Stewart (left) and Gunn both say they will be letting the hands fly in Arizona. The scrap will be overseen by the Yavapai Nation, an Indian tribe, not the Arizona commission, which didn't agree to sanction the bareknuckle fight.
I'm curious, any of you folks going to log on to UStream.TV tonight to check out the first legal bareknuckle prizefight since John L. Sullivan beat Jake Kilrain after 75 rounds, back in 1889?
Canadian-born New Jerseyite Bobby Gunn will fight Rich Stewart in Arizona, on an Indian reservation. The co-promoter is David Feldman, and he told me he's been trying to get bareknuckle boxing, which he think could appeal to fight fans looking for less science, and more slugging, in front of the public for a few years. He's hoping to draw around 2,000 fans tonight, for a card that will be held out of door. Feldman, working with Len Hayko, said several states will look hard at this event, and see how it goes, and they might sign off if it goes smoothly. he's really palying up the safety angle, and says he won't have a barbaric event.
I spoke to Gunn yesterday. He arrived in Arizona in the afternoon, and was chuckling because it was so darned hot. “It's like a blow dryer,” said the genial hitter.
Gunn told me this ain't his first rodeo, that he's actually fought about 70 bareknuckle fights, with the first one coming way back when he was 13 years old. He said the talent that he's come up against is mightily impressive and says that the next great American heavyweight isn't in the NFL, it's on the underground circuit. “I believe that following this first match the sport is going to take off and become huge.” He too plays up the safety angle. “Not only is the bareknuckle match an organized event with ring doctors, it is a fight between two professionals,” he said. “This isn’t a back alley bum fight or bar fight. Safety is a big issue, and they have it covered.”
“Many people hear the term bareknuckle boxing and immediately think of a vicious street fight or back alley brawl,” said Gunn. “This is a fight between two professionals with referees and doctor’s ringside.”
Stewart told me he's looking forward to going mano a mano, and foresees a slugfest, a toe to toe tussle, center ring.
This bout won't be held under the same rules John L fought under. Rounds back then were not capped; a round ended basically when a man went down. So a round could go for 15 minutes. Sullivan and Kilrain fought for over two hours, under a scorching sun. Gunn-Stewart is set for ten rounds or less, each round being 1:30. The headline bout will probably start at around midnight.
Here is a lengthier piece I wrote for ESPN.com http://espn.go.com/boxing/story/_/id/6835788/bringing-back-bygone-bareknuckle-era-boxing
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