“I overhead a couple of lads talking, and one of them was a promoter,” recalls Vaughton, a snapper based in the north west of England. “After a bit of persuading they agreed to let me come down on the night and have free reign of the venue.”
Vaughton was granted access to an event being held in an old cotton mill in Bolton that had been organised by the Bare Fist Boxing Association, which formed during 2017 and arranges bouts in the north of England every few months. The night offered drama, blood and sweat, and Vaughton admits that his preconceptions – that he may have stumbled upon something illegal, undisciplined or even life-threatening – were quickly dispensed with.
“Movies like Fight Club or Snatch come to mind, but I soon realised it wasn’t like that at all,” says Vaughton. The photographer noticed the great emphasis placed on the safety of its fighters. Andrew Bowling, one of the owners of the Bare Fist Boxing Association says that in his opinion, bare-knuckle boxing events should be no more dangerous than MMA. “Like me, a lot of our fighters have done something similar before, so they are capable guys, no strangers to the ring,” explains Bowling, who competes internationally in Thai boxing.
“We always match the fighters according to weight and ability, and they have weigh-ins before the fight. “But our fights are a lot shorter – just three two-minute rounds. We have paramedics in both corners, and if they think a fighter isn’t fit to carry on, they’ll stop the bout immediately. Our fighters get a 20-second count in case of a knockdown, so there are a few subtle differences to regular boxing.