BARE KNUCKLE FIGHTING
|Boxing laid bare - Boxing's roots in bare knuckle fighting|
Tom and Billy Saunders are widely known on the
boxing scene. What is less well known is that both boys are from a
long line of bare knuckle fighters.
Tom and Billy Joe Saunders are two teenage boys widely known on the amateur
boxing scene. Tom is a four times winner of the National Schools Championship
and Billy Joe has won the Four Nations Cup.
What is less well known however, is the fact that both
boys are gypsies and come from a long line of bare knuckle fighters.
Inside Out delves into the illegal world of bare knuckle
fighting to see how these two boys have turned their gypsy traditions
into a legitimate sport.
15 year old Tom and 13 year old Billy Joe live on a traveller’s
site in East Herts. Their Dad, Tom Senior was a boxer, as were their cousins,
grandads and even great grandads.
|Bare Knuckle rules|
A round is not timed, but ends when a fighter is
Once floored, a fighter has 30 seconds to come up
to the ‘scratch’, which is a marker in the centre of the ring.
Fighters are not allowed to rest and are instantly
disqualified if they fall from exhaustion.
But whilst Tom and Billy are fighting within the system
and rules of the Amateur Boxing Association, previous generations were
upholders of the ancient gypsy tradition of bare knuckle fighting.
Bare knuckle fighting was particularly popular in the
late 18th and early 19th centuries. The few rules that governed the fights
were drawn up in 1743 and remained the only written rules for over a century.
Tom and Billy Joe’s Great Grandad Absolom Feeney was
champion of the fairground fighting booths.Tom senior
explains that travelling boys learn to ‘look after themselves’, amidst
a lifestyle that is cruel and incredibly tough.
Tom Senior reveals that bare knuckle fighting in England
is commonly used to settle disputes on site and in his view, it is the
"Over in Ireland they do it for money. In England
it's to settle arguments... If there was a fight on the site today everyone
would be out watching it,"
However violent it may appear to outsiders, Tom Senior
assures us that "No one gets killed. You can walk away if you want
to. No one likes punching each other's faces off. It's about honour."
According to boxing coach Martin Patricks, it is not unusual
to have gypsy boys in the gym and like Tom, many show great potential.
Tom’s only trouble now seems to be finding boys prepared to fight him
and not surprising when you consider that out of 28 fights, he has only
fighting is a tradition in travelling communities|
Schoolboy boxing may be amateur in status, but it’s extremely
professional in execution. The boys have stringent training regimes, diets
and coaching sessions; a world away from the crude bare knuckle fights
of previous generations.
Coach Martin Patricks candidly warns of the pitfalls that
may await Tom and Billy Joe. Many boys turn 16 and fall into bad ways,
reverting to old traditions of illegal fighting to settle differences.
Tom Senior certainly hopes this won’t be the case for
his boys. Tom hopes to turn professional. Although Tom has inherited his
talent from gypsy traditions, his father hopes he won’t be inheriting
the lifestyle and that success will allow him to exchange wagons on wheels
for the security of bricks and mortar.