Boxing with the Apple Watch Sport (AWS): Can it hold its own when the gloves are on?

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As a boxing enthusiast, seeing Gennady Golovkin shadowbox in the official Apple Watch Sport ad made me giddy but how I wished he wore it in a sparring session instead. Shadowboxing? Sure, any tracker can certainly do it. But, can this thing actually roll with the punches?

First, a disclaimer: Before the test, I’ve been boxing for just 11 months, 3 times a week.

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Sparring rounds: 10 with a trainer and 1 with a fellow student. My record is a perfect 0-0. I’d like to keep it that way.

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If there’s a sport out there that can challenge a tracker’s ability to consistently measure performance, it’s boxing. The repeated stress to the arm due to varying speed and sudden changes to g-forces and direct hits make this sport an ideal test.

The AWS already has a selection of pre-programmed workouts for the more popular but easy to track workouts such as, Indoor/Outdoor Walk, Indoor / Outdoor Cycle, Elliptical and Rower. I did not expect boxing to be there but at least there’s that none-of-the-above option in the “Other” workout which I used for every boxing workout.

Warmup: 10-15 minutes of skipping rope and dynamic stretching.
Knowing that the intensity is at par with running, I expected the Apple Watch to track my heart rate effectively, and it did.

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Boxing workout: 12 rounds of 3 minute workouts
But before putting on boxing gloves, there’s the concern on the handwraps. Will it affect how the handwraps are placed? Will the watch be further up the arm to give some space to the Apple Watch Sport?

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As I found out, it depends on the trainer. One trainer said that ideally, there should be a 2-inch clearance from the wrist. Others can work with an inch and a half. Nonetheless, the trainers did not ask me to remove the AWS.

To loosen-up, I shadowbox and tested if the added weight and sensation on the wrist was a distraction. I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t. The fluoroelastomer bands gripped my skin comfortably and did not slip despite the sweat build-up. I actually forget that I was wearing one. So I shadowboxed with glee.

Next, the gloves are on. I used Twins 12oz boxing gloves. Putting the gloves on with the watch did not feel any different. The velcro straps used to lockdown the wrist pressed down on the Apple Watch. Suffice to say, how my left hand felt did was no different from my right. It’s that unobtrusive.

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On with focus mitts, then. As an orthodox boxer, my left arm where my watch is was used more frequently. Jabs, hooks and uppercuts landed on the pads with no distractions. There wasn’t any jiggling sensation inside the glove nor did I feel that the Apple Watch was dislodged at any time.

Next up: Speed Bag. Ok, before moving to the next drill it’s worth mentioning that the boxing gloves may have held the Apple Watch in place when I did focus mitts. So the speed bag drills have that additional test if the AWS can stay snug without any assistance. For one full minute I did some all out speed bag drills. Upon checking my AWS, the timer is still running and the heartrate monitor still measures efficiently. Color me impressed.

Heavy-bag is up next. To truly test the Apple Watch there needs to be power shots. With the gloves back on, I let my hands fly. With a barrage of jabs, left hooks and upper cuts, the way Apple Watch felt was like how it felt during the pad work. After a minute or so, I check if it still does what it should do. And, yes, it still does. I can still see the green light inside the glove, signifying that it is still recording my heartrate. Upon removing the gloves, everything is still as it should be.

Ok, dear reader, you may ask: How about testing how it can withstand impact during all out full-contact sparring? Yep, did that too.

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I’ve sparred with the Apple Watch a good 7 times in the last 3 months. The way these sparring sessions would go really depend on who you’re sparring with. Sparring with a trainer makes it more technical and the hits you take are more calculated and tend to be on the “gotcha” kind. With a fellow student though, it’s no holds-barred. The Apple Watch was able to withstand both kinds of sessions with no problems. The impact the AWS received may have been cushioned by the Velcro straps of the boxing gloves but still these were hard, put your weight-on-your-fist kind of punches. After sparring, while ice water being poured over my head, I check my Apple Watch and, yes, it was able to go toe-to-toe with all kinds of hits.

In the 3 months I owned the Apple Watch Sport, there were only 2 times that it went into “Pause” mode since, as the only explanation I could find, was because it momentarily lost contact with my skin. Repeating the exercise that I thought caused it though did not recreate this issue.

Final thoughts: Should you box with it? If you’re into boxing and find that you have to take off your fitness tracker and wish it were thinner and could fit in your glove, then the Apple Watch is a great, albeit more expensive alternative. The Apple Watch Sport can handle any boxing drill with varying degrees of intensity and impact. It’s a stretch to call it the best tracker for boxers but right now, nothing comes close. GMV

(Disclaimer: The test unit is the author’s own 38mm AWS Sport Grey.

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Allan Abaca is an avid gamer through and through. Virtually, he is locked-in with his PS4 almost daily and has just introduced the awesomeness of gaming to his two sons.

Next in his sights is PC gaming. The platform which he nows considering going back to after a two decade hiatus.

Oh, and let's not forget the Nintendo Switch...

His psn id is hip2b2

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