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The Gentleman’s Sport: Bare Knuckle Boxing

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There are a few movies that delve into it, Any Which Way but Loose and Any Which Way you Can  are two that spring to mind.

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But I decided I would help to educate the masses who may be unaware, and who don’t wish to subject themselves to a couple of films from the 70’s whose co-star is an orangutan.

For the most part Bare Knuckle Boxing is exactly what it sounds like. It’s boxing without the extra padding provided by gloves or hand wraps. There are those who will tell you a little tape is acceptable, however most who believe in the sport go raw.

So was Bare Knuckle Boxing an actual sport here in the USA?

The origins of the gloveless fight stem from way back in the day when our first Olympian’s began to duke it out. Sure, the argument can be made that men have been boxing since they first learned to walk, but we’re focusing more on the sport of it than the self defense aspects. You see the difference between Bare Knuckle Boxing and a good old fashioned street fight is that in Bare Knuckle Boxing there are always a set of pre-determined rules.  Now, depending on who and where the fight is taking place, those rules may change, but one thing always goes without saying, there is always only one winner.

Typically there are no limits as to the number of rounds that might transpire in a bare knuckle match. Rules state you go at it until someone is either knocked out, or unable to continue.  It’s called the gentlemen’s sport because fair play is always expected.  No biting, no kicking, and if a man is down you step away.  Judges are chosen by both sides and are as unbiased as possible, and when the judges make a call you are expected to listen. The judges do not however, typically decide if a fight is to be called or not. That is up to the fighter in question.[magento name_like='boxing, 2']

So was Bare Knuckle Boxing an actual sport here in the USA? Short answer, Yes.  In It is believed the last sanctioned fight happened back in 1889 between John L. Sullivan out of Boston, and John Kilrain from New York.  As the story goes, Sullivan was the favorite to win but he was also something of a boozer.  After the 44th round Sullivan lost his lunch and Kilrain’s chances seemed to be on the upswing, however, Sullivan made a comeback and finally, after 75 rounds, Kilrain threw in the towel.  At this point in time Bare Knuckle Boxing was already illegal in most of the 38 continental states, and shortly after their fight it disappeared all together.

And so came the end to the sanctioned Bare Knuckle Boxing matches, or so it would seem, but along comes a fighter by the name of Bobby Gunn and everything changes.  Bobby Gunn became a professional boxer back in 1998, but it wasn’t until 2011 that he decided climbing in the ring and gloving up wasn’t enough to prove he was the best.  He had to follow in the path of one of his idols, John Sullivan.  He had to go at it Bare Knuckle style.  In November 2011, Gunn faced off against Richard Stewart in the first Bare Knuckle match in over a century.  They had a few rules they had to follow, 90 second rounds and only 10 rounds total, but aside from that it was just like the old days, two guys duking it out fist to fist.

The two went 3 rounds with Gunn coming out the victor after knocking Stewart out and thus securing the first heavyweight Bare Knuckle Title since Sullivan held it in 1889.  Gunn went on to defend his title three months later when he squared off against Ernest Jackson.  Jackson went out in less than nine minutes.

So, what is the future of Bare Knuckle Boxing?  Well, with the rise of events like Strikeforce and UFC, it is obvious that people are looking for something different. Maybe in order to find something new, all we really need is to bring back something forgotten.

If you’re looking for more I might suggest a documentary called Knuckle.

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Jason Caudill has written 5 post in this blog.

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