Bare Knuckle Boxing - Blood Sport 2 , Bolton.
Bare Knuckle Boxing always conjures up images of bare chested men fighting in empty car parks or your thoughts may go to the films like Snatch & Fight Club.
So when I first heard about a Bare Knuckle Boxing event in Bolton I was curious to see how it worked.I made contact with the promoters and they were happy for me to go down with my camera and document the event.
I wanted to go there with an open mind and try and understand why these men had the need to climb into a ring and fight each other in such a brutal way and what I discovered was not knuckle dragging thugs fighting in an unsafe environment without medics and referees, but a well organised event.
Blood Sport 2 was the name of the night and it was held in an old cotton mill just a few miles away from Bolton Town Centre and the location was a closely guarded secret until a few days before the event.
Wanting to know more about the fighters I arrived 3 hours before the doors opened and managed to have a chat with most of the boxers. There was a wide selection of fighters from the first timers to the well-seasoned journey men and the atmosphere within the changing area was surprisingly relaxed with fighters laughing and joking with each other even though they will soon be in the ring together , both wanting to win.
What I discovered was that these fighters where just normal young men, with normal lives, doing every day jobs and in some cases quite well groomed with good looks. Not all the fighters were local as some had travelled over from Merseyside, Blackpool and Cheshire to compete in this event.
So why do these men want to get into a ring and risk serious injury? And the one recurring answer was the excitement of battle. I was also quite surprised that some fighters were doing it for a Local Charity. But not one of the fighters mentioned that they wanted to hurt or harm their opponent. There was none of this boorish bravado that you see on TV when there is big boxing fight on, instead there was a mutual respect for each other and an almost brotherly love for one another.
Each boxer had their hands bandaged to protect not only their knuckles but to also prevent too much damage to the opposing fighter. As I moved around with my camera asking if I could take some portraits, I was surprised at how relaxed they seemed in front of the camera.
By the time the first fight was about to start the atmosphere in the main room was electric and almost tangible. It wasn’t the blood thirsty baying crowd full of drunk men that I first imagined, but more a night to get dressed up with both men and women in attendance. There was a VIP section at the back with seating and standing areas around the ring, there was even a merchandise stall selling t-shirts and hoodies. You would be mistaken to think that this was a Legal and all above aboard event and when I asked if it was legal I was told “Ask no questions and you will get told no lies”
The first fight was over in the early stages of the first round with a knockout and the winner being a first time fighter. After the fight both boxers embraced and congratulated each other, then afterwards they were both laughing and joking in the changing area and this was repeated after each fight. There were local heroes on the bill and they didn’t disappoint the crowd as they were mobbed for selfies and handshakes after the fight.
Of course there was blood and cuts as there is with most boxing events but with a very efficient medical team most of the fighters were patched up or advised to go up to A&E for further medical treatment. The well being of the fighters was paramount at all times.
What I did discover about Bare Knuckle Fighting is that it’s not about beating your opponent to a pulp its more the excitement of combat, the adrenaline rush of competing in front of a crowd of 500 people and of course local pride.
As the crowd disappeared in to the Bolton rain I was left thinking could Bare Knuckle Boxing ever go main stream, probably not but after tonight’s well organised underground event it’s definitely going in the right direction.
Special Thanks to Everyone Involved.