Bare-Knuckle Boxing — A Safer Combat Sport?


Written by Timothy Lewis (@MrTeeLew) (@Scraptitude)

Time is a flat circle.

With bare-knuckle boxing recapturing national audiences, the public’s appetite for violence is surging; our collective superego looking on questionably behind a one-way mirror.

“Are we so brutish that we seek bone clashing bone, pummeled faces, bareback apes losing themselves in the pulsating throng of battle?” our Freudian sense-of-self asks rhetorically. Because yes, that’s exactly what we want. The more primal the better. Bare knuckle fighting is interwoven with our DNA. Its sanctioning is a celebration of the human spirit. However, while the combat form is of humanity’s rib, there are fair questions about its viability as a household sport.

Concerns of safety are overblown. Similar to football, which was safer with the leather helmet, bare-knuckle boxing forces its competitors to calibrate their style to fit the demands of the fight. When tackling with a leather helmet, a football player is encouraged to use proper form, approaching the opponent with their face-up, wrapping the legs or body with their arms. When tackling with a modern helmet, players feel an additional layer of security, encouraging a more violent and less technical approach to tackling that results in severe brain trauma.

In boxing or other combat arts that incorporate gloves, haymakers can be winged with reckless abandon. Even with padding, the blows transfer tremendous force. Ultimately, the gloves function to protect the hand more than the recipient of a given punch. With the bare-knuckle, a fighter must consider their hand’s structural integrity and in doing so recalibrate their punching power and technique. When thrown with too much force, or at an improper angle, the hand can easily be damaged should it connect with an opponent’s forehead or elbow.

We are in the golden age of combat sports, with talented fighters of every discipline gaining national exposure thanks to modern technology. Bare knuckle boxing is an art form that can serve as a meeting place across combat sports, where competitors earn prestige and settle disputes. It is a scrap through and through, the old way.


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