A week ago, I saw my Facebook news feed filled with posts about this boxing match I didn’t hear about. Roy Jones Jr., who is pushing 50, fought someone I’ve heard of in recent times—Bobby Gunn. He has been running around as the “sanctioned” modern-day bare-knuckle boxing champion with a supposedly flawless record. As always, I raised a proverbial eyebrow at this since “bare-knuckle boxing” has been tossed around as a tough guy thing since forever.
The fact that an aging Roy Jones Jr. did to this guy what Vasyl Lomachenko did to Nicholas Walters a few months ago didn’t help matters either. But despite the dubiousness of characters like Bobby Gunn, I’ve always had a fascination with what I like to call “dumpster fires.” Cue the 90s montages of Tank Abbott and Kimo Leopoldo with stories of bar brawls, parking lot skirmishes, backyard scuffles, and prison fights.
Maybe in the future, I’ll also write about stuff like 52 Blocks, street karate, and what not. I still don’t know if I should think of them with half-minded reverence or complete nonchalance since I’ve never been in the shoes of those who are unironically into this stuff, but I would like to talk a bit about what I’ve seen over the years that has even a whiff “Bum Fights” and “underground pit fighting” about them—a guilty pleasure that still pops up for me every now and then.
(Aside from movies featuring 1999-2000 era Brad Pitt.)
Roy Jones Jr. vs. Bobby Gunn
Basically, the former pound-for-pound great ran circles and took potshots at this guy for a number of rounds before he retired from the match. Mind you, it was neither bareknuckle nor in a barn, so perhaps you can say Mr. Gunn wasn’t in his element against the recently-inducted Russian citizen.
Being 73-0 in “official” bare-knuckle boxing may be argued as nothing to scoff at, but maybe there’s also a reason why the Marquees of Queensbury decided to butt in when he did well over a century ago.
“Modern” Bare-knuckle Boxing
Sanctioned bare-knuckle boxing is a recent thing, regulated by the World Bareknuckle Boxing Association (WBBA), which is not recognized anywhere outside the US. Understandably, this wouldn’t really be done anywhere outside the US (except the British Isles and maybe the Southeast Asian mainland).
Most of “real” bare-knuckle boxing you might have encountered online are tales of the good ol’ days when John L. Sullivan and Gentleman Jim Corbett were kings. Due to the skewed public perception of violence, exacerbated by shit like Hollywood movies and most people’s preconceived notions about fist-fighting, bare-knuckle boxing will most likely never come back to prominence, despite its extensive history.
In a way, if it ain’t gloved, it ain’t loved.
You can search Bobby Gunn’s fights on YouTube and see a few commonalities such as the setting, the hands either bare or covered in tape or bandages to prevent scuffs (which still counts as “bare-knuckle”), and so on. In a way, he’s the most legit of all the dumpster fires in the world right now.
This is in no way me trying to disparage bare-knuckle boxing since there’s an art to fighting without gloves on that most people have forgotten at this point. However, while it still resides in this “bottom of the barrel” category in the public’s eyes, then it’s still technically a dumpster fire.
Let’s descend to the bottom of the barrel right now and talk about days of yore when DVDs like Bumfights were hot. I’ve always found video footage of people from all walks of life in different culture get physically aggressive at each other. There’s always place in my heart for professional fisticuffs, but I’ve always been curious with how ordinary people fight.
Perhaps it’s because I’m not experienced in actual fighting myself; I grew up quite sheltered. The most I’ve had are minor scuffles and some sparring in the gym. I know my brain can’t take impact; I immediately worry about my capacity to write and form thoughts right at the first hit.
Anyway, Bumfights is basically a bunch of dickwads paying homeless bums to beat the shit out of each other and themselves back in the early 2000’s. It’s perhaps what popularized the phenomenon of posting videos of people beating the shit out of each other with varying degrees of effectiveness on the Internet. Maybe without it, there wouldn’t be World Star Hip-Hop.
Other than that, the most I can remember from Bum Fights is a hobo smoking crack on camera. That’s as much of a dumpster fire as most people can take. Also, that homeless guy (The Stunt Bum) who became the poster guy for the series would later get out of homelessness and become a property manager.
Documentaries About Unsanctioned Fighting
Three films immediately spring up to my mind, two of them made by the same producer. First is Knuckle, which is about James Quinn-McDonagh and a look at Irish Travelers and their predilection for fisticuffs to settle disputes.
The second one is Dawg Fights, featuring the scene from where Kimbo Slice came from. With him being thrust into the limelight, plenty of others want to follow suit. One of them is Dhafir “Dada 5000” Harris, who supposedly had two heart attacks during his fight against Kimbo Slice years after the events of the film.
The thing with unsanctioned amateur fighting is that while you’d expect it to be a dark and dirty world full of cutthroat thugs who can take you out without batting an eye, the reality is a lot more subdued and kind of disappointing. It’s a lot of posturing and shouting at each other’s faces, and there may be a fight that breaks out every now and then with lots of sloppy punching and falling all over each other after gas tanks empty prematurely.
Not everyone is Lenny McLean. Unlike most of them, the Guv’nor was definitely a tough guy who didn’t mess around and had a reputation for actually being good at what he did. Just look up his fight against Roy Shaw and maybe that’ll give you your fix.
That leads me to the third film. It’s not exactly about underground fighting, but has a good sprinkling of it. Produced by Vice Media (known for being edgy and sensationalist), I remember this having a lot of stuff about how “hard men” start off in the boxing gym to “hone their craft.” Not exactly a dumpster fire, but shit like that start off from aspirations like this.
Rest in peace, Kevin Ferguson. He started out as a bodyguard to pornstars and punching people in backyards, then got famous through YouTube and eventually got an MMA and boxing career out of it until he suddenly died at 42. That’s quite a life, and I have to show some respect to how he was able to climb up while being stuck in the hellhole that is Florida.
What made him better than the usual wankster who swung for the fences and never hit anything was that he could actually box, having been a Golden Gloves champion. But by the time he got into MMA, his knees were shot and he was too old of a dog to learn new tricks, the latter being the reason why he had a falling out with his first MMA coach Bas Rutten after the Seth Petruzelli fight.
BET had its own Ultimate Fighter show for a single season called “Iron Ring” back in 2008. The narrator sounded like he had a speech impediment, the fighters looked like they were either on welfare or in gangs, and the teams were led by hip-hop stars like Ludacris and Nelly, as well as Floyd Mayweather Jr.
When the most famous and senior MMA fighter in the show is Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett (who served as the coach for Mayweather’s team), you know it was going to smell a bit like melted rubber. I remember seeing the finale, and Nelly’s team took it. They were introduced on the first episode with their coach, who was basically a kung fu teacher, and they went absent to train for the finale. They went on to wipe the floor with everyone.
I no longer remember why 2008-era Sonny Go found it entertaining. Then again, he found shows like Human Weapon and Fight Quest entertaining as well and thought Deadliest Warrior was factual.
All I can find of this dumpster fire is this old Bloody Elbow post on it. It’s best kept that way, I guess.
More Rubbish Infernos
It doesn’t take much to find dumpster fires these days. All you have to do is to like the right Facebook pages and they’ll show up every now and then on your news feed. I tend to download them and keep them archived for “research reasons.” It’s a good way to learn how most people behave when faced with situations resembling a fight (or an impending murder).
Other than that, they’re just all over Reddit and YouTube. There are also some websites that feature dumpster fires, such as World Star Hip-Hop (don’t know if they still have that stuff). There may be torrents of old compilations as well, much like old porn and sex scandals.
I’m not exactly sure how I got to this point from Roy Jones Jr. fighting some dude past his prime, but there we go. That’s the kind of prime content you can expect from this blog.
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