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Could Bareknuckle Boxing Make a Comeback in 2011?

New Jersey Boxer Bobby Gunn hopes to help the throwback sport of bare-knuckle boxing make a comeback on August 5, 2011 in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Canadian-born Gunn will carry a 21-4 (18 KOs) boxing record into a bare-knuckle boxing match with MMA Fighter and Boxer Chris Thompson as part of a Bad Boy Fights card that also includes traditional boxing and MMA.

Thompson, nicknamed "The Butcher," boasts a 15-5 boxing record of his own along with a 12-4 MMA record. The fight will be composed of 90-second rounds with fighters able to wrap their lower hands and wrists only. London Prize Ring rules will apply.

Gunn's Irish heritage led him to adopt "The Celtic Warrior" as his boxing stage name early in his career, and he obviously holds former Bareknuckle Champion John L. Sullivan in high regard. According to the promoters of Friday's event, this upcoming match will be the first organized bareknuckle boxing fight in the United States since 1889 when John Sullivan defeated Jake Kilrain after a 75 round marathon fight to be declared the champion.

Gunn claims to have over 60 bareknuckle boxing matches under his belt already, even challenging Kimbo Slice at one point. The Kimbo fight never materialized, and this Friday's fight comes after a long layoff from boxing. 

Gunn's last fight in the squared circle was against Tomasz Adamek in July of 2009. He lost when the doctor and referee decided he could not come out for the fifth round. Adamek was the best competition Gunn faced throughout his entire boxing career. also indicates Gunn will fight for the vacant IBU Cruiserweight Title on September 10th this year in Atlanta, Georgia.

He picked a unique way to warm up for that fight in deciding to take an organized street fight with a formidable opponent. Still, Gunn defends the sport he loves and points out that it's safer than critics might imagine. 

“Many people hear the term bareknuckle boxing and immediately think of a vicious street fight or back alley brawl,” said Gunn. “This is a fight between two professionals with referees and doctors ringside. In boxing a fighter can take a lot of punishment over the course of the fight, and even MMA fighters can take a rough beating before the fight is called. Since we don’t wear gloves, I pick my shots and use a different approach than I did when I fought with boxing gloves. It’s not about getting in there and wailing on your opponent until he can’t stand; it’s about fighting a strategic match to win.”

Mixed Martial Arts rules in the early days of that sport allowed fighters to go without any gloves, but headbutting and other now-forbidden moves were also permitted in some of those matches. Bareknuckle boxing brings a completely different dynamic to organized fighting competition. Fighters will have to use a unique strategy to prevent injuries to their hands, and that should mean more body shots will be thrown than are typical of a traditional boxing match. Gunn is convinced this exhibition will put the old sport back on the map again and lead to more organized bareknuckle matches in the future. 

“I want to make this sport cleaner, and show people that it’s not as ferocious as they think. We are going to show people that it’s not barbaric, and that’s the truth," said Gunn. "The public enjoys watching fights because they want to see two professionals who know what they’re doing stand there and throw hands. I believe that following this first match the sport is going to take off and become huge.”


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