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A Traveller who began getting involved in bare knuckle fights during his early childhood has shared the story of one bloody 30-minute brawl involving his cousin.
In Traveller communities, young men like ‘The King of the Travellers’ often fight in gloveless scraps, defending their family’s reputation and occasionally earning handsome wagers.
As a talented sportsman, going on to have a career as a professional golfer and unlicensed boxer, Joe Smith claimed not to have been inclined to fighting.
However, speaking to KRN TV, he described how one brutal fight with his cousin at the age of only nine years old resulted in a prolific career as a teenage bare-knuckle champion.
Joe recalled how the early incident occurred when his dad tried to stop him from going out to play, for fear of him being beaten up. But the fearless youngster assured him he would be able to fight back.
“And we had a knuckle fight that would probably be deemed as brutal now by modern standards, but we had a knuckle fight hedged on by adults,” he explained.
Asked how old he was, he replied: “9 or 10 years old, and we had a bare knuckle fight that lasted for over half an hour, busted nose, black eyes…
“10 years old, we were 8 stone each, that’s the size of a small man, no gloves.
“It was none of this, ‘behave yourself lads, have a sweet, shake hands, forget about it’. We were at it.”
Joe then remembered how he was so young at the time, that his mum even interrupted the fight to call him to go to bed, saying: “The only thing that stopped that fight was daylight.”
As he got older, and his family moved from camp to camp, the fighter said that he began to develop a reputation for his scrapping.
He continued: “I had a couple of knuckle fights that then seemed like walks in the park after.”
“I had a few knuckle fights, and they were nothing more than sticking up for my sisters and my family, and probably on three or four of those occasions I wasn’t expected to win because they were adults and I was still 17, 16, 18, 19 years old.
“But because I won those fights, and I beat some seasoned amateur and professional fighters, it sort of built me a fast reputation.”
Despite his success fighting, Joe abandoned his life of bare-knuckle fighting and instead followed his natural ability for golf, going on to have a successful professional career.
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