In 1889, the Marquess of Queensberry Rules that mandate the use of gloves in boxing came into effect in the United States. That was also the year of the last major bare-knuckle heavyweight world championship, won by “Boston Strong Boy” L Sullivan under London Prize Ring Rules.
Well, 130 years later, it’s back. On June 8, an event comes to the Indigo nightclub at the O2 Arena. The truth is that bare-knuckle fighting has carried on underground, unlicensed, in the shadows. But it has been licensed again.
If by chance, you had happened on an online digital stream last weekend, a fight ensued which looked like hillbillies in a bar fight. In Biloxi, Mississippi, Conor McGregor’s team-mate Artem Lobov took on Jason Knight in a 15-minute slugfest.
Both men were down numerous times. The crowd went wild, and two courageous fighters went at it in a drawn-out, roughhouse brawl for five rounds in a circular, roped ring.
The pride and tenacity of both men was beyond the pale. But as a spectacle, it was as gruesome as their faces were in the aftermath. Cuts that needed zipping up, contusions and bruises, leaving them and blood everywhere.
Ron Kruck, one of the commentators, said that his jacket was beyond a dry-cleaning so showered was he in blood. At one point, the commentators thought they were seeing teeth flying everywhere.
I have seen two events now, and they were a bloody, visceral mess.
About a year ago, former boxing promoter David Feldman began telling the world that he was going to make a bare-knuckle boxing show legitimate.
What this means is that the boxers’ knuckles are bare, as opposed to wrapped in tape or covered in gloves. Feldman got it sanctioned and has now put on five events in a year.
Robert Smith, general secretary of the British Boxing Board of Control, does not like it. “We are going back in time with this,” he said.
Neither does legendary boxing promoter Bob Arum.
It looks as if Feldman saw a marketing opportunity. If he had initiated another mixed martial arts promotion or put on more boxing bouts under the Marquess of Queensberry Rules, no one would have noticed or cared.
He is a hardball. After one of his fighters failed to throw down with all he had in Mississippi last weekend, Feldman threatened to cut his payment in half. Brutal, as the guy bled tears.
But it is gathering force online and on social media. Renowned fighters, late in their careers, fighters with a beef, seem to want to get involved and have a last hurrah, a bucket-list fight, if you will.
Paulie Malignaggi, the New Yorker who fought Amir Khan, Ricky Hatton and had a high-profile falling out with McGregor after being a sparring partner for the Irishman ahead of his mega-money fight with Floyd Mayweather Jnr, may be the next opponent for Lobov in June, in London.
Many, many fans want to see the fight. There is genuine bad blood. It translates to a bareknuckle war. Fight entertainment, this is – for those who want it. Forgive me for raining on the parade, but this might work on the internet, on YouTube channels, but it is not for television. Nor should it ever be.