Naked knuckle boxing makes me really feel like a warrior


My nostril has been damaged twice. I’ve additionally cracked my enamel and ribs, damaged my arms, fingers and thumb and obtained black eyes, cuts and bruises. However trying within the mirror after a combat, all I really feel is a way of satisfaction. 

I’ve been round boxing gyms because the age of 14. On chilly, darkish nights – lengthy earlier than the times of telephones and iPads – it was a enjoyable approach to spend the evenings rising up. I wasn’t capable of prepare that a lot in my early twenties although, due to work and having a toddler.

Then, at 28, I suffered a nervous breakdown and developed an consuming dysfunction. I made a decision to return to the boxing health club extra regularly, as I felt it helped me greater than any physician ever might. I ended up having just a few gloved fights and managed a few wins in unlicensed boxing.

Coaching gave me a buzz and being with a gaggle of lads was an actual carry. We’d talk about final night time’s or week’s sparring and any enhancements we might make. For me, it was good. 

Bare knuckle boxing

I wished to combat naked knuckle because it appeared like the final word take a look at of braveness (Image: Oli Scarff / AFP)

I’ve tried many sorts of boxing, then in 2012 I accepted a proposal to combat naked knuckle at Appleby Horse Honest – again then it was nothing just like the skilled naked knuckle boxing that we see today.

A gang of about 20 males made up a hoop as they stood prepared to observe. There have been no set rounds, however the guidelines have been: if a person goes down, you wait till he will get up; no biting, kicking or eye gouging; the combat solely ends with both a knockout or a submission. 

Skilled naked knuckle boxing matches adhere to the Marquis of Queensbury guidelines – the identical because the board of management for skilled boxing, besides we don’t put on gloves, after all, and there’s a better rely – 20 seconds – when a boxer is knocked down throughout a combat. 

My naked knuckle combat at Appleby Horse Honest lasted about 5 minutes, which felt like a lifetime. I submitted with a damaged nostril and ribs. There was no ache on the time because of the adrenaline, but it surely comes thick and quick the subsequent day.

After that match I by no means actually thought of combating once more. Then, a few years in the past, I watched a documentary about Final Naked Knuckle Boxing (UBKB) starring Shaun and Amanda Smith and I used to be hooked.

I actually wished to do it as a result of, to me, combating with no gloves looks as if the final word take a look at of a person’s bottle. I discovered myself looking out on-line for UBKB, watching fights on YouTube and getting in contact with organisers to ask how I might become involved, finally signing a contract with UBKB, understanding I’d have to suit it round my day job as a upkeep supervisor..

Gavin Stafford after a bare knuckle boxing match

Combating naked knuckle makes me really feel like a warrior (Image: Oli Scarff / AFP)

In February, on the age of 41, I had my first combat

The adrenaline and pleasure that flooded my physique within the weeks main as much as the combat was laborious to explain. The morning of the combat I needed to depart my dwelling in Cumbria early to journey all the way down to Manchester for a medical, medication take a look at and to be weighed.

Because the night approached, I felt just a few nerves however no concern. The dressing room was pumping with adrenaline and testosterone, together with 20 or so males who all had survival intuition inside them able to go to battle, solely nobody had any troops to go together with them. 

After stepping by way of the ropes you’re by yourself with one other man in entrance of you wanting the identical factor as you: to win a combat. There are not any sponges tied to arms, so you realize that getting hit goes to harm, and that’s laborious to organize for mentally.

There are three rounds, every lasting for 2 minutes. The primary one was a bit tense because it was each our debuts for UBKB so we tried to weigh one another up with loads of jabs. Then, about 30 seconds earlier than the bell a proper punch struck my face. He’d damaged my nostril and with a fast wipe utilizing my hand wrap I might see there was a lot of blood. 

The second spherical was extra fluent with good clear pictures exchanged, however about midway by way of I used to be hit once more and it felt like his full fist had gone into my eyeball. I might see three of him, not horizontally however vertically, he appeared 5ft tall and 8ft tall all on the similar time, however I needed to preserve going. I couldn’t stop. 

The aftermath of bare knuckle boxing

I’m being checked by a medic after my combat at Bowlers Exhibition Centre in Manchester (Image: Oli Scarff / AFP)

Within the ultimate spherical extra fierce punches have been exchanged to one another’s heads and our bodies. We have been each exhausted, however nonetheless combating till the ultimate bell went. 

Then there have been hugs all spherical and big respect after what we’d been by way of. At this stage the end result didn’t appear that vital, I wished this and I’d seen it by way of.

Though I misplaced the combat on factors I nonetheless felt like a warrior – and positively appeared like one. 

I’m trying ahead to combating once more as soon as lockdown is over. 

The age span for fighters appears to vary from males of their 20s to late 40s. I’ve hopes for future fights and began coaching once more 10 days after my final bout. 

There’s a lot of misconceptions about naked knuckle combating as we’ve all seen the movies like Snatch and Digs for Pennies. A lot of individuals assume that it’s all about travellers settling scores and household feuds or meatheads combating down again streets. However now it’s a extremely widespread, professionally-controlled sport. Each present UBKB maintain is a promote out and tickets are purchased weeks and months earlier than the occasion.

Though I’m unaware of any critical accidents suffered within the sport, it does cross your thoughts as it could in every other contact sport that one thing might occur. Once I have a look at the picture taken after my first official combat, I don’t really feel any woe or remorse. And it actually doesn’t put me off going by way of it once more.



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My Life By way of a Lens is a brand new and thrilling collection on Metro.co.uk that appears at one unbelievable picture, and shares the story that lies behind it. If in case you have an expertise you wish to share, please electronic mail claie.wilson@metro.co.uk with MLTAL as the topic.

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