Brutal bareknuckle boxing ‘very close’ to legalisation in Europe, Irish Traveller James Quinn-McDonagh tells MM

Exclusive by Pippa Field 

‘Unbeaten’ Bareknuckle boxer James Quinn-McDonagh is ‘very close’ to having the brutal street fighting legalized in Europe, the Irish Traveller has told MM.

Quinn-McDonagh, considered ‘king’ of the underground street fights and coming to Stockport next month to meet fans, gained international fame following the release of cult documentary Knuckle.

The sport, traditionally involving two individuals fighting without any gloves, is famous worldwide and is historically seen as a gypsy tradition.

But Irishman Quinn-McDonagh, who remained unbeaten in 11 fights throughout the 1990s and 2000s, wants to see the sport legitimised in the same way glove boxing is.

“I’m pushing to have bareknuckle fighting legalized in Europe. I’m very, very close to having it done,” said the 45-year-old. “We’re trying to take it away from the underground into an area where it belongs, with ring doctors and regulations. It’s about getting it out there.”

He added: “In bareknuckle boxing you are not going to throw as many punches since you are protecting your hands. You have to pick your punches, whereas with glove boxing you hit people more often and can cause long term mental damage.

“It is not a violent sport, it’s a sport that needs a lot of technique and skill.”

Although already famous on the bareknuckle circuit, Quinn-Mcdonagh rose to fame in August 2011 with Ian Palmer’s award-winning documentary ‘Knuckle’ which captured a decade of conflict and bad blood between rival Irish clans.

Many of his fights, including a fight in 2002 lasting two hours and 47 minutes, were documented and showed the rivalry between clans.

He said: “At the time I was involved in a family feud.  It was not just for yourself but for your clan, your family, kids.

“When I would fight it would be to stop a bigger gang fight from happening. It put a plaster on the problem for a bit, which it did. “

The Irishman’s autobiography ‘Knuckle’ – penned following the success of the documentary by the same name– currently tops publisher Harper Collins bestsellers list.

And his post-fighting career has taken off further, with tours to America, a ten-part mini television series scheduled for next year and plans to star in two major films over the coming months.

“It’s getting me places where I want to be, to accomplish something. It’s doing very good at the moment. It’s not really about the money, of course we all want to earn a few bob,” he said before adding: “Bareknuckle fighting is not a brutal sport, it’s a noble sport. It has a great history and we want to bring that back.”

His own promotions company Quinn Promotions, which currently has 65 fighters on its books, hopes to next year launch a television programme showing a group living and training together in the build up to a major competition.

And when asked why he was promoting the sport so heavily, he said:  “The reason I’ve been doing it is because of the demand really. My view is give men an opportunity to give them this specialized sport where they can prove themselves.”

Quinn-Mcdonagh will be giving fans the chance to grill him at an intimate evening in Stockport on November 2.

The event at the Wycliffe Hotel and Restaurant, including a screening of documentary ‘Knuckle’ and signings of his recent book, will allow fans to learn more about Quinn-McDonagh, including his aim to redevelop the image of Bareknuckle boxing. 

Visitors to the evening, starting at 7pm, will receive a copy of Quinn-Mcdonagh’s book and be able to get photographs, autographs and a range of merchandise.

Also attending will be worldwide bareknuckle historian Michael Blackett who has worked closely with the former fighter.

Tickets costs £25 including food, with a bar open until midnight and discounted rates available on hotel accommodation.

For tickets go to (search for James Quinn-McDonagh).

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