Bare Knuckle

Jul 24, 2023 | Sports, Videos

Bare knuckle boxing, or BKB, is a centuries-old cultural institution in the United Kingdom. While it may conjure images of mannered gentlemen sipping tea, this sport has a much more complex and often brutal reputation. But behind the scenes lies an intriguing subculture that is explored in the documentary “B-BAD: British Bare Knuckle Boxing”. This feature takes an inside look into the lives and motivations of some of its most venerable fighters and promoters while asking questions about violence, masculinity, and respectability.

At the center of the film is Andy Topliffe, a fighter-turned-promoter who has been organizing bare knuckle fights for over 20 years. He talks about his efforts to legitimize BKB through organized matches that are kept relatively clean – encouraging knockouts but prohibiting dirty moves or gambling. His passion for the sport has kept him involved even as he’s watched it become increasingly popular with youth culture over time.

We also meet James “Gypsy Boy” McCrory, a self-described “softie” who is preparing for his first US/UK BKB match since the 1800s – against American competitor Jason Young. Through interviews with James we learn about how many of these fighters have violent pasts and use BKB as a way to channel their energy into something manageable and meaningful. We also meet Seth Jones – a 46 year-old solicitor who gave up drug slinging to study law while remaining an active fighter in his spare time. Lastly we hear from James “Mr Happy” Lambert – an undefeated champion who is adamant against hitting anything at all, not even a punching bag which he uses as reminder of his past.

This documentary serves as exploration into the complex relationships between violence and respectability among British bare knuckle boxers while allowing us to get to know some of its characters on a personal level. It invites viewers to consider whether the controlled nature of this extreme form of machismo lends legitimacy to it or simply perpetuates it further. For those looking for an authentic glimpse into UK fight culture there’s no better introduction than this inspiring documentary – so don’t miss your chance to check it out!

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David B