After weeks of hearing I was getting a different kind of glove for my birthday, imagine my surprise when I opened up the box to find these bad boys sitting in it-

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Aaaaaaawwww yeah. So after nearly peeing myself, I took them straight over to the gym to start breaking them in. I've never owned anything from Fairtex before, so I'm pretty interested to see if they live up to their reputation. Here's my thoughts thus far.

Flexibility/mobility, 9- Surprisingly not stiff, really, especially considering some of the things I'd heard about Fairtex. It's easy to make a good fist, but no trouble to open the palm up for clinching and catching kicks, either. These gloves are also freaking tiny for 16's, too. Like REALLY tiny. My last pair of sparring gloves was from Top King, and although I knew they were big, the size difference is almost comical. These are roughly the same size as the 10s I use for pads, also from Top King. This isn't a picture of my gear, but it's accurate anyway. These are all in 16-

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So the moral of the story is, my punch defense and head movement is now a LOT more important without wearing two shields on the end of my arms. It's probably better that way anyway.

Ease of use, 9- When I saw how small they were, I was a little concerned about how much room I'd have inside the glove itself. The hand compartment is pretty snug, but not uncomfortably tight. I wasn't sure I was going to be able to get my wrapped-up hands in, but it worked out fine and didn't feel cramped at all. One thing to note is that there's no grip bar here, but I would never have even known without sitting there and inspecting them when I first opened the box up. It really didn't make much difference in making a fist. The palm's got a few well-placed ventilation holes, so my hands aren't roasting. I mean, it's summer, so there's a limit to how much good it can really do, but all the same, they do what they're supposed to.

Material/production quality, 10- Fairtex clearly does not **** around when they make their gloves. The stitching is as tight as can be with no stray threads to be found anywhere. The leather is nice and thick, without any wrinkles on the striking surface. The lining is smooth and tight without any extra bits floating around to get caught on fingers, which is actually a problem I have with both pairs of Top Kings I've used. It's the kind of thing you don't even really notice is irritating until you don't have to deal with it. One nice little feature is that there's a very small strip of padding right at the end of the hand compartment, so your fingers don't poke down and out on the leather.

Protection, 9- The padding is a little harder than my Top Kings, but not so much that anyone complained about it last night. These are marketed as an "all-purpose" glove, so they don't have the super-cushy foam that most sparring-specific gloves do, but it's not like you're wearing bricks on your hands either. The thumb is attached and it's pretty straight, as is the norm for most Thai gloves, but there's enough curve in it to not worry much about sticking your partner in the eye. The cuff's got good padding on it for blocking kicks, which is always appreciated. There's also some padding on the outer edge so you can parry kicks without worrying about breaking a hand. Again, though, I want to emphasize how small these gloves really are for 16oz, so as far as protecting your big stupid head, you really need to keep things tight.

So, to sum up, they're really well-made, they look slick as hell, they're from Fairtex, and I didn't have to pay for them. What else could I have possibly asked for?