A man that certainly needs no introduction. When Fabio Maldonado signed for BKB, bare-knuckle boxing stepped up another level. A marquee signing that opens doors to a rampant South American audience. Fabio Maldonado is set to shake up the Heavyweight division like never before. The UFC veteran has a list of achievements so long it will be hard to compress them here, but I’ll do my best. Maldonado has competed at the highest level in boxing and MMA and carries two very strong records. 26-4 in Boxing and 26-14 in MMA. During his combat sports career, he has faced the best of the best in both. Maldonado has locked horns with Fedor Emelianenko, Stipe Miocic, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Glover Teixeira in MMA. While his Boxing career saw high-profile match-ups with Carlos Takam, Michael Hunter and Oscar Rivas. Amongst his many titles, Maldonado holds three consecutive Brazillian amateur titles in boxing and the prestigious Fight Night Global Light Heavyweight belt in MMA. In terms of fighting style, he is noted for his durability, expert in-fighting and ungodly power.
Former Commonwealth Middleweight champion Liam Cameron joins BKB after a frustrating couple of years on the sidelines. Since 2018 Cameron has been serving a controversial four-year UKAD ban for trace amounts of recreational cocaine. The ban was extended from eighteen months to four years after he refused to admit to being guilty, an extension that has been heavily criticised by the boxing community. Regardless, an emphatic combat sports return with BKB lingers. A feel-good moment for sure, Cameron has a lot to prove and will be a hard man to beat with the hunger he possesses after such a long lay-off. Mentally he will have the edge on most debutants, but what about his transferability? Once again, it looks good. The Sheffield boxer is noted for razor-sharp accuracy and excellent shot selection, a combination key to bare-knuckle boxing. Bare-knuckle, despite its preconceived misconceptions, favours the thinking man’s fighter. In bare-knuckle boxing, the chances of damaging your hands are far more prevalent than in the gloved alternative, therefore it is crucial to pick your punches with greater precision. Landing above the eyebrows regularly causes breaks to the hands, something Cameron shouldn’t run into providing he maintains his composure and boxing IQ. Cameron returns to the ring in honour of his deceased stepdaughter Tiegan Scott who was tragically killed in a car accident only recently.
39-year-old Michie ‘El Matador’ Munoz hails from Guanajuato, Mexico and carries an extremely impressive boxing resume. 27-11 as a pro, with over 100 amateur bouts and three Mexican amateur titles. ‘El Matador’ began boxing at just 6 years old, fighting on the streets of Mexico with socks for gloves. Michie equates his savage Mexican stand and bang style to these early adversities and told me that he comes for a war every time. Out of 27 victories, he has recorded 18 knockouts with 14 of those coming from his trademark body shots. It’s safe to say the man carries power, but you’d be wrong to think he’s simply a brawler. Michie knows his way around a ring, having traded blows with the likes of Carlos Molina, Vanes Martirosyan and Maciej Sulecki. Keep an eye out for this man, he’s one to watch.
One word comes to mind when I think of Rony Jason, violence. The forward-marching Brazillian MMA fighter has become something of a cult hero in South America over the years, for his all-action fight style. At the time of writing, Jason has a combined social media following of 230,000. Certainly a popular fighter, but can he fight? Well, you don’t win the Ultimate Fighter: Brazil if you can’t fight. Jason is an extremely explosive athlete with hand-speed to match. It will, however, be interesting to see how he adjusts to bare-knuckle boxing considering his very jiu-jitsu orientated style, although he does produce his fair share of stand-up finishes as well. The five-year UFC veteran has a high-level kickboxing background and can certainly bang. He will just have to keep the spinning back kicks to a minimum.
A classy operator with a far-reaching boxing arsenal, Ryan Aston looks every bit a future BKB champion. The former Super Welterweight and Middleweight boxer holds an impressive 20-5-2 professional record and boxed under the Matchroom banner. Aston’s amateur career saw him make the Great Britain development squad and box for England multiple times. It’s clear he can do it with the gloves on, but how will he adjust when they come off? Early indicators suggest he will transfer over well, of particular note are his defensive attributes. Aston prefers to parry with the lead hand from southpaw and fire down the barrel with his backhand, an extremely effective weapon in bare-knuckle boxing. We’ve seen parries become a key part of the defensive make up of a BKB fighter over the years, with Jimmy Sweeney perfecting the art form. The parry is so effective in bare-knuckle boxing as it redirects energy rather absorbing it, and as we know in this game, the fewer shots taken the better. A key problem with boxing transfers often falls on their over-reliance on the traditional guard. Without the gloves, turtling up into a shell is a less effective defence, as the gaps once covered by the gloves are now exposed. As a result of the defensive differences, BKB fighters mainly rely on footwork, parries and head movement, of which Aston carries in abundance.
The former sparring partner of long-reigning IBF Welterweight king Kell Brook, Chad Gaynor is a name many will learn to remember in years to come. 15-2 as a professional with an excellent amateur pedigree. A promising gloved career was cut short by a devastating car accident that left Gaynor with a broken neck. Inactive as a result since 2014, he is set to return with a bang at BKB 23 against Robby Drought. As a fighter, Gaynor certainly takes no prisoners in the ring and carries immense power. One look at his stunning second-round knockout of Adil Anwar will reaffirm the fact, that BKB has a pure one-punch knockout artist under contract. The former School boys and ABA champion, is hoping to prove a point in BKB and make up for lost time in the pros. When I spoke to Gaynor the other day he told me that bare-knuckle boxing is a sport tailor-made for his style. “No one can take shots from me with sixteen ounces on, let alone bare-fists, don’t blink”.
Rocky Montoya, the mysterious man. 32-3-1 NC as a professional with a career stretching back to 1997, but a story that is largely untold. For a man with 36 professional bouts and 137 rounds to his name, Rocky has rarely taken a step up in competition. The majority of the Reynosa natives career has seen him butt heads with Mexican journeymen across his beloved hometown. Whether Montoya is being avoided or built-up is unclear. From 1997 to 2005 he remained undefeated at 29-0-1 NC before tasting defeat at the hands of Anthony Greeley. That year he fought once more knocking out debutant Osiel Mendoza before taking a two-year hiatus from the sport. In 2007 he would return to face David Lopez for the WBC Latino Middleweight title where he was retired at the end of the sixth. After being finished for the first time in his career, Montoya stepped away from boxing for nine years, returning in 2016 with three wins on the bounce. His final outing saw the toughest test of his career as he was matched up with surging Khazkstani Super Middleweight prospect Nurzat Sabirov. Montoya lost via TKO in the second round of their contest and since then has been inactive from 2018. A quite frankly baffling career and one that I’m fascinated to see unfold in BKB. So with all this being said, why is Montoya destined for the top? Experience alone is a huge factor. Rocky has fighting permanently ingrained in his muscle memory and as a result, should be able to adjust accordingly. What I particularly like about Rocky’s style is his ability to pick counters off head and body movement. When he bobs, he fires and rarely misses. In fact, he looks more comfortable off the centre line than he does with his feet planted. Rocky Montoya, the mysterious man! I’ll have him down as my wildcard pick.