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Bare-knuckle boxing: an antidote to the modern fight game?

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Jim Freeman and his business partner Joe Brown head up BKB, the only licensed promotional company for bare-knuckle boxing in the world. He spoke to The National Student about why fans are increasingly taking in interest in bare-knuckle fights and the important lessons that gloved boxing can learn from BKB.

“I think in boxing especially, they’re forgetting they’re an entertainment business” Jim tells me, “everyone just talks about how much money you can earn and eventually the public become dis-illusioned”.

Seeming particularly to have Eddie Hearn in mind, as well as Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor’s highly controversial bout, Jim told me “they’re telling you ‘this is about money, this is about money’ but we all still bought it. There’s only so long the public will put up with stuff like that ‘til they get fed up of it.” 

It seems fighters too have enjoyed their experiences on the bare-knuckle circuit. One former UFC fighter, Cody McKenzie said that BKB treated him “better than UFC ever did” and now a notable gloved pro, Terry Carruthers, is ready to step into a bare-knuckle fight in BKB’s Liverpool show.

“We’ve got Terry Carruthers fighting… a lot of people thought that Terry won that fight (with Chris Eubank Junior)” Jim tells me, adding “He got a draw with Liam Smith”.

Carruthers didn’t set the boxing world alight but a draw against elite British fighter, Liam ‘Beefy’ Smith, can’t be sniffed at. He’s also notably been in with Sam Sheedy and Nick Blackwell, and defeated the promising Yorkshire based fighter Navid Mansouri.  

While in some ways Freeman pitches BKB’s brand of bare-knuckle fighting as an antidote to traditional boxing, he is also a big fan of Queensbury rules himself…

“I’m really looking forward to the Triple G Canelo fight… there’s not many fights you think ‘that’s gonna be a real good one’. I think Triple G’s gonna take that.” he tells me. Jim Freeman clearly pines for the real 50-50’s that the fight game sometimes offers and claims that BKB cards offer more of those than a big Sky or BoxNation boxing card.

Sky’s recent JD NextGen show didn’t do much for their record in terms of showing competitive boxing. Whilst there were some great fighters on show most of them were odds on (at 1/200!) to win their bouts, with bookmakers.

Above: BKB's Heavyweight Champion, Michael Terrill, sparred with gloved world title challenger Hughie Fury recently.

Jim sees hope for boxing too, and not only in the shape of the GGG vs. Canelo showdown. “I think that World Series of Boxing will also do boxing some good. Anything that pits the best against the best with no excuses, that’s good for boxing.”

When it comes to Freeman’s Liverpool show, at the Echo Arena on the 9th of September, there are some interesting fights on show and some interesting links back to the gloved sport.

Current pound-for-pound king of BKB, Jimmy Sweeney comes from a boxing background. Jim tells me “he’s had a distinguished career, he beat Andy Lee in the amateurs… and then obviously being an Irish traveller he knows about getting hit bareknuckle because obviously it’s kind of in the culture of Irish travellers.”

Elsewhere on the card heavyweight champion Michael Terrill has been sparring world title challenger, Hughie Fury, in his preparation to fight, as Jim described “a good ex-pro gloved fighter from Wales, tough lad, Hari Miles, he’s been in with Sam Sexton and some other good names. That’s a real fight. I could make a really good argument for both of them so I’m expecting that one to be a good fight.”

In Anthony Yarde’s next fight, watch out for opponent Ryan Ford, who was originally going to feature on the September BKB card against Jimmy Sweeney, before Frank Warren got in touch. The unbeaten Canadian fighter has said he’ll fight bare-knuckle in future.

While many boxing fans don’t register bare-knuckle boxing’s existence or legitimacy, it’s going to get harder and harder to ignore, as BKB plough on with the growth and development of the bare-knuckle game. In an amazing coup BKB have, as Jim tells me, “got Wembley booked for next year”. Watch this space. 

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