In the culture of the Irish Travelling people, who are a nomadic ethnic group, bare-knuckle boxing is commonplace as a means of settling disputes between individuals, families and clans.
Although criticized, the alternative within the travelling community can often be fights involving weapons such as bill-hooks, hatchets, knives and guns. People have died as a result of these feuds.
There is usually a set of rules in use during fights, known as ‘Fair Play’. It effectively means that the contests are standard boxing bouts with no gloves used. The contest ends when one combatant is knocked out or gives up. Some fights can last for hours, with severe injuries being inflicted upon those fighting.
The fights are illegal, and so are usually held where the authorities cannot, or will not come upon them. It may be strange to see such illegal contests shown online, yet such is the nature of the conflict. A new development to the fights is the ‘calling out’ of fighters via online videos in which one family or clan issues a challenge to another. Sadly, even children are included in the ‘calling out’, and children are often present at the fights themselves.
Feuds between families and clans can last for generations and the violence might escalate. Some families might be connected via marriage, and this can intensify the rivalries.
It is a brutal world, and shows no signs of ending. The videoing of the fights is now a business in its own right and, when added to the sizeable wagers made on the fights, means that there are relatively large sums to be made from what is a fight industry. Occasionally, some travellers might become involved in the amateur boxing scene and even the pro-circuit. There have been Olympic champions that have emerged from the travelling community. The former world heavyweight boxing champion, Tyson Fury, is from an Irish Travelling background.
The following documentary provides us with a great insight into the world of the Irish Traveller, and their participation in bare-knuckle boxing.