Bare knuckle boxing is having a turn in the spotlight these days, with several organizations looking to grow market share and bring to fight fans some of the elements that keep boxing from having amassed that many more eyeballs in the last few decades.
We saw a promotion unfold Friday night, one led by living MMA legend Bas Rutten, and former UFC/MMA standouts from the recent past topped the card in Wyoming.
Pennsylvanian David Feldman has had three cards as he looks to make his Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship the dominant force on the BK space, and Bobby Gunn, the semi-retired pugilist who got his start street fighting and on the underground bare knuckle circuit, is hoping like hell the fever catches, and true inroads (read: revenue) can be made in the sphere.
The 44-year-old who proudly touts his “gypsy” blood said that he’s in some ways gotten smarter as he’s gotten older. He forwarded me a picture of him shirtless, doing a paving job, which shows that his BMI is at a range he’d not before achieved. He spoke of his hopes and wishes and dreams.
“I’m just sitting back really hoping that we can make this bare knuckle boxing go the way that I wanted it to from the beginning,” he said. “I just don’t think they’re getting real bare knuckle fighters, for some reason they want to use mixed martial arts guys because they come to the table easier than the professional boxers. I don’t understand it but there’s a lot of great bare knuckle fighters out there that would make better fights and I just wish that these promoters would do it the way that I see it to be done.”
We hopped in and out of the BK category and touched on the sweet science; Gunn told me he is related to Tyson Fury, the charismatic Traveller who is hoping his strategies and tactics and defensive aptitude allow him to stay aloft for 12 rounds and grab a decision from A-grade bomber Deontay Wilder on Dec. 1 in LA, and on PPV.
“I truly do believe Tyson Fury has a chance to weather the storm for the first four rounds and in the late rounds he could catch Wilder, and possibly stop him. Don’t be surprised if Tyson Fury does win a dull split decision but don’t be surprised if Tyson Fury goes for broke and lays it on the line and stops Wilder in the late rounds.
“Tyson Fury is training his ass off right now, I talked to him a few weeks ago on a text message and he is really doing great, he is getting great sparring. There comes a time, Michael, in a man’s life when that man believes in himself more than anything in the world and he doesn’t have any distractions, no worries, just one person in front of him. That man is a dangerous man. Tyson Fury right now is the most dangerous heavyweight out there, he will win his fight!”
And then the 23-7-1 pugilist, who last fought in gloved boxing in July 2017, swung back to his passion, the bare knuckle realm.
“The deal is, my brother, where the bare knuckle boxing business is — listen, whenever there are fights there’s always going to be critics, I don’t care, because they still watch it and pay for it. if I win a fight I have fought a bum or the guy is a heart victim or it’s a fixed fight, but if I was to lose then I will be the biggest bum that ever lived.
“Now remember something, when Muhammad Ali fought Sonny Liston the second fight and they called it the ‘phantom punch,’ they really talked about him, but he didn’t care. Look at the fights, he wouldn’t have had fights with Frazier and Kenny Norton if he listened to critics who scorched him. It’s the fight game, the best of the best get talked about, it doesn’t matter. I don’t really care what people say as long as I go out there and knock these guys out in bare knuckle boxing.
“These guys don’t understand, it’s a different business, guys shut down when you hit them the right way, look at those fights (Friday) night, people could say they look fixed a few of them. They weren’t. It’s called bare knuckle boxing, there are different effects when you hit these guys bare than when you do with gloves.”
Gunn was speculated about when he took out Irineu Beato Costa in June, and tries to explain to doubters that the effects of bare knuckle punches affect the recipients differently than a gloved fist does. He wants to drown out doubting shouters and is rooting for promoter Feldman to keep pushing on, spreading his gospel.
“David Feldman is talking about putting a show in Biloxi, Mississippi in February. I was supposed to fight there not too long ago, you know, I got in great condition, I lost a lot of weight, I came down to the bare knuckle light heavyweight division which will be a 185 pounds. I was supposed to fight the last fight for the vacant diamond belt last month, in Feldman’s third show, but my opponent had trouble coming through customs from Argentina, so I never got the fight. But I’m in great condition right now.
“I’m looking to do the fight in February, hopefully. I really do I wish I was in this condition when I was boxing all those years, and I should have not been fighting those big guys all those years in bare knuckle boxing. But it doesn’t matter because it’s my world, I can fight a guy 400 pounds, I don’t care. If I could have only fought with the gloves on like I do bare knuckle I would have been as good at boxing as I am at bare knuckle.
“Even though I had a great career, I have no regrets, I fought the best of the best, I was a cruiserweight champion, I fought for all the titles. I have no regrets, I love boxing, it’s just that when I am doing bare knuckle boxing I’m in a different world. That Bobby Gunn is one tough son of a bitch, harder than coffin nails. That Bobby Gunn, if I could have put that Bobby Gunn with the same mindset with boxing gloves on, I would have dominated boxing, if I could have had that mindset and control like I do in bare knuckle boxing.”
Gunn is like many beings in their 40s; we look back at roads taken and eschewed and wonder what might have been if we had been different people at different junctures, and our fate had taken a different turn if more wisdom and discipline was applied. And then he snaps back to the present, understanding that rear view mirror pondering is less useful than dealing with the here and now.
“What’s going to hurt the sport is that every Mickey Mouse promotion company is going to make their own Mickey Mouse championship world title belt and they’re going to be claiming themselves world champions. And what’s going to hurt the sport is Mickey Mouse promotion companies that really know nothing about the sport of bare knuckle boxing or understand the concept offered, they’re going to put fights on and they’re going to have fighters competing that should not be competing and are going to get somebody hurt.
“That’s exactly what I will not be involved with and is what I don’t represent. The safety of the fighters and getting paid, that’s the most important thing, fighters being taken care of. I see that’s not happening right now but I’m gonna make sure it happens the right way.”
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