Re-writing Misconceptions: The Truth About Bare Knuckle Boxing

Bare Knuckle Boxing is a beautiful sport. For many, this statement may come with disapproving looks and a preceded perspective of a seedy underground organization battling it out amongst hay bales and free-roaming chickens. In reality, it is a highly-organised and legal sport with a crop of world-class athletes and a fast-growing fan base. Of course, there still are illegal Bare Knuckle altercations posted on the internet, however as always with this blog the focus here is on legal promotions such as UBBAD BKB.

Like any combat sport, Bare Knuckle Boxing has received its fair share of criticism from the media and politicians alike. Lofty tirades on the brutality of the sport and its unsuitability for television have become commonplace amongst particular platforms and individuals. Yet, many of these accusations lack substance and come from those who back sports such as MMA and Boxing. It is for this very reason that ‘Toe The Line’ has been hatched into existence, to give the worlds oldest new sport a furthered face and to re-write its many misconceptions.

During this article, I hope to discuss and disprove unjust arguments against the sport such as its unsuitability for television and its long-term health effects. It is important to note that there are many news outlets and respected individuals who openly promote the sport and that its critics are not a majority. However, as the sport continues to grow and new fans are drawn in each day it’s imperative that these negative opinions are met with opposition, in order to give Bare Knuckle Boxing a fair trial.

‘Bare Knuckle Boxing Is Unsuitable For Television’

Back in April Telegraph Boxing correspondent Gareth Davies wrote an article entitled ‘Bare-knuckle boxing is a bloodbath not fit for television audiences’. As you can expect from the title Davies was arguing that the sport’s brutality was unsuitable for mainstream audiences. Although I can accept Davies’ stance, I find it hard to agree with, especially when considering Davies like many other critics, is an advocate for the equally brutal Boxing and MMA.

The general consensus amongst critics is that the sport produces too much bloodshed deeming it unsuitable for television. Yet in MMA and Boxing we regularly see bloody brawls such as Robbie Lawler vs Rory McDonald II and Lennox Lewis vs. Vitali Klitschko. Should we then remove these sports from television also? Of course not. One of the inevitability’s of combat sport is bloodshed, it’s simply part of fighting. This line of logic used by critics is very limited and for supporters of other combat sports extremely contradictory.

But what about those who condemn combat sports altogether? Well, if you don’t want to watch it, you don’t have to. Censorship laws in the United Kingdom allow for sports such as Bare Knuckle Boxing to be broadcasted on television. We live in a society of freedom of expression and all bouts are heavily regulated and between two willing competitors who can opt-out at any time. For many, there is a desiring wish to outright ban Bare Knuckle Boxing altogether. Yet, to ban the sport would see it pushed underground once again, where it would continue under less stringent rules and regulations, putting spectators and fighters at greater risk.

Craig Hall/

‘Bare Knuckle Boxing Is Far Too Unsafe’

Another common misconception is that Bare Knuckle Boxing is far more dangerous than any other combat sport, which again is incorrect. A study by Washington State University compared Boxing gloves, Karate gloves and Bare-Fists by measuring bag momentum and fist velocity from strikes to a heavy bag. The conclusion of the study was that Bare-Fists generated the least fist velocity and bag momentum of the three glove types. The lower force production suggests lessened damage to the brain in comparison to gloved combat sports, which makes sense when you consider that Boxing gloves carry an extra 10 ounces of weight. There is also the point to be made that the extra padding allows for harder punches to be thrown and that Bare Knuckle contests are comparably shorter in length, meaning fewer punches are absorbed.

Critics like to rest on the argument that Bare Knuckle is far too dangerous due to the increased risk of broken hands and wrists. However, although broken hands are more frequent they are nevertheless rare with hand wraps providing adequate protection to ensure this is not a regular occurrence. Besides, what’s worse permanent brain damage or a broken hand?

The problem with many of the critics surrounding the sport is that they fail to see Bare Knuckle’s positive aspects and would rather comment on a lack of safety based off the increased bloodshed rather than scientific evidence. Bare Knuckle Boxing has changed many lives for the better, it keeps people off the streets, promotes healthy lifestyles when done right and is a fantastic way of channelling aggression. Ultimately what we are seeing now is the same process MMA went through when it was formalized in the early 1990s, people don’t like change and especially not competition.

Tee Reskah Photography/

So back to my previous point, Bare Knuckle Boxing is a beautiful sport. Not just for its raw gritty style, but for its purity as an art form. A combination of the beautiful movement and fluidity of boxing with an inherently unpredictable element that is the bare-fist. Bare Knuckle Boxing sees will pitted against will in a battle of heart and valour, that sees only the toughest survive. On the surface it evokes simplicity, yet lying underneath is an enigma of the world of combat sports that few truly understand. So before you jump to conclusions about Bare Knuckle Boxing, first think about what I have said here today. Thank you for your time and stay safe.

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