Legal bare-knuckle boxing kicks off in Wyoming

The gloves were off — literally — over the weekend in Wyoming, and it got bloody. 

The Cheyenne Ice and Events Center in Cheyenne played host to bare-knuckle boxing on Saturday night. The event was “[b]illed as the first legal, sanctioned and state-regulated bare-knuckle event in U.S. history,” USA Today reported. 

Three matches from Saturday night exceeded three rounds, the newspaper said. The pay-per-view event consisted of 10 bouts total.

In one match-up, Californians Tony Lopez and Joey Beltran reportedly faced off for five rounds.

Alma Garcia, left, swings at Bec Rawlings during a 125-pound bout at the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship at the Ice and Events Center on Saturday, June 2, 2018, in Cheyenne, Wyo. Rawlings won the bout. (AP Photo/Michael Smith)

Alma Garcia, left, is seen fighting Bec Rawlings in the only women’s fight. Rawlings ultimately won their bout with a TKO.  (AP Photo/Michael Smith)

"The knuckles was nothing," Lopez, who lost the fight, said. “… I’ve always wanted to fight with no gloves. Got a chance to do it here.”


The International Boxing Hall of Fame said the last significant bare-knuckle bout was July 8, 1889, when John L. Sullivan went 75 rounds to beat Jake Kilrain. The event was illegal and had to be staged under the cover of secrecy as most states had outlawed the non-gloved version of boxing.

Such fighting was forced underground until 2011, when the Yavapai Nation sanctioned a match at the tribe’s Arizona reservation.

The bout drew more than a million viewers, and the promoter of that event and the Wyoming one, David Feldman, realized there was a hungry market for bare-knuckle fights within the combat sports fanbase. It took him another seven years to find a state willing to sanction the next event.

MMAjunkie described the event as "three hours of bloody entertainment, with only a few lulls in the action." 

DJ Linderman, right, fights Arnold Adams in the heavyweight quarterfinal during the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship on Saturday, June 2, 2018, in Cheyenne, Wyo. The night was promoted as the first sanctioned bare-knuckle fighting in more than a century. (Jacob Byk/Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP)

DJ Linderman, right, fights Arnold Adams.  (Jacob Byk/Wyoming Tribune Eagle via AP)

Feldman is the president of Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship and spoke to the outlet about the Saturday event. 

“It felt like a good night, and everybody fought their a–es off,” he said. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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