Bare knuckle boxing (BKB) has been going on for over hundreds of years as a means of settling disputes between families, as well as a sport. The first registered BKB champion of England was crowned in 1719 when James Figg claimed the title.
Over the years the sport expanded and a handful of assorted champions passed the title around, with the last sanctioned bout taking place in 1889 as John L. Sullivan defeated Jake Kilrain in an epic 75 round battle. Though the sport has evolved into a form of competition, travelling families have continued the tradition of settling family disputes purely through bareknuckle fighting.
The truest form of combat, BKB requires much strategy, technique, and discipline. A common misconception is that it is simply a street fight; in actuality true BKB is a bout between two skilled professionals, not two drunks banging out in the parking lot of their favorite watering hole.
In the first sanctioned BKB bout in nearly 123 years, current world heavyweight BKB champion Bobby Gunn defeated Richard Stewart. This was the first opportunity for the public to get a taste of BKB in its truest form, and the reception has been overwhelming.
The buzz for BKB has continued to expand due to the excitement offered by the reemerged fight sport. It combines the technique, patience and strong skill set of a boxing match with the excitement of the standup aspect of MMA.
Most recently Gunn defended his BKB title against fellow BKB fighter Ernest Jackson with a knockout victory. In this fight Gunn put on a BKB clinic against a tough, formidable opponent.
The fight was comparative to a chess match, with both fighters displaying patience and poise, waiting for the slightest opening. Gunn’s patience paid off as he capitalized on each opportunity that Jackson left open, eventually dropping his opponent with a short left hook to the temple.
I had the chance to speak with Dominick Scibetta, Bobby Gunn’s trainer and former fighter, and he shared the difference between a gloved boxing and BKB bout.
“The biggest difference is that you are not just swinging wildly,” said Scibetta. “You have to be more conservative with your head shots, as you want to pinpoint the right shot. You don’t want to hit too high on the head because you can break your hand. Fighters have to be more careful with head shots, and there’s a lot of jabbing. Jabbing and body punching are pivotal in a BKB fight. Working with Bobby, we worked on a lot of jabbing, body punching and working on the inside, and he went out and did it.”
Having the opportunity to cover numerous fights (boxing and MMA) I’ve seen a lot of injuries, bloodied combatants and such, but nothing compares to what I witnessed in my first BKB match. Both fighters left the fight unscathed, with the typical sores and bruises associated with a fight. But it’s nearly impossible to put into words the intensity that was felt throughout the room.
What intrigued me and impressed me so much is that being in person, you can actually hear the bare knuckle shots connecting; each blow sent out a waves of crunching and cracking as the bare fist smacked against bare skin. It was a sound I’ve never heard before, and will never forget.
“The fight was very exciting,” said former heavyweight knockout artist Lou Esa. “It was really something to see. Bobby was so calm; he took his time and worked his opponent. He hit him with body shots weakened Jackson’s legs; shots that were crazy devastating shots. Bobby hit him with body shots that any other fighter would’ve just fallen to the ground. I would be surprised if the kid’s ribs weren’t broken with those shots, the way his knees buckled. Bobby waited and waited, I mean I thought it was so cool how he put his chin down and his forehead up, so if Jackson through a shot he would hurt his hands. Then Bobby stepped in with a strong overhand right that knocked the kid down, and when he got back up Bobby hit him with another strong right, setting up the short left hook to the kids temple, and good night Irene. I truly believe bare knuckle boxing will be the next big thing.”
In addition to the skills both warriors displayed, they showed true professionalism. Before the fight they shook hands, then they went to battle for eight minutes, and ended the night by shaking hands again.
“Bare knuckle boxing is not about hurting your opponent, it is simply a competition between two professionals,” said Gunn. “Ernest Jackson is a true warrior and I believe he will do great in BKB. The public needs to be made aware of the true sport that is BKB, and I believe in the next year or so it will become as mainstream as gloved boxing and MMA.”
As a fight fan, the experience was something that is hard to put into words. Walking up to the ‘undisclosed location’ that the fighters only learned of the day of the event, there were hundreds of supporters for Bobby Gunn, flown in from all parts of the world to watch their champion go to work.
And despite Gunn’s huge team of supporters, families and fans, the crowd gave Jackson a proper welcome as prepared for war, and expressed their credit in his skill and performance following the fight.
Critics read about the fight and said it was a classless bum fight. Gunn, Jackson, and all of the fans showed that BKB is not about watching a fighter get bludgeoned and bloody; it’s about displaying skill and seeing who the better fighter is.
There was no bad mouthing each other and creating ‘hype’ to promote the fight. 99.9% of the world didn’t know about the world heavyweight bare knuckle boxing match that took place, but for those eight minutes, Gunn and Jackson were in their own world, a world where wannabe fighters and telephone tough guys only dream of.
When the fight was ended, the massive crowd swarmed their champion and embraced him with respect, love and honor.
Gunn defended his title against Jackson for one reason—to show he is the best in the world at what he does. It wasn’t about Pay-Per-View money and flashy sponsorships and reality TV shows; it was a war between two professionals…a war born not out of hatred, but out of respect.
In his win over Ernest Jackson, Bobby Gunn proved why he is the World Heavyweight Bare Knuckle Boxing Champion…in, and out of the ring.
Team Gunn has recently announced the Gunn will be fighting again December 22. More information to follow.
To learn more about BKB visit www.wbkba.com or join the conversation on the Facebook page.