It is something out of a movie set in the 1800s, the rawest form of human fighting. Guys like Daniel Mendoza or Jem Mace started the whole combat sports business and now, in 2013, we have the closest possible thing to bare knuckle boxing returning to pay-per-view, courtesy of the BKB Bare Knuckle Boxing promotion and DirecTV.

The thought of bare knuckle boxing is a hard one to grasp considering today’s age of regulation in sports, namely combat sports. The fighters perform in a “pit” reminicent of the rink in the 1975 film Rollerball, minus the guys riding motorcycles and all the traps designed to kill James Caan’s character.

However, BKB isn’t exactly returning all the way back to the old days when guys fought without gloves and brutalized each other. The fighters will wear gloves, but the knuckles will not be covered by the glove.

BKB isn’t trying to steal a page from MMA, nor is it trying to be like MMA to succeed. There is no grappling, there are no knees and kicks. The only real similarity is the glove. That is it.

They aren’t even trying to be like boxing, instead utilizing two-minute rounds and awarding no points on the judges’ cards for defense. It’s either fight or lose for these fighters. Honestly, this makes me wonder why Nick Diaz hasn’t made a move to BKB.

BKB, in fact, is most likely trying to deliver the rawest form of human fighting possible to make a quick buck via something no one has supposedly seen in a hundred years. Despite the fact that there are other bare knuckle organizations out there, when was the last time any of us have actually seen a bare knuckle boxing bout on television?

Oddly enough, it isn’t even really bare knuckle boxing, it’s more like open-knuckle boxing. In order to call it bare knuckle, the guys would have to ditch the gloves altogether.

Most of the guys fighting on the card have few fights on their boxing records. Look at the main event, for example. Eric Fowler and Carl McNickles, the headliners of BKB 1, combined for a total record of 8-5. This isn’t exactly Pacquiao vs. Mayweather. In boxing, that wouldn’t pull in big money for the fighters or the promotion. If this was a standard boxing match, the fighters would be lucky to grace the undercard of a much bigger fight card.

The first time I saw the commercials for this event, I was with a couple of friends, both of whom are boxers. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. I mean, who could possibly sanction this in the United States? It had to be taking place somewhere overseas, right? But low and behold, it took place in New Hampshire.

The sport is just another passing Frankenstein fad that somebody decided to profit from and bring to the masses. Remember taser MMA? Legitimate MMA fights with tasers (no joke). There have been others too—YAMMA, with it’s ill-conceived fighting surface, and XARM, an attempt to meld MMA with arm wrestling. Much like those oddities, I can’t see BKB rising above the level of a joke.

People will watch it, for better or for worse. People like a good fight. When you take away more rules and allow more things to happen, people tend to tune in. The guys who fight on these cards will continue to be the guys who have trouble making headway in professional boxing. They still need a paycheck, though, and I totally understand why a fighter would sign on the dotted line to compete in something like this.

However, the level of boxing from these guys isn’t high, you won’t recognize a lot of names on the card and you will undoubtedly never see a top boxer—or even a mid-tier boxer—on these cards. That won’t help the sport and it won’t ever be considered anything more than an eye-catching display with a built-in shock factor.

There is no middle ground for this sport. Either you love it or you hate it. Scanning the internet, the comments range from “Meh, I’ll watch it” to “This is completely stupid.” But let’s not take the Internet’s word, let’s hear what someone from inside the boxing community has to say.

“Certainly I don’t speak for the entire boxing community, but my thoughts on it are that I’m not surprised that things have gone in this direction,” says Kurt Emhoff, a boxing manager, writer and attorney specializing in sports and entertainment. “I’ve always felt it was a huge contradiction for state athletic commissions to have and enforce different rules for the weights of gloves for boxers (generally eight-ounce gloves up to the 147-pound welterweight class and 10-ounce gloves being worn in fights over 147 pounds) and MMA fighters (generally four- to six-ounce gloves).”

We’ll only know if the Internet is right in the coming days. The first card aired on July 27 and was filmed a month earlier.

With MMA trying so hard to push towards mainstream acceptance, this couldn’t come at a worse time. It not only makes boxing look bad, but does the same for MMA. The airing of BKB commercials has come during Sportscenter and other major programs on DirecTV and has been posted numerous times on DirecTV’s Facebook page. So chances are if you have DirecTV, you’ve probably seen a commercial for this. On top of that, DirecTV has even aired a mini-show about the emergence of the BKB promotion, which certainly adds to the mainstream consciousness of this new division in combat sports.

There may be no grappling, but the small, six-ounce gloves could remind people of the earliest days of the UFC. That in and of itself is a scary thought to ponder.

Remember back in the day when two guys fought inside a cage with their bare knuckles and with absolutely no rules governing the action? It’s easy to make the comparison from BKB to UFC 1, even though it may not be entirely accurate. I’m surprised Senator John McCain hasn’t jumped on the bandwagon to call BKB “human cockfighting” yet.

In addition to the open-knuckle gloves, one has to wonder whether or not handwraps are used for the fighters. We were unable to confirm the use of handwraps as of the time of this article’s writing, but with the knuckles bare, any handwraps would be minimal at best. The chances of breaking the hand increase in this scenario and therefore could cause fighters to throw fewer bombs.

“My understanding of the advent of gloves in boxing in the 19th century was to mitigate the violence of the sport as well as to protect the boxers’ hands from injury,” says Emhoff. “I think what we’re learning from the limited science on head trauma is that a blow to the head is dangerous whether it’s delivered by a gloved hand, an ungloved hand, a football helmet or even a soccer ball. Obviously, without a glove or handwraps, there is less protection for the hand and probably more hand injuries. Maybe this will result in less blows being thrown and less head trauma, I don’t know.”

The only good thing that could possibly come from the BKB promotion is the fact that judges’ scorecards are revealed after each round, which, in all honesty, is a good idea for any combat sport. Have to look on the bright side, right?

We all complain about the judges’ scorecards. Well, what better way to know how a fight is going and whether or not a fighter has to go for broke? Letting us in on what the judges think would certainly help viewer experience and could help create better fights by building a sense of urgency in fighters who know they must finish their opponent in order to win the fight.

Still, it’s absurd that the producers of this effort believe that because we’re fight fans we’ll watch this. Despite the bare knuckles, there really isn’t any significant drawing factor to attract fans to this sport as an alternative to boxing or MMA. Furthermore, to divide combat sports into yet another division is ludicrous.

“For me as a fan, there really isn’t any visceral thrill added by having the gloves taken off,” Emhoff said. “Boxing is boxing—whether it’s bare knuckle, 10-ounce gloves or 16-ounce gloves. It just seems like a gimmick to try to create yet another fighting category for fans to form an allegiance to.”

And to that, I totally agree with Mr. Emhoff. I may be 21 years old, but I don’t have that small of an attention span and I certainly don’t see taking off the gloves, wearing these open-knuckled gloves or fighting in a pit as an incentive to watch. There is no added thrill. It’s asinine to think that something as little as that would make me want to tune in and pay $20.

Add in the fact that they’re airing this the same night as a free Fox card from the UFC that includes a title fight and a great co-main event, and why on Earth would people feel tempted to pay for this? The only way BKB could have done worse was to put it up against a Mayweather card. It’s just really poor planning.

I love boxing and I love MMA, but this is just a little too far. It’s a Frankenstein sport trying to take the best from boxing and mix it with MMA. After all the debate between boxing and MMA communities to prove which sport is better, here we can be united in thinking that whether or not you take gloves off the fighters, it doesn’t make us want to watch more. It’s a gimmick and that is all it will ever be.

Photo: BKB (Facebook)

About The Author

Sal DeRose
Staff Writer

Sal hails from New Jersey and is currently training for his first MMA fight. He hopes to use his knowledge and insight to generate articles that interest and entertain you. Outside of MMA, Sal is a big fan of every other sport. He's a diehard New York sports fan, with the exception of cheering for the Packers.

  • James Griego

    I though it would be interesting, but was disappointed in the announcing and officiating. One fight in particular, the ref mussed an obvious low blow, that rabbit punches that the announcers pointed out easily enough live and on replay, but both the ref and the announcers made fun of the person getting hit.
    The ref was all over the guy that got hit with the low blow, and the rabbit punches for holding, but never enforced the rules for him.
    It definitely turned the fight as he was hit while trying to recover from the low blow. The poor guy definitely felt he was fighting his opponent and the ref.
    Maybe the announcers and refs will get better, as I still like the idea behind this style of fighting, but then I prefer the original UFC over the modern style, though I am still a UFC fan!

  • What I especially liked about the promo show played on Direct TV’s Audience channel is that it focused a lot of the fighters. Obviously, they had to since nobody knew who they were, but yet, I actually gave an ounce of shi*t once I knew who these guys were and what they were about. I didn’t care so much about the tiny hole in their glove exposing their knuckles. It seemed kinda stupid at first, but I get what they’re trying to do. Yes, it should be called “Exposed Knuckle Fighting” but that doesn’t sound as good.The actual fights were slightly entertaining yet short. Considering people’s attention spans, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. The debut date going against Fox’s free UFC event was a bad idea, but again, there was a reason for this. They wanted to see if people’s interest in this new “sport” would beat out their interest in an established product. I doubt it did, but the numbers will tell them something. This might work out for them.

  • Orlondo Valles

    UFC Sucks! The most interesting part is when their on their feet BOXING!

  • Chalo

    I have to respectfully disagree with the writer of this article . The first time I seen BKB was about a month or two ago. I was drawn to the unconventional “no ring” style and all out brawl these fighters bring to the sport . As a boxing fan it’s nice to witness a last man standing type of ordeal, after all that’s why we pay to watch a fight, not a track meet . I agree I didn’t know who any of these guys were, but they sure got my attention after the bell rung . Another thing I tip my hat to these fighters for putting their heads and bodies at risk . Who cares if it’s a gimmick or not these fighters are fun to watch and with that said I’ll be watching until the last man is standing .

  • Marc Torres

    im a bare knuckle boxer i fought in manchester new hampshire

    I was the first guy to kick off the night on directtv

    the sport is fun and i love to fight so i think it will do good as long as they keep getting us to fight u will never NOT be entertained

  • chuck

    This fantastic upgrade in Boxing. No more running. No more Pillow Gloves. Quit whinning and try competing in BKB.

  • eric

    Carl mcnickles was 8 -4 i was 5-6 get it right