Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Return of Bare-Knuckle Fighting

A sanctioned and regulated bare-knuckle boxing event will take place June 2nd in Cheyenne, Wyoming, USA. The last time a championship boxing match sans gloves took place is when John L. Sullivan defended his world heavyweight title against Jake Kilrain in 1889.* In those days London Prize Rules governed boxing, whereby sweeps, takedowns and throws were permitted. In the updated version of fisticuffs, weight classes will be similar to those found in MMA, and standup-style grappling that allows for the fighters to hit with a free hand will be permitted.

Getting the rights to make bare-knuckle boxing a legal reality was no easy task for promoter Dave Feldman:

Feldman said he went to 28 different athletic commissions and was rejected by all of them until Wyoming played ball. His argument is that gloves were adopted for boxing and MMA to protect the hands of fighters — not their heads. Bare knuckle, Feldman argues, is actually safer when it comes to concussions and brain injuries than boxing.

The card will feature a number of seasoned fighters from boxing, MMA, kickboxing, and Muay Thai. Punches are the only strikes that will be allowed. Fighters will only have hand wraps that end one inch from the knuckles. No doubt it will be a bloody affair like MMA, but hey, that's what sells tickets. Time will tell if this newfangled aberration in combat sports catches on.

* Sullivan would wait more than four years before defending his title again, this time donning gloves under Marquess of Queensberry Rules against a smaller and less experienced fighter, James J. Corbett. Nonetheless, Corbett took Sullivan's title, utilizing a savvy, technical approach that would become a staple of modern prizefighting. Sullivan retired after his loss, and the barns that he trained in for the Kilrain fight was made into the Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame. Yes, there is such a thing.

Labels: , ,