Is Bare Knuckle Boxing Dangerous? | Easily Explained

Bare Knuckle Boxing is one of the most unique combat sports in the world.

In this page, we'll explain whether or not Bare Knuckle Boxing is dangerous.

Is Bare-Knuckle Boxing Dangerous?

Bare-knuckle boxing can be dangerous for fighters, as two fighters are striking one another without wearing gloves. Some of the most common injuries from bouts can include bruises, cuts broken hands, and concussions.

bare knuckle boxing

When discussing the danger of bare-knuckle boxing, it's important to talk about the risk of broken bones in the hands.

Fighters can suffer severe fractures due to repeatedly striking their opponents without the cushioning provided by boxing gloves.

Additionally, bare-knuckle combatants often experience cuts and lacerations, leading to blood loss during bouts.

Another significant issue faced by participants is the potential for brain injuries.

While some argue that bare-knuckle boxing is less dangerous in terms of brain damage than gloved boxing, it is still a combat sport where fighters can experience concussions.


The History of Bare-Knuckle Boxing

boxer in a stance ready to fight

Bare-knuckle boxing, as a predecessor to modern boxing, originated in the United Kingdom.

The first recorded boxing match was held in England in 1681 between a local butcher and the footman of the Duke of Albemarle.

By 1698, regular pugilistic contests were being held in the Royal Theatre of London.

Classical Pugilism eventually adopted rules in the mid-1700s to decrease injuries and death, showcasing the sport as a respectable athletic endeavor.

A prominent figure in the early history of bare-knuckle boxing was James Figg, who is often referred to as the "Father of Boxing."

He was an English bare-knuckle champion and established the rules of the sport, which would later be refined by Jack Broughton.

Figg was followed by other influential figures such as Jonathan Smith, Jem Mace, John L. Sullivan, and Jake Kilrain.

The London Prize Ring Rules, established in 1838, played a significant role in governing the sport.

These rules were designed to make bare-knuckle boxing safer while maintaining its competitive nature.

Fights consisted of rounds, which ended when a fighter was knocked down or thrown to the ground.

The duration of rounds was unlimited, as was the number of rounds in a match. Injuries were common, and as a result, many matches ended in a draw or were decided by the crowd.

Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, bare-knuckle boxing faced growing opposition due to its brutal nature and the risk of severe injuries and death.

Boxing gloves were gradually introduced as a safer alternative, and the Marquess of Queensberry Rules, established in 1867, eventually superseded the London Prize Ring Rules.

These new rules required the use of gloves, shorter rounds, and a 10-count rule when a fighter was knocked down.

In countries like the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, bare-knuckle boxing became illegal, leading to a decline in its popularity. However, recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in the sport.

In 2018, Wyoming became the first US state to legalize bare-knuckle boxing, followed by several other states.

Promotions such as the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) in the United States and BKB in the United Kingdom have helped revive the sport in a legal and regulated manner.

As of 2021, bare-knuckle boxing continues to be a topic of debate in terms of safety and legality.

While its roots continue to shape the history of boxing as a whole, efforts are made to modify the rules and improve safety measures to ensure the well-being of the fighters in modern bare-knuckle contests.

Bare-Knuckle Boxing Versus Gloved Boxing

boxer punching pads

When comparing bare-knuckle boxing to traditional gloved boxing, there are several aspects to consider, such as the power behind punches, the risk of injuries like hand fractures and maxillofacial trauma, and the controllability of the sport.

In terms of power, studies have shown that boxers can generate significantly higher force when wearing boxing gloves than when using their bare fists.

This is because gloves provide a larger surface area and distribute the impact evenly, resulting in more powerful punches.

However, this increased power does not necessarily equate to less danger. Some argue that because gloves allow for harder punches, they may be more dangerous than bare knuckles when it comes to causing brain injuries.

Hand fractures are more likely to occur in bare-knuckle boxing due to the absence of the protection and shock absorption offered by boxing gloves.

The natural rigidity of a fighter's knuckles does not offer the same cushioning effect as the foam used in gloves.

Therefore, the risk of fractures and related injuries is higher for fighters engaging in bare-knuckle boxing.

Facial injuries are also a concern in both types of boxing, but the nature of these injuries may differ.

In bare-knuckle boxing, fighters are more likely to experience cuts, lacerations, and bruising due to the direct contact of knuckles with the face.

In contrast, while gloved boxing may still result in facial injuries, the likelihood of cuts and lacerations is reduced due to the cushioning effect of the gloves.

Maxillofacial trauma in both variants can be severe, but the risk of penetrating injuries may be somewhat higher in bare-knuckle boxing.

Controllability is a critical factor in any combat sport, and the use of gloves in boxing may offer better control over the force and accuracy of punches.

This could result in a slightly lower risk of unintentional injuries in gloved boxing compared to bare-knuckle boxing. However, it is important to consider the skills and experience of the fighters as well as the specific rules and regulations of each boxing variant.

Rules and Regulations of Bare-Knuckle Boxing

Bare-knuckle boxing has its roots in classical pugilism, which began adopting rules in the mid-1700s to minimize cases of injuries while showcasing the sport as a respectable athletic endeavor.

There were three primary rules during this time until modern gloved boxing took over.

Over the years, specific rules and regulations have been put in place to protect the fighters and maintain the sport's integrity.

The Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) has made strides in establishing standardized rules for the sport. State-sanctioned athletic commissions also oversee the organization and regulation of bare-knuckle boxing events, ensuring safety standards and fair competition.

In a typical bare-knuckle boxing match, a referee will be present to enforce the rules and maintain order in the ring.

The ring is circular and commonly referred to as the “squared circle.”

The London Prize Ring Rules, an early set of regulations, were influential in the development of modern bare-knuckle boxing rules.

The matches are structured into rounds, usually lasting between two and three minutes each, with a one-minute rest period between them.

Some critical rules in bare-knuckle boxing include strict prohibitions against hitting a downed opponent and requirements for fighters to face their opponent and maintain a distance of no more than a yard (about a meter) within 30 seconds after going down.

Failing to comply with this rule can result in a fighter being declared beaten.

Other important rules involve the protection of fighters from unnecessary harm. While gloves are not used in these bouts, hand wraps with limited padding can be applied to give athletes some protection for their hands while maintaining the bare-knuckle aspect.

Moreover, a medical professional should always be on-site during a match, with pre-fight and post-fight medical examinations required for the fighters.

The oversight from athletic commissions, and referees, and adherence to standardized rules continue to guide the sport in a safe and respectable direction.

Scientific Studies on Bare-Knuckle Boxing

A study conducted on the epidemiology of injuries in professional bare-knuckle fighting sought to identify trends differentiating it from traditional boxing with padded gloves.

This research aimed to provide insight into the potential health risks associated with the sport, such as concussions, brain damage, hand fractures, and maxillofacial trauma.

Dr. Don Muzzi, a renowned ringside physician, has expressed his views on the safety of bare-knuckle boxing in comparison to regular boxing.

He mentioned that fighters in bare-knuckle bouts tend to be more methodical and cautious, implying that this approach may help reduce the risk of injuries.

Bare-knuckle boxing may have certain advantages over traditional boxing with gloves.

Some argue that having less padding could lead to more immediate damage, preventing fighters from "soldiering through" and absorbing more accumulated damage over time.

This could potentially reduce the occurrence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head traumas.

It is interesting to note that amateur boxing has opted at times to remove protective headgear in the name of fighter safety. Headgear might not offer complete protection from concussion and may even create a false sense of security, encouraging fighters to take more risks during their bouts.

In the mid-1700s, classical pugilism adopted rules to decrease cases of injuries and death, portraying the sport as a respectable athletic endeavor.

Three main rules were followed until modern gloved boxing was widely accepted. However, it is essential to remember that research on bare-knuckle boxing is still limited, and definitive conclusions cannot be drawn from the available studies.

Bare-Knuckle Boxing in the Social Media Age

Bare-knuckle boxing has experienced a resurgence in popular culture, thanks in part to social media platforms such as YouTube and Instagram.

These outlets have helped generate interest in the sport and have provided an avenue for fighters to showcase their skills and grow their followers.

One reason for the increased popularity of bare-knuckle boxing is the emergence of MMA and UFC.

Fans of these combat sports have become intrigued by the raw, unfiltered nature of bare-knuckle bouts, which often result in intense, hard-hitting contests.

This fascination has led to the growth of organizations like BKB (Bare Knuckle Boxing), which hosts professional bare-knuckle events.

As a result, they often follow their favorite fighters on social media platforms, further contributing to the sport's visibility in popular culture.


Bare-Knuckle Boxing in Different Regions

Bare-knuckle boxing has experienced varying levels of popularity and legal status in different regions around the world.

In the United States, for instance, the sport saw a resurgence in interest when Wyoming became the first state to host state-sanctioned professional bare-knuckle boxing matches in 130 years in 2018.

Despite being illegal in some states like Wisconsin and Florida, the sport continues to garner a dedicated following in various locales across the country.

In the United Kingdom, bare-knuckle boxing has long been a part of the country's sporting history. Formal bouts began as early as 1681, with regular contests held at the Royal Theatre of London in 1698.

The London Prize Ring rules provided the foundation for much of the 18th and 19th-century bare-knuckle boxing in the UK. Although the sport has since been largely replaced by glove boxing, there remains a subculture of bare-knuckle enthusiasts who participate in unsanctioned events throughout parts of England and Ireland.

Meanwhile, Australia has its history with bare-knuckle boxing.

The longest recorded bare-knuckle fight took place near Fiery Creek, Victoria, on December 3, 1855, lasting an incredible 6 hours and 15 minutes.

In recent years, however, the sport has faced similar legal issues as it has in the United States, with bouts often taking place underground or in rural areas to avoid prosecution.

As for street fighting, it is essential to distinguish it from bare-knuckle boxing, as the two are not the same.

While both involve combatants without any form of padding on their hands, street fighting typically lacks the accepted set of rules that govern sanctioned events.

This crucial difference underscores the inherent danger of street fighting as opposed to the relatively more regulated and controlled environment of a bare-knuckle boxing match.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the common injuries in bare-knuckle boxing?

In bare-knuckle boxing, common injuries include facial lacerations, broken bones in the face, and hand fractures. The risk of hand injuries is higher due to the exposed finger bones, and eye injuries can also occur more frequently, as there is a greater risk of damage to the eyes in a bare-knuckle fight.

How do the risks compare between bare-knuckle and traditional boxing?

While bare-knuckle boxing has a higher rate of facial lacerations and hand fractures, findings show that the concussion rate is lower compared to traditional boxing. Some argue that this makes it safer for the brain in the long term, as traditional boxing can cause more long-term brain damage due to continuous impact from punches with gloves.

What safety measures are in place for bare-knuckle boxing?

Bare-knuckle boxing organizations, such as the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC), have implemented safety measures to protect fighters. These measures include pre-fight medical exams, strict weigh-ins, and guidelines on the wrapping of fighters' hands. In addition, ringside physicians are present during competitions to monitor the fighters closely and step in when necessary.

Why was bare-knuckle boxing banned in many countries?

Bare-knuckle boxing was banned in many countries due to the perception of increased risk of serious injuries and the sport's association with violence and illegal activities. However, in recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in the sport, leading to its legalization in some places and the formation of organizations like the BKFC.

Has there been a surge in brain injuries due to bare-knuckle boxing?

No evidence suggests a surge in brain injuries resulting from bare-knuckle boxing. Research has shown that the concussion rate in bare-knuckle boxing is lower than that in traditional boxing. However, this does not rule out the possibility of long-term brain injuries resulting from bare-knuckle boxing, and more research is needed to understand the full impact of the sport on brain health.

What are the differences in rules between BKFC and regular boxing?

Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) differs from regular boxing in several ways. The most obvious difference is the lack of gloves, which exposes the knuckles and fingers during fights. Additionally, the rounds are typically shorter, ranging from two to three minutes. There are also differences in the ring design, with the BKFC using a circular ring instead of a square one. Other rule variations may include a different scoring system and allowances for clinching and certain types of punches.