Over the last several years, there have been several attempts made and variations to bring Boxing back to its bareknuckled roots. These variations have included a modernized form of Bareknuckle Boxing including the implementation of knuckle-exposed Boxing gloves as we saw in the now inactive BKB format, which is owned by satellite television provider DirecTV and it’s current parent company AT&T. It did not take long for the format of DirecTV’s BKB to be reformatted. Gone were the knuckle-exposed gloves and eventually the format seemed similar to that of traditional Professional Boxing, with standard gloves. The area known as the “BKB Pit” where fights were contested that differed significantly from that of a traditional Boxing ring however, remained the same.
As readers may recall in this observer’s coverage of those BKB events now several years ago, I noted that a potential reason for the format change to what ultimately became known as BKB:Big-Knockout Boxing was likely to eliminate the potential hurdles with regard to licensing and regulation in several states here in the United States as well as internationally. With DirecTV’s BKB now inactive, there have been several bareknuckle promotions that have surfaced in their absence.
While I will save a more thorough run through of these respective promotions for a later time, one of the more notable groups has been the Bareknuckle Fighting Championship or BKFC for short. As is the case with other Bareknuckle Boxing promotions that have emerged in recent years, the BKFC is about as close to what one thinks of when they think of Boxing in a bareknuckle format as it can get with a modernized presentation. A format where fights are fought in a circular ring where rounds are under two minutes in duration ensures bouts are quick paced and more often than not fights tend to end inside a scheduled distance.
As the continued rebirth of Bareknuckle Boxing has continued, the question some fans have asked is will a fighter or fighters who have made their name competing under traditional Boxing rules be willing to compete under a bareknuckle format with no gloves. Those who have read this observer’s previous coverage of several bare knuckle cards will likely remember how I have said Bareknuckle Boxing does open a new avenue for fighters in all combat sports to compete outside of their primary discipline and also would provide an opportunity for fighters to stay active if there are not opportunities to compete in their primary combat sport.
In regard to traditional Boxing, I will be honest when I say that I have had my doubts as to whether or not boxers who are household names or the sport’s respective governing bodies would be open to competing in a bareknuckle fight and in the case of sanctioning organizations, willing to sanction world title bouts fought under a bareknuckle format. We will get at least part of those questions answered with BKFC’s sixth event BKFC 6 on Saturday night.
BKFC 6 will take place at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, FL, signaling the first time a Bareknuckle Boxing event will be sanctioned in the state of Florida. The card, which will be broadcast both on cable/satellite pay-per-view as was as digital streaming via Fite TV pay-per-view will feature several bouts, but will be highlighted by two fights where two former world champions in traditional Boxing will test the waters of fighting with no gloves.
In the main event former two-division world champion Paulie Malignaggi will return to the ring for the first time in over two years to face Artem Lobov. Malignaggi, who won world championships in the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight and 147lb. Welterweight divisions in his forty-four professional fight career has established himself outside the ring as one of Boxing’s top analysts regularly serving as an expert commentator for Showtime Spots in the United States and Sky Sports in the United Kingdom.
What concerns me about Malignaggi attempting to compete in a slightly different form of Professional Boxing as compared to what he is used to is he has dealt with several hand injuries throughout his career. It is important to keep in mind that even though fights that are fought under a bareknuckle format are professional bouts, they are not currently regarded as professional fights by official Boxing record keeping sources such as BoxRec and FightFax. More importantly in regard to Malignaggi is perhaps due to the hand injuries he has had throughout his career, he has only scored seven knockouts in his thirty-six career wins under traditional professional Boxing rules.
We will likely find out early on how Malignaggi will respond to being hit bare fisted. At his best, Malignaggi was one of the most defensively sound and elusive fighters in the sport. It will be interesting to see how competing in a circular ring, which is about half the length of a traditional Boxing ring will effect Malignaggi’s ability to move and be elusive. The difference in his punches are also likely to show early on in this fight. Whether or not Malignaggi’s hands will hold up to the strain of fighting under bareknuckle rules remains to be seen.
Malignaggi will face a former UFC veteran in Artem Lobov. Although Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) bouts are not necessarily comparable to Boxing in that more often than not, more disciplines are required for success in MMA, an argument can be made that Lobov is more experienced in a format similar to that of bareknuckle rules due to MMA gloves only requiring one ounce of padding, which essentially makes fists as close to bareknuckled without actually being bareknuckled as possible.
Lobov will enter this fight having lost his previous three MMA bouts in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Lobov has scored knockouts in four of his fifteen career wins, but has only been stopped once in his career. Although Lobov’s MMA record of 15-14 may give the impression of a journeyman, the majority of his losses have come by decision. This suggests that if he can withstand Malignaggi’s punches that he will likely be in the fight for however long it lasts.
On the undercard of Malignaggi-Lobov, former two-division world champion Randall Bailey will return to the ring for the first time in three years to make his Bareknuckle Boxing debut. Bailey will face Daniel Santos. Like Paulie Malignaggi, Randall Bailey won world titles in the Jr. Welterweight and Welterweight divisions in his career. Bailey however, scored knockouts in thirty-nine of his forty-six career wins registering a career knockout percentage of 70%.
Similar to Malignaggi, Bailey will be competing under bareknuckle rules for the first time and will be coming off of a significant layoff. Though the same scenario exists for Bailey in it being interesting to see how he responds to being hit by a bare fist, Bailey has almost always been in an entertaining fight and at his best has the type of punching power that can end a fight with one punch. Under a bareknuckle format, one might assume that Bailey’s power will be even more dangerous than under traditional Boxing rules.
With Bareknuckle Boxing events having taken place in Wyoming, Mississippi, Mexico, and now entering Florida for the first time, the resurgence of Boxing in bareknuckle form is growing and does not appear to be facing some of the same struggle that numerous MMA promotions faced during the early stages of the sport of MMA in the early 1990’s here in the United States. For the BKFC, their sixth card will feature a total of nine bouts for its first event in the state of Florida.
We will see what happens and how the resurgence of Bareknuckle Boxing will continue to evolve on Saturday night.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
BKFC 6:Malignaggi vs. Lobov takes place on Saturday, June 22nd at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, FL. The card can be seen on a pay-per-view basis across cable/satellite providers and digital streaming pay-per-view worldwide on Fite.TV for $39.99 beginning at 8PM ET/5PM PT (U.S. Time). Contact your cable/satellite provider for ordering information. Fite TV is available on mobile, tablet, and connected streaming devices. To order BKFC 6 on Fite TV and for a list of compatible streaming devices please visit: www.Fite.TV.
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