Bodybuilding vs Boxing: Which is better & who wins?

January 8, 2024 |

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Which is better for getting in shape: bodybuilding or boxing? This is a question that has sparked debate for years, with people taking either side of the argument.

Spend any time on Instagram, and you know that Jake Paul has challenged pretty much every person on two legs to a boxing match. Except maybe Big Ramy, the current 300lbs, and 4% body fat Mr. Olympia. Don’t worry, Jake, I wouldn’t either.

While boxing is a sport that is focused on agility, strength, and outsmarting your opponent, bodybuilding is really about who can suffer for the longest time.

Over the next 4 minutes, you and I will delve into the main differences between these two great sports, how their training and diet differ, which pays more, if there is any connection between the two, and which is harder to do.

Bodybuilding vs Boxing – Overview

Who is a Bodybuilder?

Bodybuilding is more than just a hobby or a sport; it is a lifestyle.

Dedicated bodybuilders devote their lives to building massive, strong muscles through endless hours in the gym and strict nutrition plans. But what motivates these fitness warriors to continually push themselves to new heights?

According to many experts, two key elements drive bodybuilders: achievement and competition.

On one hand, bodybuilders are driven by the unstoppable need for achievement.

Whether it’s lifting heavier weights or winning major competitions, bodybuilders constantly seek new challenges that force them to keep growing and improving. Achieving physical goals is so important to them that many will subject themselves to all sorts of extreme training techniques and diets to progress even further.

On the other hand, bodybuilders are also motivated by competition.

From working out alongside other gym-goers to entering local competitions, bodybuilders thrive on competing with others and proving their strength and expertise.

Furthermore, they get immense satisfaction from pushing themselves past their personal limits in order to claim their place as champions in the world of fitness. Ultimately, it is this constant quest for accomplishment and competition that keeps bodybuilders dedicated to their craft day after day, year after year.

Who is a Boxer?

As one of the most iconic athletes of all time, Muhammad Ali was known not only for his incredible prowess in the boxing ring but also for his unrivaled dedication to training and competition.

Throughout his remarkable career, Ali approached each match with fierce determination and a winning attitude.

Whether facing off against opponents like Joe Frazier or George Foreman, he always believed that he would emerge victoriously. In addition to these character traits, Ali was also notable for his immense physical strength and athletic talent.

He embodied what it meant to be a true sportsman, always pushing himself to achieve new levels of success while remaining humble in both victory and defeat.

Through his tireless efforts, Ali set an example that continues to inspire athletes of all ages today.

Boxing is often praised for its fitness benefits, as it is an excellent way to build strength and endurance. It is also a very strategic sport, and many boxers spend years perfecting their technique.

As a result, boxing is a sport that requires both physical and mental prowess. For many people, boxing is more than just a sport – it is a way of life.

Which is Harder: Bodybuilding or Boxing?

The term “harder” isn’t used in science as it doesn’t have a metric to be measured in. We measure weight in pounds or speed in miles per hour, but “hardness” doesn’t have a measurement.

That being said, in the actual competition, boxing is a lot harder.

You’re engaged in a sport where someone tries to hit you to the floor. However, the actual preparation leading up to the event, bodybuilding, would be more demanding.

Few realize this, but bodybuilding’s bulking and cutting ends can be brutal.

Walking around at 300lbs in the off-season makes every activity insufferable. Then again, walking at 4% body fat pre-contest isn’t great either.

Can a Bodybuilder Beat a Boxer?

The earliest versions of boxing were around even in 3000 BC, with records of the Samarians engaging in the sport [1].

Converse to this, bodybuilding is exceptionally young. While the ancient Greeks were obsessed with the male body, bodybuilding only took shape in 1901—almost 5000 years separating these two great endeavors.

It would be tough for a bodybuilder to beat a boxer. While bodybuilders may look incredible in stature, their physical performance does not always reflect this.

Bodybuilders are usually slow and not cardiovascular fit, so why would they be? Their sport doesn’t rely on it.

On the other hand, Boxers are trained to use the opponent’s features against them. They would identify that the other person lacks in the cardiovascular fitness department, dance with them a few rounds, and boom. End.

boxing match

Is Boxing Better than Lifting?

Yet again, the term better isn’t used within science, but I digress.

Boxing is focused on improving your technique through hours of practice, improving your fitness and explosive strength. Bodybuilding focuses on who can be the biggest and most aesthetic person on stage.

Neither is better. It depends on which you find more engaging.

Boxing will allow you to improve your fitness levels a lot more, whereas lifting will allow you to grow a lot more muscle tissue. Your goals in training should be reflective of the tools (or means) you use to get there.

Can You Build Muscle by Boxing?

Building muscle has become a massive internet craze over the past few years with the rise of social media.

Various studies also show the tremendous benefits of having more muscle, as it can help with cholesterol, blood pressure, and even mental health [2].

Yes, you can build muscle from boxing.

Building muscle is simply placing the muscle under enough stress to force it to change and providing it with ample food. If you are new to boxing or training in general, boxing will be enough stress for you to accrue new muscle mass.

After some time, your body will get used to this stimulus, and it will not be novel anymore. At this point, training with more resistance will cause greater stimulation and growth.

Can You Do Bodybuilding and Boxing Together?

Various athletes in the past have partaken in two sports at once. Take the rugby player Sonny Bill Williams, who represented New Zealand and competed in professional boxing.

While some athletes have done it, it is not advisable to do bodybuilding and boxing together. The goals of either are so vividly different, that going after both at the same time would be tough.

Bodybuilding focuses on growing muscle tissue under any circumstances necessary, whereas boxing requires you to be agile and fit.

Gigantic and agile don’t go together so well.

Are Boxers Stronger than Bodybuilders?

Strength is the new sexy. Strength has been the main factor in most sports for hundreds of years, where the strongest competitor would be the victor left standing. However, this cannot be said for bodybuilding, as no actual physical activity happens on show day.

Despite this, bodybuilders are more muscular than boxers.

Boxers are focused on combining strength, agility, and fitness. Bodybuilders will focus only on gaining as much muscle as possible, which requires getting dirty strong.

Here is a table with some typical strength movements and how much the average athlete from either sport is capable of:

MovementBodybuilders Boxers
Squat:200 – 320kg100 – 140kg
Bench:150 – 220kg140 – 200kg
Deadlift:220 – 400kg150 – 220kg

This information was gathered by looking at the strength feats of certain athletes, and there will, of course, be outliers from these numbers.

Boxers are strong, especially on the bench since it mimics a punching motion; however, bodybuilders tend to be a lot stronger due to the nature of the training.

Are Bodybuilders Good at Fighting?

Protecting one’s self is extremely important in the world we live in.

Cops are slow, and sometimes the best and easiest way out of a hostile environment is straightforward.

While bodybuilders could certainly deal some heavy blows, I wouldn’t describe them as good fighters. Of course, some bodybuilders do have some talent in fighting (or training it even), but the reality is these guys are primarily brutes who want to be as big as possible.

When looking at their training and daily routine, you’ll quickly see these guys have no genuine interest in fighting, and it is all centered around accruing as much muscle mass as possible.

Boxing vs Gym for Fat Loss

Fat loss has been the most significant trend since sliced bread. Every Instagram influencer offers a new revolutionary way of eliciting fat loss better than the other. The truth is, it only comes down to your caloric intake. If you eat less than you need, you’ll lose weight.

Fat loss is different and will require you to force the body to retain muscle mass while mainly burning fat. For this purpose, the gym would be better.

Training in a gym with resistance will allow you to stimulate the muscle far more precisely than boxing and thus will elicit the most remarkable adaptation to retain muscle mass.

Cardio-intensive sports such as boxing are also known to require a significant amount of energy without really stimulating all the muscles in the body. You’re going to get bigger legs by getting under a 500lb bar vs. getting in the ring for a few rounds.

While you could lose more weight with boxing, you can partition more of that towards fat while training in a gym, following the correct diet.

Will I Lose Muscle by Boxing?

Muscle loss plagues a lot of gym-goers, as overtraining or the wrong diet will place the body in a position where it will be forced to use muscle mass as energy.

There is a possibility of any sport causing muscle wasting if your diet and recovery aren’t on point.

You need to be following a protein and carbohydrate-rich diet to make sure your muscles are being fed enough to perform. After this, you need to make sure you sleep enough per evening and control stress as much as you can to make sure you do not lose muscle mass.

Also read: What is the Average Bodybuilders Height?

Bodybuilding vs Boxing Training

As you would assume, these two sports have massively different training styles to reach their respective goals.

Whereas bodybuilders are focused on accruing as much contractile tissue as possible, boxers are focused on getting a combination of strength, power, fitness, and endurance.

Let’s look at the difference in a regular session for either party:

Warm-UpSome bodybuilders might do some stretching or foam rolling, most will actually just start with their weight movements with low weightBoxers will start will a light job or perhaps another form of cardio to get the blood pumping
BodyWill consist of puer hypertrophy focussed movements, with progressive overload being the name of the game; typically 15 – 30 setsIt will consist of Boxing or another kind of conditioning training, with fitness being the goal; unless the training is technique focussed
Cool DownMight consist of some cardio, depending on what the overarching goal is at the momentIt will usually consist of stretching, while some might even make use of warm and cold bath methods to improve recovery

As you can see, the training methods are vastly different. Bodybuilders have the sole goal of getting bigger, whereas boxing is more complex.

Bodybuilding vs Boxer Physique

This is the big one, for lack of better words. The two sports could not be any more different regarding body type and body composition.

To give you more insight, let us compare two of the most prevalent athletes in both sports: Big Ramy vs. Tyson Fury [3, 4].


Big Ramy

Tyson Fury

Height:5 ft 7 in6 ft 9 in
Weight:295 lbs277 lbs
Bench Press:500 lbs350 lbs
Body Fat:4%20%
Bicep Measurement:25 inches15.5 inches

As this table shows, boxers are pretty small and weak compared to bodybuilders but would still absolutely destroy them in the ring.

Also read: Best Pre-workout Supplements for Boxing

Final Thoughts – Bodybuilding or Boxing?

Bodybuilding and boxing are two different sports that have different goals. You can get fit by participating in either sport, but you will achieve different results.

If your goal is to bulk up and become muscular, then bodybuilding is the right choice for you. If your goal is to be lean, and toned with agility, then boxing is a better option. Whichever sport you choose, make sure that you are consistent with your workouts and eat a healthy diet so that you can see results.

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