Bobby Gunn on Kimbo Slice ‘Bare-Knuckle Super Fight’ That Will Never Be
Kimbo Slice was best known as a MMA fighter, but his true legacy may be in the sport that launched his career – bare-knuckle boxing. Before he passed away yesterday, Slice was scheduled to headline Bellator 158 against James Thompson in London in July. But he had also been in talks to fight against Bobby Gunn in a world-title bare-knuckle boxing match at year’s end. In 2015, Gunn challenged Slice to the bare-knuckle match after the latter defeated Ken Shamrock in Bellator 138. Gunn and Slice shook hands, with Slice saying, “Let’s link up.” Later, Slice and his manager IceyMike continued to discuss the fight with Gunn, and Slice began wearing T-shirts of the Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame, where he was to be inducted next month. According to Gunn, who is defending his bare-knuckle title next month against MMA veteran Shannon Ritch in a sanctioned match in Slice’s hometown of Miami, Slice was intent on returning to the sport that first gave rise to his fame over a decade ago. “He was coming home to fight for the bare-knuckle world championship title,” Gunn says. “I’m just sickened for him and his family. The world lost one of the legends of bare knuckle.”
The bare-knuckle fight would have brought Slice’s career full circle. Essentially stand-up boxing without gloves, bare-knuckle boxing thrives in the U.S. underground – and is now breaking mainstream. Gunn won the sport’s world champion belt in a 2011 fight in Arizona, and, next month, is fighting alongside an undercard of pro fighters in Miami. Although bare-knuckle matches are illegal in the U.S., Gunn’s title fights have been sanctioned and held on tribal lands outside of federal law, put on with full medical oversight and referees just like pro MMA or boxing matches. Despite its brutal reputation, bare knuckle may be safer than either MMA or gloved boxing. A decade-long study at the University of Alberta recently found that MMA fighters are more likely to get injured and boxers are more likely to suffer serious head trauma. Bare-knuckle fighters hit each other with less force than contestants do in either gloved sport. “Out of boxing, MMA and bare knuckle, bare knuckle is the safest,” Randy Gordon, a former New York athletic commissioner and co-host of At the Fights on SiruisXM, told Men’s Journal in March.
The timing would have been perfect for Slice to make his return to bare knuckle –the sport that gave rise to his legend. In 2003, the year of his first bare-knuckle fight on YouTube, Slice was coming off a decade of hard luck. A former high school football star in Miami who had flunked out of college and was at one point homeless, Slice had worked as a bouncer and porn company bodyguard before finally catching his break in an underground street fight that broke worldwide. Brawling in a backyard in Miami, Slice took hard shots but defeated his opponent, earning $3000 for the knockout and fame once the match earned over two million views on YouTube. Often staking $5000 in the winner-take-all matches, Slice lost only once in 20 underground fights posted to YouTube.
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