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Bare-Knuckle Boxing 'King Of The Travellers' Once Fought For Three Hours Straight

Tom Wood

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Bare-Knuckle Boxing 'King Of The Travellers' Once Fought For Three Hours Straight

Featured Image Credit: James Quinn McDonagh

The 'King of the Travellers' is not a nickname that James Quinn McDonagh has given to himself, rather one that has been thrust upon him by others.

However uneasily he wears that crown, he certainly could stake a claim to having been one of the best bare-knuckle boxers in the business.

Throughout his career - which he admits at 54 might not be definitively over, though he hopes so - he remained undefeated, having taken on many fights, sometimes for large sums of money.

McDonagh, born into a family of travellers in Ireland, has fought for that family from a young age, when he took up boxing to beat bullying, and now he wants to take the sport to the next level by setting up his own promotion and staging legal fights.

The fights go on as long as they need to. Credit: James Quinn McDonagh
The fights go on as long as they need to. Credit: James Quinn McDonagh

On his moniker, he told LADbible: "That was a title given to me, not by me, but by other people, the media, and the newspapers.

"There are many men out there at the moment - very good men - who could claim to be the 'King of the Travellers' but don't do it because, number one, it sets you up for being challenged for the foreseeable future.

"Number two, if you have any modesty in your body you wouldn't claim to be that, and I don't.

"I've just done what I had to do to win my fights for my family."

When it comes to 'what he had to do', that has always meant putting his body and his pride on the line, sometimes for sums of thousands and - on one occasion - for a mammoth amount of time.

One fight that sticks out in his memory took nearly three hours.

Two hours and 47 minutes, to be precise. All of that with 'no breaks, no rounds, just fight to the finish'.

James has now - he hopes - finished his fighting days. Credit: James Quinn McDonagh
James has now - he hopes - finished his fighting days. Credit: James Quinn McDonagh

On that fight, McDonagh reiterated: "That doesn't make me the 'King of the Travellers' in any way whatsoever, it just means that on the day I was the better man."

After that fight, he was 'tired, very, very tired, but very glad to get it out of the way."

He continued: "[I was] just glad to get it out of the way.

"There was a lot of hard training going into that fight, because it was probably my last proper bare-knuckle fight.

"There was 60 or 70 thousand pounds on the fight, winner take all.

"I think it was 30 or 35 thousand pounds per family.

"The money would drive it further because the guy that lost the fight would have probably given up earlier, only for the money.

"If the money wasn't involved, the guy that lost the fight probably would have given up earlier.

"If the money wasn't involved, that fighter would stop quicker, but he's got to fight for his family, himself, and then you've got to fight for the money, so there's a couple of reasons to keep continuing to fight until your last breath."

He now hopes to take his sport to the mainstream. Credit: James Quinn McDonagh
He now hopes to take his sport to the mainstream. Credit: James Quinn McDonagh

The sums of money that can change hands over a fight between families varies drastically, but sometimes purses can run into tens of thousands.

However, McDonagh claims he never wanted to fight, and therefore tried to price opponents out.

He explained: "In my situation, when it came to money, I would put a price on a fight to give the idea that I was trying to price myself out of the fight.

"I didn't want to do it.

"When it came to my fights I tried to put a price on it to make them see that it's not worth it, whereas today fights are 50/60/70 grand and they're doing it now for the money and the pride of one family fighting against another."

Now, with the rise of the UFC, there is potentially a gap in the market where bare-knuckle boxing can walk into the mainstream, given the popularity of MMA.

McDonagh staged the first legal bare-knuckle fight in the UK, and he admits it is still in 'its infancy', but he's set up a TV show called Bare Knuckle Wars and has promoters and investors on the line to attempt to take the sport upwards.

Still, there remains some hesitancy to stage these kinds of events.

James has campaigned against bullying, after he himself was bullied as a child. Credit: James Quinn McDonagh
James has campaigned against bullying, after he himself was bullied as a child. Credit: James Quinn McDonagh

He said: "I've had venues cancel because I've used the company name - BKWars.tv or the old name Knuckle Promotions - to hire the venue and put on shows.

"The venues have cancelled because I'm a traveller, and secondly once they know that there's even a traveller on the fight card, they'll cancel it.

"More and more venues are now allowing us to use it regardless of [whether we're] travellers or not travellers.

"We see that at the very beginning they were iffy about letting us do it, but now it's totally acceptable in a lot of venues in the UK.

"Racism exists amongst all ethnic groups, and travellers are one of those and always will be.

"Bare-boxing is associated with travellers, especially in Ireland where they're not allowing [fights] at the moment.

"But, in the UK, and with the companies that we've signed up to come on board, and we'll have them all under one umbrella, it's now just seen as another sport where - similar to UFC and boxing - it's classed as a sport that is there, and will be staying there."

Topics: SPORT, Boxing, Interesting, MMA

Tom Wood
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