Bare Knuckles, Mnt Edgcumbe, March 2017

Bare-knuckle Boxing: Report of the fight
Reporter Gordon Sparks, BBC Radio Devon

It’s 4.20 pm on a wet and windy day, and I’m at the grounds of Mount Edgcumbe, where this bare-knuckle fight is going to take place. The contestants Natalie Raven a.k.a. The Raven and Dagmar Schwitzgebel a.k.a. Daggers are in great form, and exhibit a patience that is comparable to that of lionesses in a cage. Their spokesperson said earlier this morning that the daily fight against patriarchy prepared the two over the last years, and today they are here to channel this anger in a most exquisite and aesthetic display. The prize money of £500 is to fund the Church of Performance.
4.26 pm. Spectators are gathering closer, nervous and giddy laughter can be heard. Feet shuffling. There are around thirty-five people maybe, not a lot for such an epic event to be honest, but that’s perhaps due to the weather.
I think it is the first open air bare-knuckle fight at Mount Edgcumbe, but you might be surprised to know that Lady Edgcumbe, an eccentric aristocrat who lived here in the 18th century also indulged in illegal gambling. In her case it was Faro, a forbidden card game.
4.30. The fight is about to begin. The contestants walk towards each other in silence. In the centre of the ring, they put their hands against each other and push them towards the sky. Tongues extended. After this little ritual they engage in a whispering dialogue. They are working out the rules, I presume.
That was the gong! Or, to be precise, the chiming of a pair of pot-lids. Hands are clenching around shoulders. Is this a wrestle? No! A big blow from The Raven! It missed Daggers head by a tenth of an inch. Daggers dodging further blows. Ha! The Raven got her opponent by the right ear with the left hand. An ambidexternal skill The Raven has kept secret until now. Daggers squeals as The Raven’s fist corkscrews the ear away from her and brings Daggers to a backwards crouching tumble. Natalie lets go of the ear. Why the hesitation? The gong chimes.
I hear that there is some confusion over the rules. The Raven had not withdrawn out of pity, like many of you might think now. No, both contestants are not allowed to go to the ground. This rule is apparently unclear. Both contestants are quietly talking to each other. Then they take positions. The gong. Headlock from The Raven. Daggers elbows into The Raven’s thigh. Again and again. There is a pause. Daggers’ now clasping round The Ravens’ thigh.
I’ll use this pause to enlighten you about the miscommunication of rules. The rules have been confirmed to me that no blow should be struck when someone has been downed. Not that the going to the ground is a break of rules as such.
Both are still in a knot. The Raven in the more comfortable position it seems, as Daggers’ breath should run out any time soon. Her face has already turned from red to purple. With a big ‘Urghh!’ Daggers collects all her strength and flips The Raven other her shoulder, she does this, using the thigh she had clasped a minute ago as a lever for momentum. The Raven spins in the air and elegantly touches down on the opposite side of the ring. The crowd is roaring, clapping. That was a class A salto mortale, the deadly leap, performed in the most laissez-faire manner. Goodness gracious! The fighters hold the gaze. What a match! Daggers waits for the next move, jumping on the spot. A time to regain some breath. The audience has fallen silent again. The Raven also waits. She is normally not known as the femme-d'attack, but for her determined and intelligent defence, as we all an witness here at the grounds of Mount Edgcumbe.
The gong rings. Oh no! Not now! Break-time. Sandwich. And a lot of good advice from initiated supporters.
4.55 pm. The second round is about to commence. I have a member of the public here, what’s your name? – Dave. – And who are you supporting this afternoon? – I came to support Daggers, but I like The Raven much more. That style, man! She's like a Ninja-goddess! Unfortunately I put all my money on Daggers. – Well, Dave, things can still change. Let’s see who else is here, you, what’s your name? – Linda, why? – Linda, are you enjoying the show? – Yeah, it’s cool, but the sandwiches are all soggy. I don’t think I want to come here again. – So much from the spectators, and now we can see the fight is about to start again. The ring is actually a square that is marked by twigs and the audience is there to act as a, well, a safety net I suppose. I hope nobody gets hurt. After all, we are participating an illegal fight, so there is but a few risks people are taking. Oh, the pans chime. Pod-lids, excuse me.
And there we have it, a new focussed energy, will we see more of the fine grappling techniques that Daggers displayed a year ago in the Cat vs Gimp fight at Tothill Park? No, Daggers goes for the punch. Straight in the face. The Raven continues on the leg work in the hope to regain balance, utters some strange words, that sound like ‘mercury in retrograde’ before she tumbles down into the wet grass. The fight is over. The audience is stunned. Some may be shocked by the bold violence, some may be disappointed about the swift ending. After the final count-down, the gong rings.
                                          Photo: Dawood/Levithian

Was this just a piss-take? After all, the money goes to Church of Performance, and both contestants are members, so really, it did not matter who would win in the end. Daggers is the winner and proudly shows herself to the world, the £500 prize in her hand, but the clapping is dulled. The crowd dissolves quickly, as everybody tries to catch the half past ferry over to the mainland.
The Raven remains unconscious on the floor. What a great performance. Another eventful day to be remembered in the history of Church of Performance. Congratulations from me (It’s my job to say that), back over to the studio now.


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