Bareknuckle boxing is a precursor to the boxing that we know today. This cousin of ancient combat sports involved regulated competition between two fighters. As the name suggests, they fought without boxing gloves, hand wraps, or padding of any kind.
Bareknuckle boxing fell out of fashion as the Marquess of Queensberry rules introduced the use of boxing gloves to the sport in 1867, but it has recently made a comeback thanks to new promotions in the U.S. and U.K.
While the origins of pugilism date back to Ancient Greece (and, presumably, earlier), what became known as bareknuckle boxing appears to originate in 17th century England, with the recording of a bareknuckle boxing match dating back to a newspaper article in 1681. Organized championship bareknuckle boxing proliferated in England throughout the 1700s and also gained popularity in the U.S., although professional bareknuckle boxing was not legal under any U.S. laws.
Like modern day boxing, bareknuckle boxing primarily involved striking. Historical bareknuckle boxing also included kicks, throws and submissions. Lower body strikes and grappling were eliminated from the sport in the same wave of rules and changes that led to the introduction of boxing gloves.
Bareknuckle Boxing Today
A new form of bareknuckle boxing called “Modern Bareknuckle Combat” is currently contested in organizations including the World Bareknuckle Boxing Association, Bare Knuckle Boxing based in the U.K., and the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship, the first organization to hold a regulated bareknuckle boxing event in the United States since 1889.