Bare-knuckle boxer ‘King of the Travellers’ once boxed for three hours straight

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A notorious bare-knuckle boxer affectionately known as the ‘King of the Travellers’, revealed he once boxed for three hours straight – and no, it isn't Tyson Fury

The title isn’t one that James Quinn McDonagh has given himself, rather one that has been thrust upon him by others due to his rock-solid reputation as a fighter.

McDonagh is arguably one of the best bare-knuckle boxers in the business and currently remains undefeated.

Throughout his career, he has taken part in a large number of fights, some of which were for large cash sums.

Though while he said his boxing career is not definitely over, at 54-years-old he hopes it is.

McDonagh was born into a family of Irish travellers and has boxed ever since he was a child.

He explained he took up the sport to beat bullies, and now he wants to take the sport to the next level by setting up his own promotion and staging legal fights.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. One fight that sticks out in his memory took nearly three hours.

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

On that fight, McDonagh recalled: "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."

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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 were 60 or 70 thousand pounds on the fight, winner takes 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."

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.

He said: "I've had venues cancel because I've used the company name – 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."

  • Money
  • Family
  • Boxing

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