai often falls under kickboxing even though it exists in its own sports category with a unique set of rules and regulations. It’s the national sport of Thailand and it’s been part of the country’s history for well over 2,000 years. 
The biggest difference between kickboxing and Muay Thai is that Muay Thai allows elbow strikes and clinch fighting, moves that aren’t allowed in most other forms of kickboxing. 
You’ll often hear Muay Thai described as “the art of eight limbs”. And that’s because Muay Thai is an eight-point striking system while kickboxing is a four-point striking system. This means that you can use eight limbs (kicks, punches, elbows, and knees) to strike in Muay Thai. But you can only use four (kicks and punches) in American kickboxing.  This makes kickboxers more likely to rely on boxing-style punches while Muay Thai fighters tend to prefer the use of their legs.
This reliance on boxing techniques tends to give kickboxers similar movement and footwork patterns that you’d find in boxing. And Muay Thai fighters tend to be more calculated and move less around the ring. In Muay Thai, matches also start with a ritual prayer, tend to have five rounds lasting three minutes each, and often have Thai music playing throughout. 
In 1988, American kickboxer Rick Roufus challenged Muay Thai fighter Changpuek Kietsongrit from Thailand to a match. The rules were more closely aligned to American kickboxing but Kietsongrit managed to show the western world just how powerful Muay Thai could be when he defeated the U.S. fighter.
In the video below, you can spot the difference between the two by seeing how Kietsongrit prefers kicks while Roufus prefers heavy-hitting punches:
Boxing vs. Kickboxing: History
Boxing, or the act of throwing fists, has been around since the beginning of human history. There are even carvings of fistfights dating back as far as 1500 B.C. to prove it.  But arguably the sport’s most famous beginning is in ancient Rome with the gladiators fighting to the death.
Fortunately, over time it became less about fighting to the death and more about fighting for sport. And as boxing grew in popularity, so did the rules and regulations, with the biggest changes taking place beginning in the 19th century.
For example, the use of weight classes to make fights fairer started in the early 1820s. Then came along rules like ring size, round length, and the use of gloves in 1867. The sport boomed in popularity as it made its way to the U.S. in the 1830s, eventually becoming a popular illegal gambling activity. 
Thanks to television, the rise of boxing legends like Muhammad Ali, and famous boxing movies like “Rocky” the sport catapulted into more mainstream popularity throughout the 1960s, 70s, and into today.
Kickboxing is a modern-day evolution of martial arts techniques like karate mixed with full-contact boxing. [2,6] Modern kickboxing got its start in Japan in the 1950s, eventually making its way into mainstream American popularity in the 1970s. This was largely due to television shows like Bruce Lee, whose exciting kicks and karate moves encouraged a whole new generation of American kickboxing. 
But the original influence for the style of modern-day kickboxing goes to Muay Thai. Muay Thai is a popular Thai combat sport that’s over 2,000 years old with origins dating back to ancient Thai military fighting techniques. [2,3]
Muay Thai started as a form of entertainment before it developed into a sport, with the first records of competitive kickboxing dating back to the 16th century.  But it wasn’t till the 19th century that more established rules and regulations were put in place to ensure safety and standardization for the sport.  And in the 1920s, Muay Thai took on a lot of elements of modern-day boxing like the boxing ring, gloves, referees, and rounds. [1,3]
Kickboxing grew from Muay Thai, eventually becoming its own unique form of martial arts. Today, there are several different styles of kickboxing practiced around the world. Especially in Japan and the United States, where the sport has the highest level of popularity.
In the 1970s and 80s, these styles of kickboxing competed against each other in several kickboxing tournaments. Then by 1993, the Japanese K-1 kickboxing organization unified the sport by establishing a singular set of rules. 
Boxing vs. Kickboxing: Rules
Both boxing and kickboxing fights take place in what’s called a “ring”. When in the ring, fighters in both sports can only deliver punches above the belt (think face, chin, abs, and so on). But with boxing, your fists are the only body part that can make impact with your opponent. In kickboxing, you have a few more techniques at your disposal.
In a boxing title fight, there are 10 to 12 three-minute rounds (two minutes for women) with a minute of rest in between. You win the fight by points or by knocking out your opponent. In amateur fights, matches are shorter with usually three three-minute rounds, and scoring is only based on points.
In both boxing and kickboxing, a referee runs the fight. But the judges ultimately make the call on who wins the match if there's no knockout.
While your fists have to aim above the belt, you have a wider range of allowed techniques in kickboxing than you do in boxing. For example, in most styles of kickboxing, you can deliver kicks and knee strikes to your opponent’s ribs, head, neck, legs, and back. Strikes to the groin, throat, and back of the head are not allowed.
Fighters can use a wide range of punching, kicking, and striking techniques to try and take down or knock out their opponent.
Like boxing and many other combat sports, kickboxing competitions break down into different weight class divisions to ensure a fairer fight. Amateur fights usually consist of three 2-minute rounds with one-minute rest in between. And professional fights could be anywhere from four to 12 rounds.  Knockout, or points scored by judges, determine the winner.
Boxing vs. Kickboxing: Which one’s better?
Both boxing and kickboxing rely on a strong mastery of boxing techniques to defeat an opponent. But with kickboxing, there’s more to learn given that the use of your knees and feet (and sometimes elbows) are fair game.
You’ll find that both sports are incredibly high cardio and strength training exercises, each in their own unique way. Both rely on solid footwork, fast reflexes, and incredible power and strength.
Kickboxing involves a wider range of lower body movements while boxing requires more speed and power to time your punches with greater accuracy. But this doesn't make one better than the other. The right sport for you all depends on what you’re looking for.
Boxing with Liteboxer
If you’re a current boxer or want-to-be boxer, then Liteboxer could be a great tool for improving your boxing skills and form from the convenience of your own home. It’s like having a personal trainer right in your living room, coaching you on correct boxing form while you box to the beat of your favorite music.
Our Trainers have years of fitness experience and come from a variety of backgrounds including boxing, physical therapy, dancing, and careers as professional athletes. With these pros, we offer some of the best total body fitness instruction around.
After completing a Liteboxer workout, you can also view your force, timing, and accuracy metrics in the Liteboxer app. By tracking your progress and pushing to achieve a personal best, you can get stronger and more confident with every class.
So whether you need dedicated time to work on speed, power punches, strength, or boxing combinations, we’ve got the class for you to improve your boxing skills and technique, all while getting in a great workout.