Archive for the ‘Florida Combat Sports Law’ Category

This week it was announced that the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming casino in greater Miami will host an eight-bout bare knuckle boxing event including a title bout involving ‘the world champion of bare knuckle boxing‘ Bobby Gunn.

Gunn, who staged the first sanctioned bare knuckle match in the U.S. since 1889 in 2011 on Tribal land in Arizona, is seeking to defend his title.

The recently announced event is not being sanctioned by the Florida State Boxing Commission as the event is taking place on the sovereign land of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida.  The question, however, is can this event be legally held?  The answer is arguably no given provisions of the Professional Boxing Safety Act, a US Federal Law which is national in scope.

Section 6312 of the Act specifically allows professional boxing events to take place on “Indian Reservations” however the law has a strict requirement.  It states that any such event must have health, safety and licencing requirements that 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.

So the question is can this be done?

The ABC does not have any guidelines allowing bare-knuckle boxing so their standards likely cannot be used to meet this requirement.

Similarly, the State of Florida also does not allow Bare  Knuckle Boxing.  The State’s Boxing Commission, whose jurisdiction does not extend to tribal lands, advises as follows

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.

Bobby Gunn Tweet Screenshot

As evidenced by the above screenshot Gunn is a strong proponent of the safety of bare knuckle boxing and he may be right when it comes to the issue of traumatic brain injury.

With MMA experiencing its 13th modern day fatality this week Gunn may be able to argue that allowing the removal of gloves is a safety standard that is “at least as restrictive” as what Florida law allows, however this argument goes against the very clear stance Florida has taken in the above comment. Subject to a safety argument winning the day it appears that Tribal Commissions are on legal thin ice in regulating bare knuckle boxing unless they can persuade the ABC or their respective State government to also allow the sport.

Update April 11, 2016Today it was announced that Gunn’s bout will be at the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming casino in greater Miami.


Update April 6, 2016 – Whatever Commission will be overseeing this event, it will not be the Florida State Boxing Commission who have replied as follows –

Mr. Magraken,

This is in response to your recent article titled, “Legal Bare-knuckle Boxing Coming to Florida?”.

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.

As you may be aware, tribal lands are sovereign territory. A bare-knuckle event occurring on tribal land would fall outside of the Boxing Commission’s jurisdiction.

Thank you for this opportunity to respond.

Paul Waters

Executive Director

Florida State Boxing Commission


Overshadowed by this week’s major combat sports regulatory news, the imminent legalization of Mixed Martial Arts in New York State, is perhaps an equally fascinating development – the potential legalization of bare knuckle  boxing in Florida.

For months bare knuckle boxing champion Bobby Gunn has been suggesting that a US State Athletic Commission was amenable to sanctioning a bare knuckle boxing event.  Today Gunn tweeted a short clip from a press conference indicating that Florida will be the host to the long rumored bare knuckle bout –

In the clip its noted that “On June 11, 2016 we are very pleased to announce that we will be coming out of hiding and we will have the first legal sanctioned bare knuckle boxing match since 2011 in the United States of America in the great State of Florida

The above clip does not make it clear if the Florida State Boxing Commission will be regulating the event or if the sanctioning body will be another entity such as a Tribal Athletic Commission.

I have reached out to both Bobby Gunn and to the Florida State Boxing Commission for comment and will update this article if/when they reply.

While a common initial reaction is to view bare knuckle fighting as perhaps a more barbaric version of combative sport, counter-intuitively removing gloves from the equation likely decreases the rate of traumatic brain injuries sustained by competitors.

As discussed in 2014, when gloves were added to MMA the knockout rate from punches increased tenfold.  Removing gloves from combat sports increases the rate of fractured hands and superficial lacerations to competitors, and perhaps eye injuries, the removal of gloves from the sport can reduce head trauma.  If government and combative sport stakeholders review the rules of the sport with brain injury in mind the data is fairly clear that gloves protect the hands, not the brain.

This is an interesting development that I will continue to keep an eye on and update this article once more regulatory information comes to light.