Bare-knuckle boxing

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Bare-knuckle boxing
John L Sullivan.jpg
Irish-American bare-knuckle boxer John L. Sullivan
Also known asFisticuffs, Prizefighting, Classical Pugilism
Country of originEngland[1]
ParenthoodAncient Greek boxing, Street fighting

Bare-knuckle boxing (also known as bare-knuckle, prizefighting, fist fight or fisticuffs) 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.

The difference between street fighting and a bare-knuckle boxing match is that the latter has an accepted set of rules, such as not striking a downed opponent.

Early history[edit]

The first bare-knuckle champion of England was James Figg, who claimed the title in 1719 and held it until his retirement in 1730. Before Jack Broughton, the first idea of current boxing originated from James Figg, who is viewed as the organizer of cutting edge boxing. In 1719, he set up a 'pugilistic foundation' and charged himself as 'a professional in the Noble Science of Defense' to instruct boxers on the utilization of clench hands, sword, and quarterstaff. Noted champions were Jack Broughton, Elizabeth Wilkinson, Daniel Mendoza, Jem Belcher, Hen Pearce, John Gully, Tom Cribb, Tom Spring, Jem Ward, James Burke, William "Bendigo" Thompson, Ben Caunt, William Perry, Tom Sayers and Jem Mace.[2]

The record for the longest bare-knuckle fight is listed as 6 hours and 15 minutes for a match between James Kelly and Jonathan Smith, fought near Fiery Creek, Victoria, Australia, on December 3, 1855, when Smith gave in after 17 rounds.[3]

The bare-knuckle fighter Jem Mace is listed as having the longest professional career of any fighter in history.[4] He fought for more than 35 years into his 60s,[5] and recorded his last exhibition bout in 1909 at the age of 79.

Professional bare-knuckle boxing was never legal under any federal or state laws in the United States until Wyoming became the first to legalize on March 20, 2018. Prior to that date, the chief sanctioning organization for bare-knuckle boxing was the magazine National Police Gazette, which set up matches and issued championship belts throughout the 1880s. The Police Gazette sanctioned what is considered the last major bare-knuckle heavyweight world championship, between John L. Sullivan and Jake Kilrain on July 8, 1889, with Sullivan emerging as the victor.[6][7] Since then, other claimants to being sanctioned bare-knuckle championship bouts include the August 5, 2011, match at Fort McDowell Casino on the Yavapai Nation reservation in Arizona. The Native American tribe sanctioned the bout between Rich Stewart of New Castle, Delaware and Bobby Gunn, with Gunn emerging as the victor.[8] Other noted champions were Tom Hyer, Yankee Sullivan, Nonpareil Dempsey, Tom Sharkey, Bob Fitzsimmons and John Morrissey.


While boxing has always included punching, historically it also included grappling techniques like throws, arm locks, chokes as well as kicks. These techniques were banned during the several rule changes which turned classical pugilism, or bare knuckle boxing, into the modern sport of boxing.[9]

Irish stand down[edit]

"Irish stand down" is a type of traditional bare knuckle fighting where the aspect of maneuvering around the ring is removed, leaving only the less nuanced aspects of punching and "taking" punches. This form of combat was popular in Irish American ghettos in the United States in the late 19th century but was eclipsed in the Irish American community first by bare knuckle boxing and then later by regulation boxing. The Irish stand down is also known as strap fighting or toe to toe.[citation needed]

Modern Bare Knuckle Combat[edit]

Modern Bareknuckle Combat, a contemporary form of fist fight, exists on a small scale worldwide, however, recently it has been making its way into the public eye.

In the United States, publicly ticketed events started in the 1990s in the Rocky Mountains, promoted by Jim Smith's Poorboys Professional Boxing. In 2007, Corey Williams and his promotion Who's Your Daddy Productions stepped onto the scene. After years of false starts due to claims that the sport was "brutal" Mr. Williams conducted a medical study proving that bare knuckle combat is in fact safer than its gloved counterpart. Mr. Williams medical research and his publicly ticketed events in Wyoming lead to the States Combat Sports Commission to becoming the first to legitimize the sport of Bare Knuckle Fighting by sanctioning it.

In the United Kingdom, promoters Joe Brown and Jim Freeman Dove (following a visit to America to observe Mr. Williams program) have made strides furthering bare knuckle combat in England. Their promotion, BKB, was the first legal Bare Knuckle promotion in the United Kingdom. There are now several UK promotions successfully conducting shows including UBKB, Rouge Elite and Barefist.

Bare Knuckle Fighting bouts have several changes from traditional gloved boxing rules, notably there is a 20-second count on any knockdown and the fights consist of 3x2 minute rounds, 5x2/7x2 on title fights.

BKB has put on shows all over the United Kingdom including prestigious venues such as the Echo Arena in Liverpool and the O2 Arena in London. BKB have fighters with backgrounds from professional boxing and MMA promotions such as UFC and Bellator.

Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship[edit]

David Feldman was able to get a fully sanctioned bare knuckle boxing match on Saturday, June 2 in Cheyenne, WY, which was the first-ever legal, regulated, and sanctioned bare-knuckle fight the U.S. in 130 years.[10] A second fight was sanctioned in Biloxi, Mississippi on August 26, 2018.[11] A third fight was sanctioned in on October 20, 2018 in Biloxi.[12]

BKB 6 – The O2 Arena London – July 2, 2017[edit]

Fight 1 Josh Burns Defeated John Derry via knockout in round 2

Fight 2 - Sean Donelly defeated Mickey Mags via knockout in the 1st Round

Fight 3 - Omar Khalik defeats Bergers Luca via unanimous decision

Fight 4 Stanlee Wilson defeats Ashley Gibson via unanimous decision

Fight 5 - British Middleweight title fight -Ricky Nelder (c) defeats Jay Ferguson via TKO retirement at the end of round 1

Fight 6 - BKB World Cruiserweight title - Marko Martinjak defeats Shaun Cheesa via TKO in round 4 to become the new Cruiserweight champ

Fight 7 - British Middleweight Title fight - Sean George defeats Scott Midgeley via TKO in round 4 to become the British Middleweight champion

Fight 8 - Jack Chapman defeats Martin Thorne via knockout in the 1st round

Fight 9 - Christian Evans defeats Kris Trezise via DQ in round 3

Fight 10 - Peter Radford draws with Stuart Maddox over 3 rounds

Fight 11 - Nathan Leeson defeats Brad Harris via Corner Stoppage in round 3

Fight 12 - Middleweight world title - Jimmy Sweeney (C) defeats Melvin Guillard with unanimous decision to retain his title

BKB 7 – The Echo Arena Liverpool – September 9, 2017[edit]

Fight 1 - Mickey Mags defeats John Spencer via unanimous decision

Fight 2 - Ivan Ghulak fights to a draw with James Higgy

Fight 3 - Peter Radford defeats Stuart Maddox via TKO retirement at the end of round 1

Fight 4 - Mickey Parker defeats Daniel Podmore via unanimous decision

Fight 5 - Scott Midgeley draws with Luca Bergers

Fight 6 - Josh Burns defeats Billy Hawthorn via knockout in round 1

Fight 7 - Terry Caruthers fights to a draw with Jimmy Mccrory

Fight 8 - Christian Evans fights to a draw with Kris Trezise

Fight 9 -Lightweight World Title Fight Nathan Leeson (C) fights to a draw with Sean George

Fight 10 - Heavyweight World Title Fight - Michael Terrill defeats Hari Miles via TKO retirement in round 3

Fight 11 - Light Heavyweight World Title Fight - Goran Reljic defeats Ricky Nelder via unanimous decision

Fight 12 - Middleweight World Title Fight - Jimmy Sweeney (C) defeats Melvin Guillard via unanimous decision

BKB 8 – Coventry Connexion Centre Ryton – November 4, 2017[edit]

Fight 1 - Ashley Gibson Defeats Stanlee Wilson via unanimous decision

Fight 2 - Ionel Rayko Levitchi defeats Muhammed Haroon Khan via KO in the first round

Fight 3 - Tony Lafferty wins via knockout in the first round over Matthew Seawright Fight 4 - Lewis Gallant defeats Andrew Davies via knockout in the 2nd round

Fight 5 - Melvin Guillard defeats Leighton Brady via knockout in the 3rd round

Fight 6 - Peter Radford fights to a draw with Mitchell Whitsel over 3 rounds

Fight 7 - Light Heavyweight World title Fight - Goran Reljic and Jimmy Mccrory is a no contest due to injury to Jimmy Mccrory

Fight 8 - Middleweight World title - Julian Lane defeats Jimmy Sweeney (C) via Majority decision

Fight 9 - Daniel Podmore Vs. Paul Taylor is ruled a draw

Fight 10 - Marko Martinjak defeats Billy Hawthorn via knockout in round 1

Fight 11 - Eric Olsen defeats Sean Donnelly via unanimous decision

BKB 9 – The O2 Arena London – January 13, 2018[edit]

Fight 1 - John Hick defeats Martin Thorne via Knockout in round 1

Fight 2 - James Lilley defeats Marcus Stephenson via TKO in round 2

Fight 3 - Tony Lafferty defeats Johnny Lawson via unanimous decision

Fight 4 - Melvin Guillard defeats Eugenio Monterio via TKO in round 2

Fight 5 - BKB Heavyweight World Title Fight - Michael Terrill (C) Defeats Josh Burns via TKO in round 4

Fight 6 - Eric Olsen Defeats Scott Midgeley Via unanimous decision

Fight 7 - - Mickey Parker Defeats Scott Bam Bam via unanimous decision

Fight 8 - - Chris Lytle defeats Lewis Gallant via knockout in round 3

Fight 9 - Bergers Luca vs Louis Pow is declared a no contest due to injury

Fight 10 - World Lightweight Title - Sean George fights to a draw with Liam Cullen over 5 rounds

BKB 10 – Liverpool Echo Arena – March 24, 2018[edit]

Full Results

Fight 1 Adam Grogan defeated Will Cairns via unanimous decision

Fight 2 Mickey Mags wins via knockout in round 1 over Adam Vernon

Fight 3 James Lilley defeated Morgan Starkey via unanimous decision

Fight 4 Stuart Maddox defeated Sean Donnelly via unanimous decision

Fight 5 Josh Burns wins via knockout in Round 1

Fight 6 - Light Heavyweight title Fight Goran Reljic (C) retains his title due to Doctors stoppage at the end of Round 2 over Kevin Thompson

Fight 7 Ricardo Franco wins via unanimous decision over Johnny Lawson

Fight 8 Nathan J Dogg wins via TKO in round 2 over Jamie Proctor

Fight 9 Daniel Lerwell wins via Knockout in round 1 over Peter Radford

Fight 10 John Lewis wins via TKO in round 2 over Jamie Darnell

Fight 11 - Cruiserweight Title fight Marko Martinjack(C) wins via TKO doctors stoppage in round 2 over Travis Dickinson

Fight 12 - Middleweight title Fight Jimmy Sweeney wins the rematch and wins his title back from Julian Lane (C) beating Lane via unanimous decision in this much anticipated rematch

BKB 11 – The O2 Arena London – June 9, 2018[edit]

Fight 1 Lee Gibbons defeated Danny Yates via Unanimous decision

Fight 2 Mickey Parker defeated Nathan J-Dogg via Majority decision

Fight 3 Stuart Maddox defeated Mohammed Ewali via Unanimous decision

Fight 4 Ricardo Franco defeated Adam Grogan via knockout in round 3

Fight 5 - Middleweight Title Fight Jimmy Sweeney (C) defeated Kris Trezise via knockout in round 3

Fight 6 - Mike Richman defeated Marcus Gaines via TKO in round 2

Fight 7 Jack Draper defeated Shannon Ritch via TKO in round 2

Fight 8 - Light Heavyweight title fight Danny Mcintosh Vs. Goran Reljic (C) was ruled a no contest due to a torn bicep

Fight 9 Louis Pow defeated Bergers Luca via TKO retirement at the end of round 2

Fight 10 Tyler Goodjohn defeated Tony Lafferty via knockout in round 5

Fight 11 - Lightweight Title Fight Sean George defeated Liam Cullen via knockout in round 1 to become the new Lightweight champion of the world

Current titleholders[edit]

Weight class Holder
Heavyweight Mick Terrill, Corey Williams, Davie Joyce
Cruiserweight Marko Martinjack, Luke Akins
Lightheavyweight Tyler Canning
Middleweight Jimmy Sweeney, Billy Martin, Shae X
Lightweight Sean George, Donald Holquin

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ollhoff, Jim (2008). Martial Arts Around the Globe (The World of Martial Arts). Abdo Group. pp. 20-21. ISBN 1599289793 Parameter error in {{ISBN}}: Invalid ISBN.
  2. ^ The Bare Knuckle Champions of England, retrieved April 17, 2009
  3. ^ "The Victoria Ring", Bell's Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer, December 22, 1855
  4. ^ "Synonyms Thesaurus With Definitions and Antonyms".
  5. ^ James B. Roberts, Alexander G. Skutt, The Boxing Register: International Boxing Hall of Fame Official Record Book
  6. ^ National Police Gazette, 16 Apr 2018, p.
  7. ^ Mastro, Tim (August 13, 2011), "Fistful of Danger", The News Journal
  8. ^ Woods, Michael (August 17, 2011). "Reviving a bygone, bare-knuckle era". ESPN. Retrieved June 17, 2015.
  9. ^ Lawson, Kirk (June 3, 2011). Banned from Boxing - The forgotten grappling techniques of Classic Pugilism. ISBN 9781257140244.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^


Further reading[edit]

David Snowdon, Writing the Prizefight: Pierce Egan's Boxiana World (2013)

External links[edit]