Tuesday, December 10, 2013

BKB 2: “Action Packed!”

When the modernized concept of BKB: Bare-Knuckle Boxing was introduced in July by United States satellite television provider DirecTV, this observer had obvious concerns with regard to the fighters safety, but was at the same time intrigued and curious to see what this concept would look like in practice. A concept that involved the use of knuckle exposed Boxing gloves and a circular fighting area known simply as the “BKB pit.”

The BKB pit certainly stands apart from a traditional Boxing ring in that it measures seventeen feet in diameter and 227 square feet making it just over half the size of a traditional 20 x 20 Boxing ring with no ropes or corners. Colored lift gates that signify each fighter’s corner are used to lift and lock the fighters in the pit at the start of each round. The first BKB card provided much excitement and showed that this unique concept had potential to grow.

The second BKB card premiered on December 7th and like the first card was available via pay-per-view exclusively to subscribers of DirecTV. Following what was a successful first card of BKB Boxing, this observer was interested to see if those who promote BKB could capitalize on the momentum of the first card.

The second card which took place at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire featured a total of eight bouts with three championship fights each scheduled for seven two minute rounds in the Lightweight, Welterweight, and Middleweight divisions. The non-championship bouts on this card were each scheduled for five two minute rounds and ranged from the Lightweight division to the Heavyweight division.

As I stated following the first BKB card, the format of BKB specifically the two minute rounds, seems to ensure a quick pace. Due to the size of the BKB pit this type of format does not necessarily favor fighters who like to use a lot of movement in the fighting style. The pit however, is tailor-made for fighters who like to fight on the inside. Because of the two minute rounds fighters tend to let their hands go more quickly from the outset rather than a traditional three minute round where there can be a feeling out process early on. There is also an open scoring format in BKB where official scores are done on the traditional ten-point must system with the scores being announced to the fighters and audience in attendance after each round. From a fan’s perspective this format can be and has thus far proven to be entertaining.

As was the case in the first BKB card the effects of the punches landed was immediately noticeable due to the difference between the BKB knuckle exposed gloves as compared to a traditional Boxing glove. The BKB glove weighing between eight and ten ounces depending on the weight class in which a fight is being fought. This was a slight change from the first BKB card where gloves weighed between five and seven ounces depending on weight class. The questions and concerns that I had prior to the first BKB card with regard to the safety of the fighters were adequately answered by the New Hampshire Boxing and Wrestling Commission. In the opening bout of the second BKB card. a Lightweight bout between Raul Tovar Jr. and Augustine Mauras was stopped after three completed rounds due to cuts suffered by both fighters due to an accidental clash of heads in the first round. In addition to the damage caused by the head butt, both fighters were able to inflict damage on each other thus worsening the cuts. In what was an exciting battle Tovar earned a close technical majority decision after three rounds, essentially defeating Mauras by one point on the deciding scorecard. 

It should not be overlooked especially in light of recent tragedies that have affected the sport of Boxing that although this particular fight was exciting to watch where both fighters had their moments, when the fight should have been stopped, “it was.” All credit to the New Hampshire Commission and Referee Steve Smoger for taking appropriate action and thus ensuring that neither fighter suffered further damage.

Despite the format of BKB giving the appearance to some of a form of Boxing where the sole objective is to stand and trade, resembling more of a fight than actual Boxing, this observer respectfully disagrees. Even though the difference in length of rounds fought in BKB does seem to ensure a quick pace, this does not mean that there is not skill and intelligence involved.

Although the BKB pit seems favorable to an inside fighter’s game, a skilled Boxer can find ways to be effective. This was demonstrated at BKB 2 in a Light-Heavyweight bout between Lekan Byfield and Jason Naugler. Byfield was able to consistently beat Naugler to the punch by consistently using his jab to set off combinations and being able to use lateral movement to turn Naugler in route to a convincing five round unanimous decision. It should be noted that this fight was announced as being a Welterweight contest however, the weights of the fighters 165lbs. and 162lbs. respectfully seem more in line with Naugler’s memorable bout in the first BKB card against Teneal Goyco where the two fighters weighed in at 168lbs. and 169lbs. respectfully. 

It is unclear as of this writing whether or not there was a change in how weight classes in BKB are structured, but this observer believes that this was merely an error that went unnoticed. As this observer said following the first BKB card, it goes without saying that whenever there is a new concept or would be new sport put into practice that there is likely to be some confusion early on. This is not necessarily limited to strictly the first event where a new concept/sport is put into practice. In the case of BKB this observer believes that there will be further clarification on not only weight classes, but also the overall structure of the format and rules of BKB on subsequent cards. Simply put the more cards that take place, the more likely there is to be clarification and less confusion. In any event, Byfield’s performance against Naugler should be considered one of the best Boxing performances in the short history of BKB.

Byfield’s performance however, was not the only noteworthy performance that demonstrated Boxing skill at the second installment of BKB. In a fight that one might use the old adage was “fought in a phone booth”, Middleweight Don Mouton was able outwork Jesse Orta over five extremely close rounds fought almost entirely in close. What makes this particularly noteworthy is that Mouton was deducted a point at the completion of the fourth round for a low blow thrown after the bell. Despite the point deduction Mouton’s steady body attack along with scoring a knockdown of Orta in round five, earned a hard fought majority decision.

 Another good example of Boxing skill being implemented in this format was demonstrated by Welterweight Javier Garcia, who scored an impressive second round knockout over Allen Litzau to win the BKB Welterweight championship. Garcia was measured in his attack in this fight and tactically took a seemingly overmatched Litzau out.  

There was no doubt however, that the fight of the night was the bout for the BKB Middleweight championship between Eddie Caminero and longtime Welterweight and Jr. Middleweight contender David Estrada. For seven rounds Caminero and Estrada went toe to toe in an exciting battle which saw plenty of give and take between the two with Caminero earning a hard fought unanimous decision.  

An element of controversy however, would emerge in the main event of this card for the BKB Lightweight championship between Eric Fowler and Bryan Abraham. In the final minute of round three, Fowler dropped Abraham with a right hand. Seconds after Abraham arose from the knockdown Fowler closed the show by landing a vicious right hand which caused Abraham to turn his back causing Referee Dave Greenwood to stop the fight. The stoppage was met with a round of boos from the crowd in attendance. Greenwood’s stoppage however, was appropriate in that Abraham was clearly hurt and had turned his back on his way down. The fighter’s safety should always be the primary concern.

Overall I came away from this card feeling that this concept is growing and has the potential to continue to grow. Although BKB has been advertised as a would be new sport it is another form of Boxing and specifically a more modernized version of the original form of the sport. Some questions that observers may ask is whether or not bouts fought in BKB will eventually be recognized by Boxing record keepers as official professional fights or if BKB is attempting to establish itself as a league of the sport that is a separate entity, although professional fighters such as Javier Garcia, David Estrada, and Jason Gavern have all now competed in bouts under the BKB format and rules? This again will likely be answered in time as further BKB cards take place. This observer however, does wonder whether BKB will eventually be offered universally to multiple cable and satellite providers or if it will remain exclusive to DirecTV.

Following the first BKB card I commented on the position that BKB might be in and how it was not all unlike the position that the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) found itself  in the early 1990’s when it surfaced here in the United States. Unlike Mixed Martial Arts, BKB may not face as much of a struggle for acceptance in the mainstream. Although BKB is clearly still in it’s formative stages the concept does indeed have potential and I can see it growing in time. The only real questions other than whether or not BKB will eventually be recognized as a form of professional Boxing, are is there a plan going forward to stage a certain number of BKB cards per year and whether or not BKB will be able to expand its audience.

For now, the concept of BKB is making progress and this observer is intrigued to see what happens in the future. Although the concept may not be universally known and even though there may be some who do not enjoy the format or see it’s potential, it can grow. After all, the sport of Mixed Martial Arts was not universally accepted when it debuted in the United States. It simply takes time.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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