Bare-knuckle fighting, 21st century edition

Think “bare-knuckle fighting,” and you’re likely to think one of two things:

1. Sheer brutality.

2. Men with handsome mustaches standing upright or leaning backwards for 864 rounds as they occasionally try to hit each other.


(Yes, that’s the legendary John L. Sullivan,the first (or maybe the third) true heavyweight champion and certainly the last to win the title in a bare-knuckle bout.)

Bare-knuckle fighting briefly came back into existence in the wild and lawless days of early mixed martial arts. In Japan’s Pancrase promotion, fighters went without gloves but couldn’t punch each other in the face with closed fists. The UFC had no gloves aside from the one glove worn by boxer Art Jimmerson.

Why would Jimmerson wear one glove? He had a boxing career to consider, and gloves protect hands. (Why he omitted the other glove is a matter of some debate — maybe so the ref could see him tap out, maybe so he’d have one hand free to have some chance of fending off grappler Royce Gracie. It didn’t work.)

But remember that phrase: “Gloves protect hands.” Sure, they also limit cuts that form quite easily when raw knuckle meets face — watch Kimbo Slice’s backyard and boatyard scraps, and you’ll see a lot of unfortunate people with faces badly torn by Kimbo’s massive fists. But the main purpose of gloves is to keep hands from shattering on skulls.

So is bare-knuckle boxing set to make a comeback? Apparently, to some extent. And they’re going down the same route as the UFC in its early days — recruiting Ken Shamrock.

MMA fans are cringing at the idea of the long-declining, much-battered Shamrock taking another fight. He also was never really known as a puncher, winning most of his fights by submission.

What’s most interesting about this fight is that is brings more people into a mostly underground world. Shamrock’s opponent is James Quinn McDonagh, subject of the gritty documentary Knuckle. The critically acclaimed film followed Irish “traveler” families with disputes that have gone back generations, with bare-knuckle fights barely providing a moderately safe outlet for the hostilities.

Across the Irish Sea, bare-knuckle boxing is making a legitimate comeback. VICE looked into the subject and did a compelling mini-documentary.

That said, the credentials of “Machine Gun” seem a little murky. And while MMA attracts elite athletes, 50-year-old Shamrock will have to suffice for this old-school fight sport.

Sochi recap: Curling, women’s bronze medal game

Young British skip Eve Muirhead hit all the shots as she needed them, taking Olympic bronze in a well-played bronze medal game.

Date: 20-Feb

Sport: Curling

Event: Women’s bronze medal game, Britain vs. Switzerland

What happened: Switzerland’s Mirjam Ott had all the shots early. She was dialed in on her takeouts to take two in the second end. They traded singles in the next two ends. Eve Muirhead hit a double takeout and another takeout in the fifth to score two, leaving the teams tied 3-3 at the halfway point. Switzerland had the hammer and a slight advantage.

Ott went for the blank in the sixth end but left her rock in the house, scoring one. Muirhead successfully blanked the seventh.

Britain got two to take the lead in the eighth. Switzerland’s Carmen Schaefer missed everything in the house with her second shot, Ott missed a double takeout, and Muirhead drew carefully for the double.

Muirhead’s team was simply superb in the ninth end. They called time out to talk with coach David Hay to figure out how to limit Switzerland to one. Anna Sloan bumped a Swiss rock out of potential scoring position. Muirhead took both Swiss rocks out of the house. Ott put one back, but Muirhead carefully bumped it through two British rocks out of the four-foot. Britain had three in scoring position, and Ott had to play a careful draw just to get one, tying the game 5-5 but handing the hammer back to Britain for the 10th end.

Switzerland wasn’t able to introduce many complications in the final end. Ott put her last stone in scoring position just inside the eight-foot. Muirhead, the world champion, had the relatively easy but high-pressure draw for the win. She put it right on the button.

Full resultsRecaps with diagrams

Sochi recap: Curling, men’s tiebreaker

The flashy pants of Norway are out of the Olympics, as Britain took a close decision with a tremendous shot.

Date: 18-Feb

Sport: Curling

Event: Men’s tiebreaker (winner goes to semifinals)

What happened: Norway started with the hammer, and they traded singles through the first four ends. Norway got two in the fifth, we got a couple of blanks, and Britain tied it in the eighth.

Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud couldn’t quite clear out the British rocks in the ninth and was limited to one. That gave Britain the hammer and a 5-4 deficit heading into the 10th.

Ulsrud’s team put several rocks in the house. After the skip’s last shot, Norway had two in scoring position.


So you’d think Britain would be forced to draw to the four-foot for one, sending the game to an extra end. Right? But David Murdoch is made of sterner stuff than that.


That’s right — he set off a dizzying chain reaction that removed Norway’s scoring rocks, left his existing rock in place and left his shooter close enough to score two.

Britain wins 6-5 and sets up a semifinal date with Sweden. Britain has both men and women in the semifinals, as do Sweden and Canada.

Full results Scores and diagrams