If debating which is better, boxing or Muay Thai, the answer really depends on needs and personal preference. Both are popular contact sports. Both can be considered dangerous and both feature competitions in which fighters can get badly hurt. Trying to decide which is better to study depends on personal preference, need, and motivation.
Boxing has been a popular fighting sport for centuries. Opponents are matched usually by weight. Boxing gloves are worn over wrapped or taped hands. The boxing gloves feature thick padding to protect the hands, but are not designed to prevent injury to the opponent being struck with them. Boxers also wear a belt around their torso which is designed as the lower punch limit. The ideal way to win a boxing match is through knock-out (KO) in which the opponent is knocked unconscious and does not get up by the referee’s count to ten.
Muay Thai is similar to boxing in that it pits two opponents against each other in a match. However unlike boxing, Muay Thai permits the opponent to strike with not only their fists, but also with their knees, feet and elbows. Punches are similar to boxing strikes, with a cross, hook, and upper-cut. There are also other forms of swinging that are classified as types of Muay Thai punches. A series of elbow strikes are all qualifying hits in Muay Thai as well as a series of knee strikes. Kicking, which is not permitted in regular boxing either, is almost central to Muay Thai fighting.
Holding, in traditional boxing, can disqualify fighters if they consistently use the tactic. In Muay Thai, however, there are permitted holds that are referred to as “clinching” that involve holding the arm, side, low-clinching, and swan-neck clinching. Additionally, in Muay Thai, striking below “the belt” is not a disqualifying move as it is in boxing.
Again, deciding which sport is better depends on personal preference. If looking for a full-contact sport that requires significant training and physical conditioning, Muay Thai may be more enjoyable. If simply looking for something that will help condition and tone the body and provide cardiovascular benefits, but without the need for fancy moves or complicated hand-foot coordination, then boxing may be more enjoyable. If looking for competitions, it would be best to consider the potential for injuries in both sports and consult with local schools that teach both forms to learn as much as possible before making a decision.