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Irish American bare-knuckle boxer John L. Sullivan

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Bare-knuckle boxing (also known as bare-knuckle, prizefighting, or fisticuffs) is the original form of boxing, closely related to ancient combat sports. It involves two individuals fighting without any boxing gloves or other form of padding on their hands. The difference between a streetfight and a bare-knuckle boxing match is an accepted set of rules, such as not striking a downed opponent.


The first bare-knuckle champion of England was James Figg, who claimed the title in 1719 and held it until his retirement in 1730. Other noted champions were Jack Broughton, Daniel Mendoza, Jem Belcher, Hen Pearce, John Gully, Tom Cribb, Tom Spring, Jem Ward, James Burke, William "Bendigo" Thompson, Ben Caunt, Tom Sayers and Jem Mace.[1]

The record for the longest bareknuckle fight is listed as 6 hours and 15 minutes for a match between James Kelly and Jonathan Smith, fought near Fiery Creek, Victoria, Australia, on December 3, 1855, when Smith gave in after 17 rounds.[2]

The bare-knuckle fighter Jem Mace is listed as having the longest professional career of any fighter in history.[3] He fought for more than 35 years into his 60s,[4] and recorded his last exhibition bout in 1909 at the age of 79.

On 5 August 2011, the first sanctioned bout in the United States since 1889 took place at Fort McDowell Casino in Arizona between Rich Stewart of New Castle, Delaware and Bobby Gunn, with Gunn emerging as the victor. The last sanctioned fight in 1889 was between John L. Sullivan and Jake Kilrain, with Sullivan emerging as the victor.[5]

Irish Stand DownEdit

"Irish Stand Down" is a term for a type of traditional bare knuckle fighting where the aspect of maneuvering around the ring is removed, leaving only the less nuanced aspects of punching and "taking" punches. This form of combat was popular in Irish American ghettos in the United States in the late 19th century but was eclipsed in the Irish American community first by bare knuckle boxing and then later by regulation boxing.

See alsoEdit


  1. Script error
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  3. Bare Knuckle Records
  4. James B. Roberts, Alexander G. Skutt, The Boxing Register: International Boxing Hall of Fame Official Record Book
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