England

Bare-knuckle boxing staged at O2 Arena for first time

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Media captionBare-knuckle fighters will compete at London's O2

Bare-knuckle boxing will be staged at one of the UK's largest entertainment venues for the first time.

The O2 Arena in London will host 14 ungloved fights this weekend with an audience of over 2,000 attending.

One fighter has claimed the sport is growing in popularity and will become as big as other combat disciplines.

But the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) say it sees "no reason to get involved" in bare-knuckle fights.

Bare-knuckle fighting was was overtaken by the introduction of gloves into the sport in 1892.

Now BKB, who call themselves "the only legal bare-knuckle boxing company in the world", are staging a show at the Indigo arena inside the O2 complex.

Image copyright Hulton Archive
Image caption All boxing used to be bare knuckle until the introduction of gloves in 1892

Promoter Jim Freeman said: "We want to be on the back pages of the newspaper, not in the middle and the front."

Boxer Stanlee 'Big Country' Wilson, from Slough in Berkshire, will be on the bill.

He said: "There's a lot of professional boxing promoters that can't get the O2.

"Within 18 months or two years, it will be as big as MMA [Mixed Martial Arts] or gloved boxing".

Image copyright BKB Official
Image caption Stanlee 'Big Country' Wilson is one of a new generation of bare-knuckle boxers

But questions remain about the safety of the sport.

Robert Smith, from the BBBC, said: "I think we're going back to where we were at the beginning of time.

"The sport has moved on, it is a tough, dangerous sport, we know that".

Those representing bare-knuckle boxing say the sport is just as safe, if not safer than gloved boxing.

"Having lads being beaten for twelve rounds and having their brains drained of water creates the injury," said Mr Freeman.

"We don't have that repetition because lads fight for ten minutes".

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