Proudly and respectfully announced Wednesday, March 23, 2016, at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, by Scott R. Burt, president of the Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame; Belfast, New York.

BOBBY GUNN; USA, Hackensack, New Jersey (71-0, 71 KOs)
Holder of National Police Gazette-Authorized WORLD Championship Belt
Lineal holder of the National Police Gazette’s Bare Knuckle Boxing World Championship Belt first awarded to Jake Kilrain in 1887 before being famously won from him in 1889 by The Great John L. Sullivan. Gunn is the third man in history to own it. It is now under complete control and authority of BKBHOF President Scott R. Burt, the only man in the World authorized to name BKB World Champions and issue belts representing such.

Top 10 Ranked WORLD Heavyweight Contenders:

1. Danny Batchelder; USA, Glens Falls, New York (44-0, 44 KOs)

2. Kevin Ferguson AKA Kimbo Slice; Bahamas, Nassau (31-1, 31 KOs)

3. Shannon Ritch; USA, Coolidge, Arizona (25-2, 25 KOs)

4. Dhafir Harris AKA Dada 5000; USA, Miami, Florida (47-0, 47 KOs)

5. Sharif Kemp; USA, Atlanta, Georgia (36-0, 36 KOs)

6. Dan Biddle; USA, Hockessin, Delaware (19-0, 19 KOs)

7. Anthony Caputo; USA, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania (17-0, 17 KOs)

8. Jamie Hearn; UK, Colnbrook, Berkshire (30-0, 30 KOs)

9. David Whittom; Canada, Quebec City, Quebec (10-0, 10 KOs)

10. Michael Ferry; UK, Newcastle upon Tyne (5-0, 4 KOs)

DANNY BATCHELDER; Glens Falls, New York (44-0, 44 KOs)
Holder of National Police Gazette-Authorized AMERICAN Championship belt
Lineal holder of the National Police Gazette’s Bare Knuckle Boxing American Championship title, last held by The Great John L. Sullivan; he won it by defeating Paddy Ryan in 1882 and was given it by the Gazette. Batchelder is the second man in history to own it. This title is now under the complete control and authority of BKBHOF President Scott R. Burt, the only man in the World authorized to name Champions and issue belts representing such.

Top 10 Ranked AMERICAN Heavyweight Contenders:

1. Shannon Ritch; Coolidge, Arizona (25-2, 25 KOs)

2. Dhafir Harris AKA Dada 5000; Miami, Florida (47-0, 47 KOs)

3. Sharif Kemp; Atlanta, Georgia (36-0, 36 KOs)

4. Dan Biddle; Hockessin, Delaware (19-0, 19 KOs)

5. Anthony Caputo; Kennett Square, Pennsylvania (17-0, 17 KOs)

6. Mark Brown; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (14-2, 14 KOs)

7. Nelson Lopez Jr.; Pahokee, Florida (11-2, 11 KOs)

8. Mike Liberto; Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (8-1, 8 KOs)

9. Ricardo Marquez; Phoenix, Arizona (12-3, 12 KOs)

10. Ruben Albino; Ocean City, Maryland (13-4, 13 KOs)

Lists were derived from extensive research based on witness accounts, quality of opponents, individual fight styles, submitted records, and potential for upward movement.

Scott Burt has been endorsed by the late great historian and publisher of The Ring magazine Bert Randolph Sugar. In February of 2016 Scott was also authorized by the iconic National Police Gazette to be the sole acknowledger of World Bare Knuckle Boxing Champions and sole issuer of belts to represent such. Steven Westlake, the current publisher of the National Police Gazette, stated “The task, honor, and responsibility now belongs solely to Scott Burt, President of the BKB Hall of Fame in Belfast, New York. His unselfish dedication to preserving the sport’s amazing history with class and dignity is impressive.”

From 1880 to 1920, the National Police Gazette was the most important boxing journal in the world. The magazine also sanctioned bouts and issued championship belts before there were official boxing associations. The Gazette through its publisher Richard K. Fox sanctioned the last bare-knuckle boxing championships ever to take place until Bobby Gunn won an approved match vs Richard Stewart in 2011 and then was presented with the current world bare-knuckle-boxing championship belt in 2014 by President Burt of the Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame. In February 2016, the Police Gazette, through its current publisher Steven Westlake, formally recognized Scott Burt and the Hall of Fame as having the sole authority to issue new bare knuckle championship belts.

Closing the Squared Circle: The Return of Sanctioned Bare-Knuckle Boxing

“The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

T.S. Eliot probably was not referring to bare-knuckle boxing when he wrote those words. But we do seem to find ourselves in that situation today.

Back in 1877, Richard K. Fox took over the National Police Gazette and soon began featuring boxing within the Gazette’s pages. This was prize fighting, by the London Prize Ring Rules. There were no gloves, no wraps, no protection of any sort from the waist up. And it was totally illegal in every jurisdiction within the United States.

Prize fighting had always been illegal in the U.S. But it was popular nonetheless, until the first high-profile tragedy occurred in 1842. In a match in Hastings, New York, Christopher Lilly essentially beat Thomas McCoy to death. And the combination of a law-enforcement crackdown and the public’s shock at the incident put a pall over the sport in this country for a generation.

With the passage of time, however, the public’s taste for bare-knuckle boxing began to return, and then two things happened. Those things were Richard K. Fox and John L. Sullivan.

Fox’s story can be found elsewhere in this website. But in a nutshell, he was the P.T. Barnum of publishing. He refined sensational journalism to a degree never before approached, and which is still the template for it to this day. Conflict was king, and shocking, in-your-face depictions of activities society preferred to sweep under the rug was queen. Bare-knuckle boxing fit this recipe to a T.

John L. Sullivan, like Muhammad Ali 80 years later, had phenomenal ring skills combined with an uncanny feel for promotion and public relations. Did Fox and Sullivan really hate each other as is commonly thought? After all, Fox was Irish Protestant and Sullivan Irish Catholic. But Ali and Howard Cosell were much friendlier than they appeared on camera. Was it a coincidence that Sullivan and Fox’s conflict produced the greatest boxing matches of the late 19th century, bringing Sullivan, the Police Gazette, and boxing in general to heights no one could have imagined? Don’t bet on it.

In 1889, Fox backed the latest of his challengers to try to teach Sullivan a lesson. Jake Kilrain lost that fight, and Sullivan solidified his hold on the bare-knuckle boxing championship of the world, winning the Police Gazette championship belt. It would be the last bout to determine that championship for over 120 years.

After more than 10 years of Fox and Sullivan’s efforts, boxing was on the threshold of mainstream acceptance. But there was one catch: it had to be gloved, Marquess of Queensberry Rules. In 1892, Sullivan fought James Corbett for the first gloved championship to be held completely legally in the light of day. From that point on, professional boxing followed the gloved path and the bare-knuckle variety was left to the back alleys and dark corners.

But after more than 100 years of evidence, who are the gloves really protecting? The punch taker or the punch thrower? There are not enough examples yet to do a conclusive scientific comparison, but are brain injuries really less common in the gloved version than the bare knuckle? Or is it reversed? One way to answer the question might be to ask which sport has more brain injuries, rugby or American football? Both similar sports. One with no protection, the other with massive amounts of protection. But again, what is being protected more? The recipient of the blow or the deliverer who is so cushioned he can deliver with maximum force each time without worry of doing damage to himself.

With that—and other factors and influences—in mind, bare-knuckle boxing has been experiencing a renaissance. Yet it picks up right where it left off in 1889: as illegal as the day is long. This in spite of the fact that safety precautions are now abundant, so a repeat of a Thomas McCoy incident is remote. Bouts are no longer governed by the London Prize Ring Rules, which allowed stand-up grappling, throwing, and no time limits. If a fighter was able to walk to the center of the ring without assistance the fight would go on. Fighters like McCoy had to rely on his seconds to know he’d had enough and to stop the fight, whereas impartial referees have that job today.

How, then, can a new bare-knuckle championship belt be given without condoning illegal activity? The first Americans have the answer! On August 5, 2011, the Yavapai Nation just outside Scottsdale, Arizona, sanctioned a bare-knuckle bout between Bobby Gunn and Richard Stewart under the laws of the Nation. Gunn emerged the victor and claimed the bare-knuckle world championship, a claim made more official when Scott R. Burt of the Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame presented Gunn with a championship belt in 2014.

This belt is the first given to a bare-knuckle champion since Richard K. Fox presented his to John L. Sullivan on behalf of the National Police Gazette in 1889. This year, the Police Gazette officially recognizes the authority of Scott Burt’s belt, bringing full circle a sport that has remained in the shadows for 125 years, and giving today’s fans a chance to “know the place for the first time.”

The Police Gazette Heavyweight Champion Belt

Today’s Police Gazette World Champion Belt Presented by the Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame

For more information visit the Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame at Twitter, Facebook, and the Web.