‘Nothing’s Better Than Watching Two Blokes Punch Each Other In The Face’

David MarsdenPage OneDavid Marsden/Page One

Legal bare-knuckle boxing matches have been rapidly growing in popularity in Britain.

The fights are being held in posh hotels, not illegally in car parks, as the controversial sport starts to go mainstream – there’s even a governing body determined to make it the UK’s answer to UFC, The Sun reported.

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Its popularity led to eight sold-out events being held in the UK in 2015, and promoters are confident this will only continue.

Kev Bennett, a former Commonwealth boxing champion, told The Sun it’s all about the ‘excitement’:

I’ve boxed professionally, and then turned to this, and I love it. Gloves are all well and good but, here, you’ve got to pick your shots.

One wrong punch and you’ve broken your hand. There’s no padding or protection, it’s skin on skin, and that’s probably what makes it so exciting for everyone involved.

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One bare-knuckle fan, Jamie Hall from Manchester, told The Sun he thought it was was the ‘future’ of boxing:

Boxing is so commercial and mainstream now, it’s nowhere near as rough and ready as this.

I’d much prefer to come to bare-knuckle fighting now – it’s the working class boxing.

Be honest, there’s not much better than watching two blokes smash each other in the face until one hits the deck.

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It’s not a professional sport yet, but it’s moved pretty far from its roots, and fighters train for months beforehand.

Back in the day bare-knuckle fighting went to the death, with no rules. James Figg was the first UK champion, back in 1719, and he held the title until his death in 1730.

It was never outlawed, but with gloved boxing came rules, and bare-knuckle fights went underground.

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One of the most infamous champions of the sport is Bartley Gorman, the ‘King of the Gypsies’ – he remained the undefeated champion of UK and Ireland, and even fought Muhammad Ali. Some of his fights took place in a mineshaft, the street, and a quarry.

Heavyweight Stevan Miller, 35, recalled his first bout:

Put it this way, I was scared. It was in a social club in Leicester and, it’s fair to say, it was safer inside the ring than it was outside.

I had to wait all night, because I was fighting last, and it was hardcore.

Luckily, it didn’t last very long at all – I knocked him out in 24 seconds. But you do normally get hit back, which I found out quickly.

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The sport has been utilising social media to promote itself, and is showing no signs of slowing down in popularity.