Ben Gumbrell makes his Bare Knuckle Boxing debut in just four days’ time. He’s fighting in the quarter-finals of BKB’s lightweight prizefighter on the 14th September at the 02 London. Standing in the way of the £10,000 cash prize for the tournament winner is Tony “the Tiger” Lafferty. Will Ben tame the Tiger?
The next level
Ben started amateur boxing at 14-years-old, achieving many honours over his 38 fights. He climbed the ranks and went 6-1 at semi-pro, being crowned WKMA English and British boxing Champion.
BKB may be the biggest test he’s faced in the ring. “It’s in front of a big crowd, it’s televised and it’s so different- I’ve never done it before. It’s a big challenge for me”.
To me now, Bare Knuckle is the next level up
Gumbrell has worked hard. “I’ve put a lot of hard graft in, plenty of cardio and plenty of training.” Being at peak physical fitness will help him cope with the explosive pace over three two-minute rounds.
Ben’s 46th fight camp has been different. He has also prepared for the specific demands of Bare Knuckle fighting. “I’ve been training in MMA gloves and punching trees to condition my knuckles.” The Bare Knuckle novice has done his homework too. “I’ve watched quite a bit of Bare Knuckle, including the old fighters from years ago. It’s a different style, especially defensively”.
The gloves are off
Bare Knuckle boxing is bloody and brutal. Without the protection of gloves, fighters endure bone-on-bone impact to head and body. Broken noses, hands, eye-sockets and ribs are all par for the course. Ben recognises the risks involved however; “Bare Knuckle is anyone’s game. You can be the best boxer in the world, but it only takes one shot”.
Ben has shown he can take a shot throughout his gloved career; having only been knocked down once. He is no stranger to being hit with a bare fist either. Of any shot that he’s ever taken, Ben is yet to be seriously troubled.
Bare Knuckle means more adrenaline, more risk, it’s more exciting, there’s more blood…This is the next move up.
Ben will face Tony Lafferty, an aggressive crowd-pleaser from Stirling, Scotland. The “Tiger” is currently 3-1 in BKB. “I know Tony has got more Bare Knuckle experience, but I have more boxing experience… Like myself, Tony is a true fighter, so this could be a big challenge.”
Gumbrell actually had his sights set on Tony before they were drawn to fight. “I saw Tony and thought ‘I want him’. I know it’s going to be toe to toe and I want someone that’s going to bring a fight.”
NetBet have Tony as the slight favourite at 4/7 and Ben at 5/4. The Bare Knuckle debutant isn’t fazed however; “I like being the underdog and proving people wrong.”
Ben is a natural fighter, but keen to assert his skill too. “I can box or I can fight. I prefer to fight, personally. I prefer to stand there toe to toe where you both take shots until someone can’t anymore. That’s my style of boxing”.
This combative spirit often counted against him in his amateur days. While England Boxing judges looked for technical displays of in-and-out boxing, Ben wanted to blast his opponent out of there. “You’ve got the adrenaline, the hype, the buzz. You don’t worry too much about being hit. You get hit, give it back, and just get carried away.”
Tony is looking for a war… and so am I.
Ben is confident he can take home the £10,000 prize. “I’m obviously rooting for myself, I think I can do it. There’s no one in there I don’t think I can beat and that’s an honest opinion. There’s no one I am worried about.”
He predicts he will be joined in the semi-finals by two-time ABA finalist Paul Stredder; Dutch MMA fighter Hubert Geven and unpredictable American Jeff Chiffens. Ben anticipates beating the “neat and tidy” Hubert Geven in the final in January 2020.
It’s going to be all guns blazing, definitely.
Behind the gloves
Gumbrell is a self-confessed adrenaline junkie. He gets his kicks from extreme sports like downhilling, windsurfing and rock climbing, among many others. “I’ll do anything that is a challenge and has a buzz and a bit of risk…That’s why I like boxing. There’s nothing as challenging as boxing.”
Danger sports aside, Ben is a big family man. He lives in his caravan in the countryside with his partner and three kids. The uncle to eight nieces and nephews is proud to be part of a big family. His love of nature and adventure translate well into family life, where he loves spending days outdoors and climbing trees with the kids.
The rural West Sussex backdrop is also great for training. Ben often runs along the unlit country roads at the crack of dawn when it’s so dark he needs a headtorch to see. Most of Ben’s training is in the barn that houses his equipment. “I like how peaceful it is. You get your own time in your own head, no distractions, you can stay focussed.”
Man of honour
Adrenaline quest aside, there were other reasons why Ben started boxing. His values often led him to being caught in confrontations. He is a big believer in never underestimating anyone and never judging people based on their appearance. These principals made him step in when he saw friends or strangers in trouble. This quickly earnt him a reputation at school for being the first to jump in to stick up for victims of bullying.
However, his actions were often misunderstood, and his heroics got him in trouble in his younger years. “People said it was just because I like fighting and that’s not true. Bullies intimidate people, but most of the time they can’t back it.”
Though you stand alone in the ring, Ben always felt the need to do everyone else proud. As Club Captain at Horsham ABC, he was determined to consistently perform at his absolute best. With a whole team looking up to him, Ben felt “the club captain had to win. I got a lot of respect which gave me the motivation to train harder and to succeed.”
On top of work, fighting and personal life, Ben took the additional responsibility to qualify as an amateur coach in 2010. “I wanted to pass on my experience to the younger ones. People looked up to you so you feel like you couldn’t let them down.”
Ben is grateful for the support he’s received. “Thanks to sponsors, the fans that have bought tickets, my trainers and coaches. There’s a lot of hard work that’s gone into it. It’s the fans that make the boxer.” Ben has an army of 50 making the journey. Should the Horsham man win on September 14th, he will have no problem bringing along double that number for the November semi-finals. “And hopefully, my debut will get me some more fans.”
Importantly, Ben would also like to thank his partner for her help, love and support throughout his training for the tournament.
The next chapter
The result on September 14th will be an important factor in Ben’s future in Bare Knuckle. “We’ll see how this turns out. If it doesn’t go my way on the night, I’d like to have another one.” Though he’s not signed a contract, he’s already eyeing up BKB’s next prizefighter tournament. “It’ll be all in one night which is the style I prefer and have experience in,” Ben continued light-heartedly “That way I can just get the ten grand in one night!”
With BKB18 being less than a week away, Ben is looking forward to the challenge and said: “Hopefully, it’s my hand that gets raised at the end.”