If this shit comes back, it would be awesome.
Gunn gears up for bare-knuckle brawl
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 3, 2011
BY STEVE JANOSKI
When one hears the phrase "bare-knuckle boxing," it might bring to mind the antique photos of the legendary John L. Sullivan, standing bare-chested with his fists held high in front of his enormous handlebar mustache.
Rightly so, of course; Sullivan was the last of the bare-knuckle champions, and there has not been a sanctioned bare-knuckle bout since the "Boston Strong Boy" defeated Jake Kilrain in a 75-round marathon in 1889. While there have been plenty of other bare-knuckle matches, they've all occurred in a shady underworld that's far removed from professional boxing's flashing lights.
One man, however, is trying to bring this manly art back above ground after a century-long decline, and on Friday, Aug. 5, he'll be stepping through the ropes in Scottsdale, Ariz., to fight under the old London Prize Ring Rules in the first public bare-knuckle bout in 122 years.
Bobby "The Celtic Warrior" Gunn, 37, has been fighting since the age of 6, and as a seven-time cruiserweight champion with a pro record of 21-4-1, he's already proven himself time and again in the squared circle.
Although originally from Canada, he now lives in Rochelle Park, and shoots back and forth between the Ringside Gym and the Rocky Marciano Gym, both in Jersey City, to work with his trainer, Dominick Scibetta in preparation for the 10 round bout.
In order to keep his hands from breaking during the 90-second rounds, Gunn has been using old-school fist-hardening methods such as punching the heavy bag without wraps and plunging his hands into a bucket of rice and grasping the kernels to strengthen his grip.
He works with 30 pound medicine balls, throwing them as far as he can to develop explosiveness, and takes a sledgehammer to a tire to increase his endurance; he will not, unfortunately, be growing out the handlebar mustache.
In a way, he said, fighting without gloves makes the sport more safe â?? less head shots, less overall punishment, and (in his experience) less critical injuries.
"Guys get bloody lips, bloody noses, but I've never seen a fighter collapse and never be the same again on the bare-knuckle circuit," he said. "Everybody I've seen has walked away."
"Bare-knuckle boxing is more of an art; you don't want to get hit, believe me," he said. "You wrap my hands and put that 10-ounce glove on me, I feel like I can punch a door off the hinges, but barehanded, I've got to pick my shots."
His motivation to bring back bare-knuckle boxing stems from his harsh experiences with pro boxing's business end, which has left him jaded after a long career.
"There's so much garbage in boxingâ?¦I've been involved in fights that put a bad taste in my mouth," he said.
Some ask why he wouldn't just go to Mixed Martial Arts, which uses both smaller gloves and a smaller rulebook.
"I think it's a great sportâ?¦but I believe that the fans are more excited when fighters are standing and trading (rather than grappling)," he said.
Although he was understandably reserved about stating when and where the matches took place, Gunn said that he has already participated in over 60 bare-knuckle fights in the underground circuit, and made a point to say that the events were well organized and used referees.
"These are no barroom brawls," he said.
His opponent on Friday will be Chris "The Butcher" Thompson, who Gunn said is a sort of folk hero in the South African bare-knuckle circuit.
If all goes well, he believes that bare-knuckle boxing could turn into a "sport to be reckoned with," and maybe even draw some fighters from the MMA world in.
"They'll want to test themselves; this is a real manly sport right here," he said. "(MMA fighter) Chuck Liddell said he could fight any striker in the world, well by golly my pal, you want to do it the door's open."
"Even the guys that tell you they wouldn't watch it because it's barbaric, well, when their doors are closed, you can bet they're putting on the Pay Per View," said Gunn. "This is going to attract the world."
He profusely thanked his team, made up of Dave Feldman, George Kokkalenios, Alvin Roth, and Kyle White, and said that the fight will be available through the website UStream.tv.
Those who tune in will be watching a piece of history.