Why Do Boxers Spit Out Water? (4 Reasons)

If you watch competitive boxing you’ll often see boxers spit out water into a bucket between rounds. Given how much they sweat, you’d think they would want to re-hydrate, so why are they doing this?

Boxers’ mouths can get very dry during a fight or fill up will blood, Vaseline, and phlegm that will distract them and inhibit breathing. Swishing and spitting out water moisturizes and clears out their mouths. Boxers don’t swallow much water during the fight to avoid getting bloated or cramps.  

Why do boxers spit out water instead of drinking it? 💦

I once weighed myself before and after an hour’s training session to see how much I sweat. The answer? 1.5 kg!  

That is a lot of fluid leaving my boxing. Fluid that needs to be replaced to stay hydrated. However, it turns out that drinking too much water while boxing isn’t a good idea so pros spit most of it out into a bucket. Here’s why:

  1. Cleaning out their mouth – often boxers just use the water to clean out their mouth of blood, Vaseline, phlegm (teeth?!) that has built up during the round and may inhibit their breathing. If you have a bloody nose, the blood can drip down into your mouth so its important to try and clear it out.
  2. Dampening their mouth – water is used to make their mouth moist as it can get very dry and uncomfortable during a fight. Doing this helps partially relieve the feeling of thirst.
  3. Avoid getting cramps – Drinking water can signal to your body that a digestive process may be occurring which will send blood to digestive organs in preparation. However, you want to keep blood with your muscles to prevent cramping and to ensure optimum muscle performance. This is the same reason why your mum always told you shouldn’t swim after eating.
  4. Avoid becoming weighed down and bloated – drink a gallon of water and then try get punched in the gut without vomiting…! Boxers definitely don’t need that extra weight sloshing around in their stomachs while they are fighting.

Having said that, boxers do often swallow a little water to replenish some of the fluids they have lost.

a boxer spitting in a bucket
Getting it all out…

Should I drink or eat anything during a fight? 👂

No. Firstly, it isn’t permitted to consume anything other than water during a fight. And definitely not an ear, Mike Tyson.

And, secondly, all the hydration and energy a boxer needs for the fight should already be in her system before the fight. Sure, a fight drains you in more ways than one, but if you are properly prepared then you should be able to last the 12 rounds without consuming much water.  

How much water should I drink during fight or training? 🥊

This depends on 1) the temperature conditions, 2) how much you sweat, and 3) how long you’re training for.

A general rule of thumb is to thumb is to drink 7 to 10 oz. of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes that you are training or fighting.

This is equivalent to about half a standard size plastic water bottle. If you sweat a lot generally or the conditions are very hot then you’ll want to drink a bit more than this.

Related articles:

Why is it important to stay hydrated? 🚑

Boxers exert huge amount of energy when training and fighting, and lose lots of fluids through sweating.

The impacts of dehydration can range from mild to very severe. Symptoms include nausea, dry mouth, muscle cramps, fast and erratic heartbeat, vomiting, and feeling lightheaded. In extreme cases loss of consciousness, mental confusion, and loss of muscle control can occur. Needless to say, this bad!

Staying hydrated is crucial for a smart, effective, healthy workout. So, make sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after your training. (Unless, you’re fighting, in which case, only before and after!).

The legend Sugar Ray Robinson famously suffered in the heat against Joey Maxim in 1952 during their fight on “the hottest June twenty-fifth in the history of the New York City Weather Bureau”. It was 104F / 40C that day.

The heat was so intense that the referee collapsed at the end of the 10th round and be replaced. Robinson was not able to return to the ring after the 13th round and is understood to have been suffered from heat exhaustion.

Sugar Ray Robinson exhausted and delirious from the 104F/40C heat in 1952

What do boxers eat and drink before a fight? 🍔

Ideally, boxers should consume a meal that’s high in complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and vegetables, as well as some lean protein.

This will provide them with a sustained source of energy throughout the fight. Additionally, it’s crucial to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water leading up to the match.

It’s important to avoid foods that are high in fat or sugar, as these can cause an energy crash and impair performance. Lastly, it’s recommended to eat a few hours before the fight to allow time for digestion and avoid any discomfort in the ring.

12th Round 🔔

Boxers spit out water during rounds in a fight because they are already properly hydrated. The water serves to clean and moisturize their mouths. If you’re just training, make sure to keep drinking water to stay top of your game.

Happy fighting! 🥊🥊

“I liked that title. I didn’t want to lose it to anybody, but if I had to lose it, I’m glad I lost it to you. You’re a good fighter and gonna be a great champ.” —Jersey Joe Walcott