The disunified rules of Mixed Martial Arts have nothing on Bare Knuckle Boxing.
BKB is illegal in most jurisdictions but is slowly enjoying regulation in more States with a variety of unique paths to legality.
Wyoming was the first State to sanction the sport. They did so on the basis that it is a variant of Mixed Martial Arts.
Next came Mississippi. They did so under the authority that lets them waive other rules (such as a rule requiring boxers to wear gloves).
The latest State to enter the fray of BKB is Florida. As recently as 2016 the Florida State Boxing Commission advised in no uncertain terms that BKB is illegal in the State with the authority noting that “Bare-knuckle fighting is illegal in Florida. As such, the Florida State Boxing Commission will not sanction a bare-knuckle fighting event. Anyone who participates in or organizes such an event is subject to administrative and criminal penalties.”
It appears they have since changed their tune. Adam LeBarr, a staff writer for a BKB promoter, tweeted as follows:
Why would such an absurd requirement be imposed? Because Florida’s rules require gloves to be worn for professional boxing events. Section 548.043 of the Florida Statutes requires that “all participants in boxing matches shall wear gloves weighing not less than 8 ounces each“. Florida’s glove rules for boxing reads as follows:
(1) Glove requirements for boxing and kickboxing.
(a) When the lighter of the two participants in a boxing or kickboxing match weighs 154 pounds or less, both participants shall use 8 ounce gloves. When the lighter of the two participants in a boxing or kickboxing match weighs more than 154 pounds, both participants shall use 10 ounce gloves. Where the weights of the two participants are such that, based upon these rules, one would wear 8 ounce gloves and one would wear 10 ounce gloves, the lighter of the two participants shall make the decision as to the weight of the gloves to be used, and both participants shall wear the same weight gloves. In boxing and kickboxing, both participants shall use the same manufacturer of gloves.
(b) Prior to the beginning of each match each glove of each participant shall be examined and approved or disapproved by the chief inspector and the referee. Any glove intended to be used by a participant in a match shall be whole, clean, in sanitary condition and shall have the thumb attached. Gloves shall be thoroughly disinfected using formaldehyde and properly softened using neatsfoot oil. If the padding in a glove is found to be misplaced or lumpy, or if the glove shows evidence of breaking, roughing or twisting, the glove shall be disapproved and shall not be used. The match shall not begin or continue unless an approved glove has been substituted for the disapproved glove.
(c) Laces of gloves shall be knotted on the back of the wrist and tape shall be applied over the laces so as to prevent injury to the opponent.
(d) Gloves shall be adjusted in the ring or the dressing room under the supervision of the inspector.
Florida appears uncomfortable ignoring their own rules that gloves are mandatory for boxing but is apparently ok with doing a 180 degree turn from their 2016 position on the legality of BKB.
The loophole seems to be that the rule requires gloves to be worn but says nothing express about the gloves covering the knuckles. One can argue that a bare knuckle glove violates the above rule requiring a glove to be “whole” but Florida’s Boxing Commission appears ok in reading this rule down to an absurdity. It will be interesting to see if the approved “gloves” meet Florida’s weight requirement, other specifications and exactly how these will be designed.
According to LeBarr, Florida Boxing Commission Communications Director confirm this is exactly what they were thinking with them noting “The Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship is coming to Florida on June 22 in Tampa….Florida statutes give the Florida State Boxing Commission the authority to determine the requirement of a participant’s gloves. The statute does not require the glove look a certain way or even cover the knuckle. All the statute requires is the glove be a certain way, be sanitary and in good condition. The Executive Director of the Florida State Boxing Commission has the discretion to approve all equipment, including gloves. Accordingly, the commission has approved a glove for the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship that leaves the knuckles exposed“.
Whatever your thoughts are on BKB, there are now at least three ways athletic commissions have been persuaded to allow the sport
- BKB as a variety of MMA
- Commissions that have authority to do so being persuaded to waive their normal rules for boxing
- Commissions saying gloves don’t need to have covered knuckles