Bare knuckle boxing is an extreme sport. Dating back to the 1800s, it was a man’s sport and was responsible for the invention of modern boxing thanks to names like John L. Sullivan. Today, bare knuckle boxing has been revived. In the past, we’ve looked at American bare knuckle boxers like Quentin Henry and his defeat of Jason Fish. We’ve also analyzed the chaotic control of Jim Alers in his win over Leonard Garcia. Today, we are hopping across the pond and looking at one of BKB’s best fighter: Barrie Jones.
Jones started his career in the sport of proper boxing. Having fought several times for the BBBofC title, Jones never found much success. But he did share the ring with big UK names like Kell Brook and Liam Smith. While he didn’t get the big wins, Barrie Jones is still quite a skilled boxer. His last bout was in 2015 and since then, Jones has transitioned to bare knuckle boxing full time. His debut was in 2018 and since then, he’s been nothing short of electrifying. He’s gone a perfect 8-0 and captured the BKB title.
Today we are looking at his fight with a very experienced bare knuckle boxer in Jimmy Sweeney in what was possible the most complete showing of Barrie Jones in bare knuckle boxing to date.
Barrie Jones: The Bare Knuckle King
Early in his fight with Jimmy Sweeney, we can see Barrie Jones bringing that boxing pedigree to the sport of bare knuckle boxing. With the sports being such close relatives, a lot of what Jones did in the ring applies in bare knuckle. (1-3) Here, we can see Jones doing his best Mike Tyson impression, utilizing the peek-a-boo head movement. This works well because it will keep Jones’ head off the center line and avoid punches while allowing him to close distance to land the shots he chooses. In this particular case, (4) Barrie Jones decides to leave the left side loaded up as Sweeney threw a right hook and (5 & 6) throw a big rear uppercut Sweeney’s way.
With Barrie Jones being a southpaw, we can see him use that to his advantage. The sport of bare knuckle is full of brawlers which is what makes the sport so exciting. But a little technique goes a long way. (1) Jones uses his southpaw stance to trap Sweeney by stepping to the outside of his opponent’s lead foot and throwing the rear left hook. (2) Sweeney cannot go to his right because that’s where the hook is going and he doesn’t have the head movement required to dip under the punch and stay in the pocket with Jones. His instinct is to instead retreat to his rear. (3) The only problem is Jones has stepped to the outside of that foot and it trips Sweeney up as he tries to exit. This is such a small thing from Jones and is basic southpaw versus orthodox matchup technique but Jones shows that it doesn’t take much to gain and advantage against Sweeney.
In the next frame, (1) we see Barrie Jones using the same trick and utilizing the outside foot advantage differently and that his footwork is intentional. Earlier, Jones came at Sweeney with a rear left hook. (2) Here, he uses the lead hook first as Sweeney expects the left hook from Jones and still moves away to his rear. Knowing this, Jones throws the lead right hook instead–the direction Sweeney is heading and also the opposite of where he’s looking. (3) Following up, Barrie Jones throws a left cross for good measure knowing that Sweeney will be tripped up and slowed down by the lead right hook.
Likely tired of being smashed in the noggin, (1) Jimmy Sweeney covers up with a high guard as Jones comes forward. Instead of going around the high guard of Sweeney, (2) Jones does something not used all that often in bare knuckle: he works the body. With the emphasis on the knockout and high paced action, many fighters will forgo the body to get into wild exchanges. But these body shots hurt and they count, zapping the cardio in an already cardio intensive sport. (3) Jones is proving here that he doesn’t need the head open and the body is a perfect opportunity for him to land some extra punches.
By this point in the fight, Jones has a good read on Sweeney’s distance. Stalking him against the ropes, Barrie Jones has James Sweeney feeling like he needs to throw something to keep Jones off him. (1) But, as you can see, Jones barely pulls back and Sweeney’s punches go whirring by, putting Sweeney out of position. As he attempts to deal with the forward pressure, outside foot advantage, and the counters of Jones, all technique for Sweeney goes out the window and he’s leaning over, tripped up and prime for a counter. Jones, of course, uses this moment he’s created and (2) frames off Sweeney and (3) throws a cross straight down the pipe and rocks Sweeney back. Sweeney goads Jones to bring the fight which is a tell tale sign that Jones landed clean and Sweeney felt every ounce of that punch.
Another beautiful example of intentional body work from Barrie Jones. (1) In the first frame, he steps in, slips the incoming hook of Sweeney and lands a massive left hook to the body of Sweeney. (2) Notice also, how Jones steps on the lead toes of Sweeney, a savvy veteran trick from a southpaw that helps control the motion of an opponent who just will not stay put. We have actually talked about the foot stomp in the past but in wrestling with Aaron Pico utilizing it to slow down the lightning fast Jordan Oliver in their wrestling match from the 2016 US Olympic Team Trials. Pico used the foot stomp to slow down Oliver to have enough time to get in on the leg and secure a takedown. (3) Jones smashes the body of Sweeney, another gas tank crippling blow.
Finally, Barrie Jones catches Jimmy Sweeney on the dip. All fight, (1) Jimmy Sweeney had dipped to his left to throw his overhand right. Jones had targeted with that in mind looking to land the right of his own. Sweeney left himself a hair too exposed and Jones capitalized, (2) landing a short right that sends Sweeney reeling back. The damage he’s taken has been too much and Jones has been named the victor.
Barrie Jones is a shining example of how boxers who aren’t elite but have a lot of grit and heart can come over into bare knuckle and put on exciting shows all while advancing the sport of bare knuckle boxing forward in a technical sense. His win over James Sweeney shows that he is a step above the rest and out of everyone in the bare knuckle world, there might not be a better boxer. He is the bare knuckle king.