There are two Muay Thai brands you can’t avoid seeing if you are in Thailand (and likely ANYWHERE where Muay Thai is taught). If you think those two brands are Twins and Top King, then you would be absolutely right in your guess. We’ve already reviewed the standard Twins Special Muay Thai Boxing Gloves but now it’s time to look at the other popular brand: Top King.
Note, I have updated this review for 2017 since I wrote it a couple years ago. Note that in the three years, absolutely nothing has changed — the basic TOP KING gloves, especially the popular base model I reviewed here — have not changed. You can find some of the other (more expensive) models that may offer different design patterns (and for some models, mesh for breathability), but outside of this, the gloves have remained the same.
Twins and Top King quality are very similar — both are made from cow leather and manufactured in Thailand. In fact, their factories sit right next to each other, both within a stone’s throw of the (OLD) legendary Lumpinee Stadium. What you might not know is each brand are owned by brothers, hence the similarities in quality. As far as the design and aesthetics go, the brands are quite a bit different in their approach.
While Twins has been around for over 50 years, Top King burst onto the scene in 2010 with a new vision and they’ve really made quite a mark in only 4 years. You might argue that Top King Th are a more modern interpretation of the Twins aesthetic and design philosophy. This is not only reflected in the Top King’s use of aggressive Tribal art on most of their glove designs but even in their modern style website (Twins, on the other hand has an very basic, plain website).
Twins is the older, established brand while Top King is the new, younger upstart who’s determined to make a mark.
Like all boxing glove brands, there are different ‘versions’ of the Top king gloves.
Top King Boxing Glove Models
For the most part, Top King offers the same design and feature set between models. The major difference between glove models is the paint and colors used and whether the glove is ‘Air’ model or not. Their pro version has lace ups. Their ‘Ultimate’ model has more padding. This holds true even in 2016 as of time of this updated review.
Their new models (as of the past year or two) seem to have a labeling change — a new TKB logo patch is stitched onto wrist area, replacing the old Top King one. However, it seems, depending on the model, that you can get both versions. You can see this difference below in these two images:
Top King’s models break down into the following as of their 2017 catalog:
- Boxing Gloves Competition Model
- Boxing Gloves Pro Model (lace up Muay Thai gloves for competing)
- Boxing Gloves Ultimate (velcro + extra foam padding )
- Boxing Gloves Super (their standard base model)
- Super Air (regular model + air mesh)
- Empower Creativity Glove Style (a special pattern style)
- Super Star Glove Style (a special pattern style)
The ‘Air’ models are basically the same design but with a mesh on the front area to allow increased breathablilty — which is a good thing if you are in a humid place like Thailand. The air meshhelps the inside of the gloves dry up faster after training. A couple of their glove models have lace strings instead of Velcro straps.
Top King Super Air Mini Review
We’ve bought an Air model last year in 2015 to try them out and overall I felt the ‘Super Air’s are just about the same in terms of functionality as the base non-air models. I suppose the added beathability of the mesh is a good thing, but frankly, I didn’t notice too much of a difference — my hands were still bloody hot in Thailand when I used them. Considering you pay a bit more for the AIR models, I say the mesh doesn’t really offer that much extra (and as I said, I didn’t notice they made my hands any cooler while wearing them). and just go with the BASE model.
Note that the mesh helps them dry faster, which is a good thing. But is it worth the cost? I say, not that much.
The Main Features
These features are pretty much standard in any Top King Boxing Glove:
- Extra Wrist Padding
- Velcro Strap
- Made from Cowskin Leather
- Tribal Symbol or Colorful Pattern Design
This is one area where these gloves shine brightly. The aggressive tribal designs and bright colors give these gloves a ‘wow’ factor without being over-the-top. Most of the Top King designs tend to have a two color tribal symbol with the flashy Top King logo stamped top of that. It’s not a complicated design, but it stands out quite nicely and the color schemes are pretty nice. Visually, Top King really has their own special look down pretty pat.
Basically, you’ll either LIKE the Top King look or you’ll hate it. I suspect the younger crowd will definitely like the design direction of Top King products. If you want a more understated visual design, you probably won’t like the Top King aesthetic.
The Build and Feel
I will note that Top King gloves look and feel a bit like they are made of vinyl. This has to do with the shiny paint and colors used on most of the designs; the gloves are actually made of leather, but the shiny look does make them look a bit ‘lower quality’ on first appearance. You may like how shiny they look and how they feel, but I personally prefer a more leather look with less shine. That’s me though.
Top King feels pretty similar to Twins in terms of the construction quality, which overall is pretty good. It’s not the best quality out of all the Muay Thai glove brands, but good enough for most people. Top Kings are constructed out of genuine leather. They have quite a snug fit once you put them on — tighter than Twins I’d say.
As far as the glove stitching goes, it’s reinforced in the stress areas. If you’ve had a cheap pair of Muay Thai gloves, one of the first things to start giving way is the stitching, so it’s good to see Top King go all out with making sure the stitching stays in where it’s most needed. The inside of the glove has a nice smooth feel — it’s very soft and not at all course. The inside area has a nice extra layer of reinforcement right above the finger tips which is especially noticeable when you make a fist. There are small ventilation holes in the thumb area to allow for more breathability and quicker drying. In a place like Thailand where you are drenched with humidity and you sweat out liters in a single training session, this is a very good thing.
The length of the thumb on the glove design is a bit long — longer than you’ll find in the Twins design. You may or may not like this, but it is noticeable, especially if you’re coming over from another brand of glove, like Twins.
As for the padding, there’s definitely a good amount of it, especially surrounding the hand area and around the wrist part. Top Kings feel a bit more ‘bulky’ than do Twins when you put them on, though if you compare them directly side by side, Twins are actually a tiny bit ‘bigger.’ Top Kings have more padding on the wrist though.
Overall, compared to TWINS, Top King gloves look and do feel a bit more aerodynamic than do the Twins, which are are more ‘boxy’ looking than Top Kings.
Protection and Padding
The Top King level of padding is somewhat smack in the middle between the Twins Special and Fairtex. This makes them better than Twins, I feel, for sparring, but less so for bag work and pads.
The gloves are quite bulky in size and the padding has a nice soft spring to it — which I suppose is a good thing when it comes to protecting your hands AND your sparring partners. Maybe less so for bag work or pad work though. The padding is pretty evenly distributed throughout the whole of the glove, from tip to the back of your hand to the wrist areas.
These are a slightly longer glove too — they extend quite far down your forearm area, past your wrist area. This does offer more support and protection for your wrist during bag work.
If you like to shell up with a high guard during sparring, you’ll particularly like how there is an extra amount of padding around the wrist area of the glove. Some gloves like Fairtex and Twins have more padding in the top area of the glove but much less in the wrist area. This is certainly not the case with Top King.
Overall, Top King opts in the direction of providing MORE protection and MORE wrist support than less. And I think this is a good thing overall. However, if you like gloves that are less bulky or gloves that are not as pillowey when you hit things, you probably won’t like Top Kings.
Review of Top King Gloves During Muay Thai Training
Top King gloves have been my second most used brand of Muay Thai boxing gloves (with Twins being the first) . I’ve probably put in at least a full year and a half, six days a week using these gloves. In my three years of living in Thailand, I went through two different pairs of Top Kings (8 ounce and 16 ounce).
I’d say sparring is where Top King gloves come into their own. The bulkiness offer a lot of padding for your partners and give you a good amount of protection in term, when you shell up. The length of the gloves also offer you more real estate to protect your face (and arms) when you shell up from punches or take kicks to the side or your body, with your hands down by your side.
The extra wist support here comes in handy too when sparring.
On the flip side, the bulkiness of the gloves do make it harder to penetrate through your opponents guard when you throw hand combos, however. If you want gloves that are not bulky and shorter, look at Fairtex where a 16 ounce pair are equivalent in size and width to a 12 ounce (or smaller) pair of Top Kings.
Bag Work Use
Top King’s padding and wrist support make these gloves good for bag work. However, that padding and bulk come with a cost — the gloves are somewhat softer when you hit the bag, so they lack that snapping/bouncy feedback that other brands give when you start smashing combos into the heavy bag. You don’t fee that much impact when you hit the bag — this is a good thing if you have wrist or hand problems, but not so much if you want that extra ‘feedback’ from the back when you hit it.
On the same note, because the gloves are a bit squishy as you hit the bag, you also don’t hear that ‘cracking sound’ as the gloves strike the bag.
So overall, I am not a fan of Top King gloves for heavy bag work. For the average person not hand heavy and who mixes up a lot of hand work with kicks, elbows, and knees on the bag, Top King gloves work just fine. But if you are more hand heavy, love your hand combos, or are more of a pure boxer, you’ll probably be left a little unsatisfied when you do bag work with Top Kings.
Pad Work Use
Good support, but personally I don’t like how you don’t get that cracking sound as you hit the pads. I’m pretty hand heavy when it comes to Muay Thai, so I’m particularly picky about the glove shape and padding levels affect my hands — in this regard, I don’t like the Top Kings, but that’s just me here. From what I’ve seen, most people seem pretty happy with their Top Kings on pad work.
The PROS’s and CON’s
- Heavy padding offers a lot of protection for hands and wrist
- Gloves offer extra wrist protection (more padding along wrist and the gloves are longer)
- Good gloves for Muay Thai sparring with the extra padding — they offer good protection
- Good bang for buck — you get good quality gloves for a good price
- Gloves are aesthetically pleasing — modern, aggressive design
- Gloves are a bulky
- No crack when you hit the bag or pads
- Gloves are squishy and don’t ‘bounce’ when you hit the heavy bag
The Final Word
Top King gloves are popular for a reason: they offer a lot of value, they look good, and they offer very good support while still being pretty damn comfortable. I do have to say, when you put on a new pair of Top Kings, they feel more comfortable than do an equivalent pair of Twins Special. And I do like the shape and distribution of weight better than Twins for punching.
Whether you prefer Top King or Twins really depends on if you like the fit and shape of Top King over Twins. Top King’s have a more modern look to them, and feel quite a bit different than do Twins when you put them on. They have a ‘better shape’ I find than do the more boxy Twins Special and they have more wrist padding. As to which brand you prefer comes down to personal preference. For ‘starter’ Muay Thai gloves, Top King’s are highly recommended. I personally prefer Twins over Top King though as I don’t like the bulky feeling of Top King (here is just like a lot of space between your hands and the outside of the glove with the puffy padding design), the more pillowy padding and the lack of feedback Top Kings give when you hit the bag, but for many people, this won’t be an issue at all.
You really won’t know if you like Top King over Twins until you buy them and try them out for a few weeks.
As for the durability, they last about as long as the Twins do, maybe a bit less. In Thailand with heavy use (as the ONLY pair of gloves used) six days a week, they last about 6 months to a year IF you do not properly dry them out by rotating them every other day with a different pair of gloves.
When Top King gloves start to fall apart, they really start to fall apart, however. The first part to go is usually the side and front of the gloves. If you use them in in cooler, less humid climates (like North America or Europe, for example) and rotate them in with another pair of gloves, you should get a couple years out of them, however.
Bottom line is some people love the feel and look of Top Kings over Twins or the other brands. I do not like Top Kings over the other brands personally, but that is me.
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