File Under: Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

Glitch Delays Major BKB Event.
Promoter Hopeful for Date in December.

Back when the National Police Gazette was promoting bare-knuckle boxing events, the sport was illegal and Gazette publishers risked arrest for engaging in the activity. Check the “This Date in Police Gazette History” being posted to our Facebook page tomorrow—November 23rd—and you will read a news report about Gazette owner Richard K. Fox and sporting editor William E. Harding being arrested for doing just that.

Today, one organization is working to once again popularize bare-knuckle boxing. Yet it is just as illegal today as it was when Police Gazette employees were being arrested for it in 1884. The difference now is that Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships (BKF), led by Philadelphia-area boxing promoter David Feldman, has the goal of bringing the sport back legally and fully sanctioned. Read our article “Closing the Squared Circle” for some history of the sport and why now is a good time to bring it back, including recent medical evidence that suggests bare-knuckle boxing may actually be safer than gloved boxing.

But clearing the legal hurdles that have been in place in the United States since the country’s birth has been no easy task. BKF has an agreement with a major casino, and legal requirements were far-enough advanced so that it was felt a date could be announced: November 26th. World bare-knuckle champ Bobby Gunn would defend his title against MMA vet Shannon Ritch. Then, about four weeks before the scheduled event, another roadblock emerged. Some of the powers behind the scenes at the casino and in state government raised new concerns. BKF’s Dave Feldman, however, remains confident, saying of all the parties “They want this resolved as much as we do.” He feels a new date sometime in December is likely as “we are 99% done and it should be up and running very soon.”

The hardest obstacle to overcome, Feldman explains, is that BKF proposes to conduct their events as true “bare-knuckle fist fighting,” not only with no gloves but with no wraps or coverings of any kind on the hands. “I can put on events anywhere in America if the fighters are wearing hand wraps that are two inches thick,” Feldman says. But using completely bare hands, like the way John L. Sullivan fought and the Police Gazette promoted back in the 19th century, is the best and safest way to proceed. More evidence emerges every day that gloves, wraps, or any hand protection create a greater risk of serious brain injury to the fighter receiving the blow than do bare fists. But getting state regulatory agencies to see this after 200 years of habit has proven a tough slog.

However, Feldman is sure it’s not a question of “if” but “when,” saying “I didn’t come this far just to get this far.” Stay tuned for updates.

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