Steve Bunce on Boxing: Explosive Bobby Gunn ready to step out of the murky shadows and fight Roy Jones

 

The last time that Bobby Gunn retained his Bare-Knuckle Boxing title he was wearing jeans and easily handling Ernest "Mine's a Nine" Jackson inside a warehouse, watched by a tiny crowd of extras from Breaking Bad.

The fight ended with somebody screaming "police" and the desolate venue emptying with a professional rapidity acquired through a life of breaking laws, making meth and running scared. Jackson had arrived at the secret location in Philadelphia with a fearsome reputation as a former bodyguard of Jay Z and at 7ft 1in he was expected to be a handful; Gunn is a patient broker of bare-knuckle boxing and waited for Jackson's awful collapse.

"Bare-knuckle boxing is about not wasting punches, it's about accuracy," insists Gunn, who had his first bare-knuckle fight when he was 13 and claims to be unbeaten in more than 70 fights. "If you miss the jaw and hit the mouth your opponent's teeth can split your hands open."

The Jackson win was Gunn's first defence of the BKB title he won in August 2011 in a fight with Richard Stewart that attracted sales of nearly 900,000 on pay-per-view in America at a tenner a pop. The win over Stewart, which took place on a reservation in Arizona and was governed by Yavapai Nation laws, was the first sanctioned bare-knuckle fight for the world heavyweight title since John L Sullivan took 75 rounds, which was two hours and sixteen minutes, to stop Jake Kilrain in 1889.

There was a bit of momentum, but the Jackson mauling a few months later was not an attraction and Gunn returned to wearing gloves as a conventional boxer in April 2012.

In the kind of twist that makes covering boxing so easy, Gunn went and broke his hand in the fight and withdrew after four rounds against veteran and multi-weight world champion James Toney in a fight for an obscure belt; Toney, 45, has now fought 88 times in one of modern boxing's most amazing careers and will fight next week in London.

Gunn will return to boxing in December when he meets Roy Jones, a fighter often placed in the top 10 of all time, for the WBU's cruiserweight title in Philadelphia on 4 December. The WBU, by the way, started life above a florist in Bethnal Green just over 20 years ago when Jon Robinson decided he would start his own sanctioning body.

Jones, who beat Toney in 1994 in a massive fight, has been boxing too long and admits that he is only fighting Gunn because he needs a warm-up before stepping across the forbidden line and having some type of scrap with the UFC's Anderson Silva next year. The line has already been crossed once by Toney, who ventured into the Octagon, as the UFC's fighting pit is called, and was easily manhandled by genuine UFC legend Randy Couture, who looks as good as he sounds. Toney set the tone by arriving at the final press conference with a Couture action figure wearing a Barbie dress, but in the Octagon he was swept off his feet inside 30 seconds, never landed a punch and submitted to a choke hold after 3:19 of the opening round. It was not very nice to watch.

Meanwhile, a long, long way from the eccentricities achieved and planned by Gunn, Jones and Toney, a young heavyweight called Magomed Abdusalamov remains in an induced coma after losing his unbeaten record when he lost to Mike Perez inside Madison Square Garden's basement on Saturday night in New York. Perez is a Cuban defector who is based in Cork, is now unbeaten in 20 fights and looks like a man from a different planet to Gunn, Toney and Jones.

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