Over the past five years, readers of The Boxing Truth® have seen a story chronicled from its debut until it’s last installment in August 2015. The story of an innovation in the sport of Boxing known by three simple letters “BKB.” A concept that was developed and nurtured by United States satellite television provider DirecTV that debuted in 2013 as a modernized form of Bareknuckle Boxing.
The concept involved the idea of bringing Boxing back to its origins, but included the introduction of knuckle-exposed Boxing gloves thus modernizing Bareknuckle Boxing from its original form. What was also innovative about the BKB concept was that bouts under the BKB format did not take place in a traditional Boxing ring, but instead were fought in an area known as the “BKB Pit.” A fighting area with no ring ropes that measures seventeen feet in diameter and 227 square feet. Fights under the BKB format were also fought with two minute round limits and rounds were scheduled for five, seven, and ten rounds respectively.
The first two cards in the history of the BKB concept took place in the state of New Hampshire here in the United States and featured the use of the knuckle-exposed Boxing gloves. After BKB 2 in December 2013, the concept underwent a slight revamp. Gone were the use of the knuckle-exposed gloves and with that change the abbreviation BKB: Bare-Knuckle Boxing was also charged to Big-Knockout Boxing. The use of standard Boxing gloves, the same used in traditional Professional Boxing was introduced while the rest of the BKB format remained the same.
As some readers might remember in my coverage of BKB, I stated that the revamped concept while moving the concept closer to the traditional format of Professional Boxing was a necessary step as it allowed BKB to be regulated in more states and thus allowed a significant hurdle to be cleared in a quicker timeframe than that of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), which was originally introduced as a form of bare knuckle, full contact fighting that was essentially no holds barred with the exception of no biting and eye gouging among other rules. While MMA has always been a popular combat sport from its inception in the early 1990’s on through to present day, the original format of the sport incurred the ire of many politicians and as a result many MMA promoters including the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) faced an uphill battle for several years as far as licensing and regulation were concerned no doubt delaying the overall growth of the sport for several years.
As the sport of MMA gradually evolved over time and gained long overdue acceptance and recognition in the mainstream as a combat sport, so too did the innovative BKB concept with notable professional fighters competing in the BKB Pit and some such as Gabriel Rosado and Jullian Pollard winning BKB world championships. There has not been much announced by BKB or DirecTV however, since BKB’s last event in June 2015. While some may choose to speculate as to the reason or reasons for BKB’s inactivity, this observer will not refer to the BKB concept in past-tense simply because there has been no announcement made of it’s closure or its status as of this writing, but one thing BKB’s inactivity has caused beyond stalling what was growing momentum is it has also taken away potential opportunity for combat sports athletes, specifically those in Boxing and those who compete in several combat sports/martial arts disciplines.
While BKB remains inactive, a form of Professional Boxing has risen from the sport’s origins. A legal form of the original concept of Bareknuckle Boxing. As readers might recall in my initial coverage of BKB’s inception in 2013, I stated that when I had been asked over the years as to my thoughts of a potential return of Bareknuckle Boxing that I did not see it happening primarily due to the safety concerns, the issue of regulation and the dangers that exist in Boxing as it is, while also stating that safety standards in the sport have greatly improved over the years.
Ironically, it wasn’t long after writing and releasing that column covering BKB’s debut that I had an opportunity to view a bareknuckle event that was broadcast by the now defunct GFL Combat Sports network, but the question of whether or not the event, which ultimately was a one-off was in fact regulated by a state athletic commission was not answered. During the month of June however, two separate bareknuckle events took place that were regulated by the state of Wyoming.
The first of these events took place on June 2nd at the Cheyenne Ice and Events Center, a debut of a promotion known as the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship or BKFC for short that was televised via traditional cable/satellite pay-per-view as well as digital pay-per-view via Fite.TV. In a similarity to the BKB format, bouts fought under BKFC rules were fought in a fighting area known as “The Squared Circle.”
No, this is not a reference to a term commonly used in professional wrestling to describe where matches normally take place, but rather a unique form of a Boxing ring with a circular fighting area surrounded by four circled ropes. The circled ring measures twenty-two feet and is incased on a twenty-eight foot square platform. This fighting area similar to bouts fought under the BKB format seems ideal for fighters who tend to be offensive-minded and the narrow length did ensure for bouts that were fan-friendly. While due to both the time between these events and the release and length of this column I will not provide a standard recap of the events, I will offer the reader some of my impressions regarding what took place.
As was the case with the BKB format while fights were being fought with the knuckle-exposed Boxing gloves it was almost immediately noticeable as to the damage sustained by the fighters who competed due to no gloves being used. While this obviously would create concern for most people whether they be fans watching the event or those who are involved in the sport and/or cover it, there was not an instance where I felt a fight was allowed to go on longer than it should due to a fighter sustaining too much punishment and it seemed to be along the same guidelines as how Mixed Martial Arts fights are officiated in that bouts were stopped in an appropriate timeframe if a fighter had suffered too much punishment or was in a predicament where they suffered knockdowns where it was obvious that a fight should not continue.
Although many of the bouts on this card saw fighters sustain cuts and other injuries, it was clear that concern over fighters safety was a priority and I feel that while Bareknuckle Boxing may not be for everyone, appropriate steps were taken to ensure those competing on this card were safe as well as the card that followed the debut of BKFC later in the month of June. While fights on the first BKFC card were scheduled for five two-minute rounds and that ensured a quick pace for most of the bouts, it did not necessarily mean that elements that are required in traditional Professional Boxing would not be needed under the BKFC format such as timing, technique, and essential tools that are a part of most boxers respective arsenals.
Some of the notable fighters on this card included former UFC Heavyweight world champion Ricco Rodriguez, former world title challenger and undefeated bareknuckle legend Bobby Gunn, former UFC women’s Flyweight contender Bec Rawlings, and fellow MMA notables Joey Beltran and Tony Lopez just to name a few. What I look for whenever a new variation of combat sports is introduced is to see how the fighters approach their respective fights. Whether there will be brawling or whether bouts will be fought more tactically.
Whenever something new or in this case something that has been updated from it’s original format takes place, I always find myself watching some of the early UFC events and other variations of MMA from many years ago and it is always interesting to see how much the sport of MMA evolved from it’s original tournament/bareknuckle full contact concept to what the sport is today. In this case, I went back and studied both some of the early UFC events as well as revisited some of the events that took place under the BKB format and I looked for things that might be similar between the BKB format and these two bareknuckle cards.
Beyond the obvious of BKB initially being introduced as a form of gloved-Bareknuckle Boxing, while these bareknuckle events were the definition of what one would think of the subject of Bareknuckle Boxing with fighters only having hand wraps slightly below their fists, I felt the combat that took place on the first BKFC event as well as the event that took place two weeks later on June 23rd titled Bareknuckle Fight Club 4, which took place at the Cam Plex Central Pavilion in Gillette, WY, which was also televised by Fite.TV were very similar to the BKB format. A mix of narrow fighting areas and fast-paced bouts created what most would call an ideal scenario for fans viewing the action as most of the bouts on both events were of the quick variety, which normally creates an exciting atmosphere.
A question some might ask is who will be next to regulate Bareknuckle Boxing? Although fighter safety was a priority at both of these events as should be the case with all combat sports events, regulation might be difficult to obtain in some states due largely to safety concerns. One needs to look no further than the progression of BKB to see the potential argument that the slight revamp of the concept and elimination of the knuckle-exposed Boxing gloves and change to standard Boxing gloves opened the door for BKB to be regulated in the state of Nevada as well as opened greater exposure as more media outlets covered BKB events following the revamp than had been the case as those of us who have covered BKB from its debut in 2013.
While some may debate whether Bareknuckle Boxing will be able to gain more traction beyond these two events, this observer feels much like the BKB concept that as long as safety concerns continue to be addressed that it could provide another route for fighters who are looking for an opportunity to ply their trade. Even though BKB remains on hiatus, with more legalized Bareknuckle Boxing events scheduled to take place in the coming months, there will be opportunities for multi-combat sport athletes to compete in what could be the next growing form of Professional Boxing. A form that this observer looks forward to covering as it evolves.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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