Saturday, September 19, 2020

Belated Thoughts On BKFC 12


As the sport of Boxing continues to adapt to the changing landscape created by the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic, the bareknuckle form of the sport has also been attempting to resume a somewhat normal schedule. On September 11th, the Bareknuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) presented its second card since resuming in July with the twelfth card in the promotion’s history, which was held at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, FL. 


Normally when covering the sport of Boxing in Bareknuckle-form, this observer likes to provide analysis of events in long-form as compared to some cards that I have covered in traditional Professional Boxing that are covered in short-form. The primary reason for this is an effort by yours truly to provide the reader with as much coverage as possible in the scope of one column as well as bouts that are fought under Bareknuckle rules tending to be short in duration. The twelfth card in the history of the BKFC certainly followed this trend of short, but entertaining bouts.


While covering Boxing cards that are fought in a variation of a Bareknuckle format is not new for me and readers are welcome to read through my previous coverage of Bareknuckle Boxing cards including those that have been promoted by the BKFC in the Archives section here on The Boxing Truth®️, some who might be new readers may wonder what distinguishes Bareknuckle Boxing from traditional Professional Boxing. Much like it’s traditional counterpart, Bareknuckle Boxing is a professional form of Boxing, but where they obviously differ is unlike traditional Boxing, the sport in Bareknuckle-form does not involve the use of gloves and depending on the promotion/variation of the sport, the rings where bareknuckled fights are fought tend to be smaller than a traditional Boxing ring. Bouts fought under Bareknuckle rules also have shorter round limits being only two minutes in duration as compared to three minutes in Men’s traditional Professional Boxing. The Bareknuckled-form of the sport also follows different round distances compared to its traditional counterpart with many bouts being scheduled for five or seven rounds depending on the promotion where a fight may be taking place.


The reader may have noticed that I said the word promotion where a fight is taking place. This is because the sport in Bareknuckle-form follows a format similar to that of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), in that world championships are often promotional branded as well as following a weight class structure similar to that of MMA. While this differs significantly from Boxing in its traditional-form, one might argue that by following the weight class format of MMA, it allows fighters who have primarily competed in MMA to compete in Bareknuckle bouts without having to adjust weight classes, which one could assume leaves an easier path to accept opportunities in both sports as they become available. It also should be pointed out that unlike traditional Boxing, fighting while in a clinch situation is allowed under Bareknuckle rules, 



Now, that I have hopefully done my best to provide a short explanation of the differences between the two forms of Professional Boxing for a reader who might be unaware, I will continue with my thoughts on this card. This will not be a column that will discuss every bout in detail, but rather some of the highlights of the ten bout card as well as some of my impressions of what took place.


As is the case with many Bareknuckle cards, the combat on this card was generally quick-paced and provided no shortage of action. One of the bouts that stood out to me on this card that I believe set the tone for the evening was a battle in the 145lb. weight class between Rusty Crowder and Jacob Brunelle. 


An encounter that saw Crowder suffer a knockdown in the first round with a punch that appeared to land behind the head as Crowder was in the process of attempting to evade Brunelle as he was coming forward. Crowder would respond however, in the second round by dropping Brunelle twice with counter hooks to the head.


One thing that fans will tend to notice about Bareknuckle fights is they tend to start very quickly with each fighter attempting to get an upper hand on their opponent. If fighters that are fought under this format go into the middle and late rounds, one will notice the pace slow gradually and become similar to what we are normally accustomed to in traditional Boxing. This fight was an accurate illustration of just that as after the first two rounds, the pace slowed and it was at that stage that Crowder began to land the cleaner, more effective punches and would go on to earn a five round unanimous decision victory.


Although the general quick pace of Bareknuckle bouts usually means fights end in a relatively short period, much like it’s traditional counterpart, there are times where it is appropriate to question when a fight should be stopped. Such was the case in the 135lb. encounter between Jarod Grant and Josh Boudreaux. A fight that quits frankly saw one fighter Boudreaux overmatched as Grant overwhelmed him throwing a full arsenal of punches in scoring a total of six knockdowns in a round and a half before the fight was stopped midway through the second round.


While it is important to keep in mind that there is no three knockdown rule in Bareknuckle fights, meaning that if a fighter goes down three times in a single round from official knockdowns it does not automatically end the fight, this was a one-sided bout and even though no one can take anything away from Boudreaux as he showed a lot of heart by continuing to get up from the canvas, this was a fight that probably should have been stopped after three knockdowns, but a referee’s discretion must also be taken into consideration. It is something however, that all referees should keep in mind going forward.


An element of Boxing in all its forms that can sometimes be overlooked in regard to Bareknuckle bouts due to the pace and action of which fights are fought is still the necessity of fundamentals and basic Boxing skills. A good illustration of this was the 165lb. encounter between Joe Elmore and Tom Shoaff. A battle, which saw Elmore suffer a bad cut over the right eye early on as a result of an accidental thumb, but still manage to score four knockdowns of Shoaff over the course of the five round bout. It were those knockdowns, some of which came from Elmore countering Shoaff’s offense that allowed him to earn a convincing unanimous decision victory. Shoaff however, seemed to dictate the tempo of the combat by controlling distance and placing his shots rather than being reckless in his approach. If it weren’t for the four knockdowns, which seemed to be flash knockdowns that came from tactical errors by Shoaff, this fight would have likely had a different outcome.


If one were to go back and view early events in the sport of MMA here in the United States, many of those bouts were fought in a similar way to many bouts fought under the Bareknuckle Boxing format where fighters generally tried to end fights as quickly as possible. Over time as the sport evolved, you saw a gradual shift in how fighters approached bouts and began to pace themselves in case fights had to go long, or under modern-day MMA rules, the later rounds. 



While Bareknuckle Boxing in its current form is still in its initial growing stages, you can see some fighters attempting to pace themselves even though the format differs from that of traditional Boxing. Whether or not there will be a rematch between Elmore and Shoaff on a future BKFC card remains to be seen, but one has to wonder if the split-second tactical errors that worked against Tom Shoaff in this fight would be present in a second encounter. Joe Elmore deserves all the credit for being able to maintain his composure under circumstances that have haunted even some of the most seasoned professional boxers to recognize the openings Shoaff had left for him, taking advantage of those opportunities, staying focused on the task at hand, and earning the win.


The two headline bouts of BKFC 12 featured three MMA veterans doing battle. In the first bout in the 205lb. weight class former Bellator World Middleweight champion Hector Lombard squared off with UFC veteran Kendall Grove.


Although both men are seasoned MMA fighters having each competed in multiple MMA promotions, I expected Grove could have an advantage over Lombard in terms of Boxing due to his having a significant height advantage standing 6’6 compared to Lombard’s 5’9 height. Grove however, could not manage distance and did not offer much resistance as Lombard was able to close the distance in a relatively short time and score three knockdowns of Gove to earn a first round knockout.


From my perspective, this fight was about Lombard being able to take advantage of Grove’s inability to keep him on the outside. Whether it was a case of Grove not being warmed up and freezing come fight time is a question that only he can answer, but Lombard simply saw his opening, took advantage of it, and once he saw Grove was hurt, did not let him off the hook. 


This was followed by the main event in the 180lb. weight class, which saw another UFC veteran Thiago Alves face Bareknuckle veteran Julian Lane in Alves’ Bareknuckle Boxing debut. As someone who has covered many Bareknuckle Boxing events over the last several years in various variations, this fight frankly was one of the more competitive bouts I have seen take place under a bareknuckle-format since the bareknuckle-form of the sport returned in an organized format several years ago.


For five closely fought rounds, Alves and Lane engaged in a tactical battle that in some ways resembled Boxing in it’s traditional form. What made this fight difficult to distinguish who had the upper hand was both fighters were effective in executing their offense in spots in virtually every round of the scheduled five round bout. What proved to be the difference in my eyes albeit a subtle difference was how effective Alves was in using head movement to evade some of Lane’s offense, seeming to land the cleaner combinations of the two, and generally being the fighter dictating the combat. While this fight remained close from start to finish, it was this difference that proved to be the deciding factor in Alves earning a five round split decision victory.


Frankly, I would not mind seeing a rematch between Alves and Lane in the near future if the BKFC can make it happen. Style wise however, I feel this fight would be better suited for a longer round distance than five rounds as it is understandable how some might feel Lane might have done enough to win this fight depending on one’s perspective.


The twelfth card in the history of the Bareknuckle Fighting Championship, the first to stream exclusively on the promotion’s new digital subscription network BKTV in a move away from the pay-per-view format that many of the promotion’s previous cards had been broadcast, continued to show the progress the promotion has made as one of the major players of the sport in Bareknuckle-form. With BKFC 13 scheduled to take place on October 10th in Salina, KS, we will see if the promotion can continue its momentum as it looks to finish what has been a frustrating year for everyone on a strong note.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


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