“Most professional and amateur boxers suffer hand injuries during their careers even though their fists are protected by bandages, tape and gloves, because of unfortunate landings. As I pointed out earlier, the hands have no such protection in a fist-fight. You must land correctly, not only for power-line explosiveness, but for hand protection.”
Jack Dempsey, former Bare Knuckle Boxer and subsequent World Heavyweight Champion (1919 to 1926)
I’ve been watching with great interest the slow rise of bare knuckle boxing from obscure and secretive back alley “human cockfighting” to its recent emergence into the mainstream and the limelight.
As the “sport” becomes more popular, its attracting higher quality talent.
A number of former professional boxers (like Bobby Gunn) and MMA fighters (such as UFC fighters Joe “Diesel” Riggs and Cody McKenzie) have retired from the one and started up in the other.
I find this “sport” interesting because its creeping ever closer to straight up street fighting. Of course, they are still clearing a space and not kicking or grappling or biting or gouging or using elbows, but in terms of using the hands to strike, its interesting to look at who is winning and watching their techniques. They are hitting skulls with bare hands, which is exactly what we are all training to do, so it is worth a look.
Bobby Gunn is the current king of the underground circuit with a record of 73 and 0.
Its interesting that the sport has been ostensibly banned for being too dangerous to the participants, but there are a number of people claiming that bare knuckle is actually safer than using gloves.
In an article in Complex, they quote bare-knuckle advocate Dr. Alan J Ryan:
“As the bare-knuckle campaigner Dr. Alan J Ryan pointed out: ‘In 100 years of bare-knuckle fighting in the United States, which terminated around 1897 with a John L Sullivan heavyweight championship fight, there wasn’t a single ring fatality.’ Today, there are three or four every year in the US, and around 15 per cent of professional fighters suffer some form of permanent brain damage during their career.”
What I find interesting is that these fighters are often older (in their 30s and 40s and even 50s) and that they seem OK to have many fights a year. Bobby Gunn has had 73 fights in not that many years. The fights don’t seem to last too long so they don’t require as much endurance as a 12 round boxing match or a five round MMA match. Maybe this is why the older guys can participate.
I’ve heard various arguments about how people fight differently when going without gloves. They are more selective and throw less punches, since each punch might damage their hands. They go for more body shots.
It will be interesting to see what style of striking emerges as most successful under these rules. In the 1800s, we saw the upright stance with the stiff guard and what Dempsey called the “straight jolt,” a Wing Chun-style elbow down sun fist style strike being widely used.
What will emerge as the dominant style in a world of sanctioned bare knuckle boxing?