Bare-Knuckle Fighting (Boxing): Everything You Need to Know

Bare-Knuckle Fighting (Boxing): Everything You Need to Know

Bare-knuckle fighting has been banned in all professional sports for more than a century, but now it’s becoming a big hit in the US once more. In this article, we will introduce you to bare-knuckle fighting (boxing), and tell you everything you need to know about it.

Bare-knuckle boxing is the original form of boxing, closely related to ancient combat sports. It involves two individuals fighting without boxing gloves or other padding on their hands.

Let’s see the history of bare-knuckle fighting, its rules, the organization that promotes bare-knuckle boxing and everything else you need to know.

The Basics of Bare-Knuckle Fighting

Ultimate fighting has primacy in the martial arts world due to its popularity, excitement, and brutality. But in the shadow of the aforementioned pro sport, there is one more martial art that is even more bloody and brutal – bare-knuckle fighting

The term “bare-knuckle” means boxing with bare hands, without gloves. Bare-knuckle is an original form of boxing closely related to ancient martial arts, and it differs from street fighting in that this fight between two people is governed by rules. So there are no punches in the crotch, for example.

Bare-knuckle is, in fact, a version of boxing that has existed since 1719. The first bare-knuckle champion was Englishman James Figg who won that title back in 1719. The record for the longest-running fight is held by James Kelly and Jonathan Smith, who fought for as long as six hours and 15 minutes in 1855, and the fight ended when Smith surrendered after 17 rounds. Imagine how well these two men mentioned were prepared if they had fought so long. The fighter with the longest professional career is Jem Mace, who fought for more than 35 years, and last fought in 1909 when he was 79 years old. Yes, you read that right, 79 years old. A dangerous old man!

The last official bare-knuckle match was in 1897, which does not mean that the sport ceased to exist then. Or, to be precise, this does not mean that the true, original idea of ​​fighting without gloves fell into oblivion once and for all. There are still World Boxing Bare Knuckle Associations. They have their own website and everything else, which is proof that they are quite legal, at least somewhere.

In the UK, during the 1970s, bare-knuckle fighting reappeared. Infamous underground characters such as Lenny McClean and Roy Shaw fought with bare-knuckles because they were banned from professional boxing due to their criminal history. Irish travelers are often prone to bare-knuckle, illegal fights, as highlighted in the 2000 movie Snatch starring Brad Pitt.

John L. Sullivan – Perhaps the Greatest Ever

This fighter has a special status in “Bare Knuckle”. He is, perhaps, the greatest ever. He was officially dethroned by Bare-Knuckle boxing champion Bobby Gunn, a boxer who was running well and could hit hard, which is essential in this sport. Specifically, it is harder to hit with a bare hand than with a glove, either with the MMA or the larger one. Therefore, bare-knuckle fighters need to be more precise and the punch needs to be more controlled.

Modern Bare-Knuckle Fighting

Although it has not been practiced in the world of professional sports for more than a century, bare-knuckle fighting is once again a hit in the US. Nowadays, you can see it here and there in the UK and in some ‘wild’ competitions, but it seems that the unpopular ‘bare-knuckle’ way of fighting could be back big time.

With a pay-per-view internet event picking up interest, many are wondering how bloody sports have reached this stage of popularity?

The first American state to allow bare-knuckle fights was Wyoming. Bare Knuckle FC promoter Dave Feldman announced it to be held on June 2, 2018. Many former UFC and Bellator names and still active professional boxers were on the fighter list.

“Yes, it’s true. The first legal and regulated bare-knuckle fights will take place in the United States since 1889,” Feldman told MMA Fighting, noting that the list of fights would also include names of champions like Bobby Gunn, former UFC champion Ricco Rodriguez and pedigree fighters such as Joe Riggs, Maurice Jackson, Linderman, and others.

Promoter Feldman revealed that they have been struggling with legalization in the US for some time and that as many as 28 states have rejected it so far, but the 29th, Wyoming, has approved it. Although this move is still considered to have been quite bold, Feldman claims that his bare-knuckle fights are safer than those with gloves, and he has a theory that gloves actually serve to protect fighters fists, not his opponent’s head.

“Bare knuckle” is a brutal, bloodthirsty fight in the form of boxing just without gloves, without any protection except bandages on hands, but also such crude and “unrecognized sport” according to official martial arts organizations, is making great strides to become a mainstream TV sensation, though the public wonders if this should be banned? Because everything is like in Roman times, long ago when people literally fought with their bare hands, gladiators who were always at the center of the party…

From its new start, almost two years ago, bare-knuckle fighting offered nine events, and some big names in MMA sport, such as Tony Lopez, Jason Knight, Joey Beltran, Paulie Malignaggi, and Conor McGregor’s protégé Artem Lobov.

But, this year, the organization got into some trouble, and there are not even related to this sport. Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship is sued for 40% of its ownership.

Edward Stewart is suing the company, telling that in 2012 he and Feldman talked about making this organization and sharing it 40 – 40, while 20% would go to the third party. He says that they made a contract and solemnized it, but unfortunately (for him), he doesn’t have a copy.

The arenas loved only the strongest, the most ruthless

The arenas loved only the strongest, the most merciless fighters, and the defeated most often ended up dead. “Bare knuckle,” though, is not a life-and-death struggle, but there is this line in this “bloody sport”. According to one of the most widely read British tabloids The Sun, in bare-knuckle fighting, fighters often suffer serious facial injuries, including broken noses, broken teeth, and horrible cuts to the face and the entire head …

Poles invent ‘Wotore’, a new brutal martial art

A new martial art is coming to us from Poland, which could reach great popularity. Its name is Wotore, and in fact, it is one particular type of martial art in which fighters perform bare-knuckle fights, and there is no ring-fence or time limit of rounds.

Wotore was created during the middle of 2019, when they set out to make rules and look for fighters who would be ready to compete in the first tournament. In October that year, it became known that a federation had been formed and that the Polish Sports Commission had accepted Wotore as a new martial art. On January 18, 2020, the first event took place in an interesting décor inside an abandoned prison.

The rules of this sport are very simple. There are no categories and no rounds while looking at the ‘ring’ is particularly interesting. It is a regular oval battlefield with a diameter of 30 feet (9 meters). It is located 3 feet (one meter) in height above a channel, in which, for better decoration, there is smoke.

Fighters do not use gloves and are generally allowed to use all blows as in unified MMA rules. The ways to win are the same as in MMA with one more addition. The way to win is to throw opponents out of the battlefield into the aforementioned channel; with that, to organizers are trying to eliminate defensive combat. In the case of fighting on legs, it is sufficient to throw the opponent out, while in the case of ground combat, it is essential that the fighter touches the ground outside the court with both hands. If this does not happen, and the fighter is out, the fighters return to their initial combat position.

The first event brought out a fight that was to present to the audience what Wotore would look like. It featured 100-pound heavyweight 23-year-old professional MMA fighter Marek Samociuk and the five years older and 23-pound lighter Muay Thai fighter, Damian Majewski. All along, from their very entrance to the battlefield, it was done with very interesting scenery and sound background.

As far as the ambition of this promotion is concerned, it should be known that their first event, that is, the tournament of 16 fighters with an elimination system, took place in one evening. PPV transmissions of the same have been sold on their website. As for the first fight, you can see the footage below, and if you are more interested in the rules, click HERE.

Problems for Bare-Knuckle Fighters

What is also a problem for these fighters are injuries; blows with a bare hand can end in a dislocation of the arm (wrist), fracture, etc.

In addition to that, the defensive phase of the sport is also difficult – there are no gloves and no concrete defense. And defense is crucial in every sport! Therefore, these boxers have a lot of work to do in defense, distance, entry-exit technique, quality double-decks with bare hands, tactical defensive tasks with counter, physical fitness, footwork, explosiveness, speed, etc.

Bare-knuckle fights, as you would expect, are brutal, so fighters need long time to recover, and therefore, much longer time to fight again than in UFC, boxing or some less brutal martial arts.

If there are any questions left unanswered, check out the similar article we wrote about bare-knuckle boxing. There won't be any after that reading. Until next time!

Stefano Secci, French Savate Boxing, and Martial Arts champion
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Stefano Secci

Stefano Secci was born on the outskirts of Genoa. He began practicing sports at 11 by enrolling in a Ju-Jitsu class; from there, I have not stopped playing sports until today. At 16, he switched to French Savate Boxing, which I married and has remained my first and only true love. Our testing and reviewing method.
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