Documenting Bare Knuckle Boxing Legality

When this site started several years back MMA was illegal in certain jurisdictions and regulatory progress was mapped out.  Now Bare Knuckle Boxing “BKB” is walking a similar path and its regulatory story, much like MMA’s, is intriguing as many athletic commissions use creative reasoning in allowing the sport.

This post will be updated from time to time as new US and Canadian jurisdictions allow the sport.  To date these are the athletic commissions which have legalized BKB and their methods of doing so

  1. The modern era of BKB kicked off with Bobby Gunn competing bare knuckle in a bout regulated by the Yavapai Nation in 2011.  The bout drew criticism from the Association of Boxing Commissions.  Tribal commissions, like US States, enjoy their own autonomy when it comes to licencing boxing in their jurisdiction.  They are subject to a Federal requirement that health, safety and licencing requirements are “at least as restrictive”  as those in the State where the bout is taking place or the most recently published version of the recommended regulatory guidelines of the Association of Boxing Commissions.
  2. The Wyoming State Board of Mixed Martial Arts was the first state athletic commission to allow BKB in the modern era.  They did so under the logic that BKB was not a subset of boxing but rather was a sub-set of Mixed Martial Arts.  Technically BKB in Wyoming is a seperate ruleset for MMA.
  3. Mississippi was the third jurisdiction to allow the sport.  As a default BKB should not be allowed in the State as their rules require boxing bouts to utilize the ABC’s unified rules of boxing which mandate gloves.  However, the Commission enjoys the power to waive any of its own rules and such waiver takes precedence.  Using this power the Mississippi Athletic Commission allowed BKB.
  4. Florida came next.  Florida’s laws specifically require gloves to be used in boxing and MMA bouts.  Unlike Mississippi, the Florida State Boxing Commission does not enjoy the power to waive this requirement.  That was no deterrent, however, with the Commission being persuaded that nothing in their legislation required gloves to cover a boxer’s knuckles.  They approved ‘gloves’ which were nothing more than padding placed under the fighter’s handwraps and did not cover the fist from the knuckles down.
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