Boxing has come full circle with its beginnings and the rising popularity of the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC). The organization is becoming one of the more popular combat sports promotions in the world. Pugilist Austin Trout signed with BKFC last year, and he shared some of the similarities and differences between the varieties of combat.
According to its mission statement, “The Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) is the first promotion allowed to hold a legal, sanctioned, and regulated bare knuckle event in the United States since 1889.” David Feldman, a former professional boxer, is the president of the BKFC. Feldman and the BKFC strive to preserve the legacy of bare-knuckle fighting. The BKFC houses a stable of former boxing, MMA, kickboxing, and Muay Thai professionals.
The popularity of the BKFC has drawn former boxing world champions to join their ranks: former WBA super welterweight champion Austin “No Doubt” Trout signed with the BKFC in 2022. Trout debuted against former UFC fighter Diego Sanchez in BKFC Knuckle-Mania 3 in February 2023.
The former champion recently sat down with NYFights and talked to us about deciding to join the BKFC and his plans for the rest of his career as both a gloved and bare-knuckle pugilist.
Long Layoffs Kept Trout From Getting a Groove Going
Austin Trout (36-5-1, 18 KOs as a pro boxer), born in Texas and living in Las Cruces, New Mexico, has been boxing professionally for nearly 18 years. I wondered why the 37-year-old athlete transitioned to another discipline at such an advanced stage in his career.
“The last five out of seven years, I had about five years of layoffs,” said Trout to NYFights. “I’ll have a yearlong layoff, then I'll fight, then another year-long layoff against a killer with no tune-up. For instance, when I fought Charlo, I had a 15-month layoff, and it was a close fight. Imagine if I had fought within six months; it would’ve been a different story. Then after that loss, I had a 17-month layoff, and I fought Jarrett Hurd. After losing to Hurd, they gave me another tune-up, and I looked like trash. Then it was the other Charlo a year and a half after the Hurd fight. With both Charlos, they were close fights even with the layoffs. Imagine if I was active; I would’ve had a good chance of changing those results. So, looking towards the future, activity is best for me. The BKFC is keeping me active.”
Trout is ranked in the top ten by both the WBA and the IBF and is still looking for a meaningful fight in boxing. “I would love that fight. I will smoke him,” said Trout about the WBA's number one ranked fighter, Israil Madrimov, from Uzbekistan.
“But nothing's happening. Nobody's calling, nobody's accepting calls – they’re trying to keep me stagnant, and I refuse to. So, the activity is in the BKFC. My last fight was in February, and I’m already fighting in June. I'm 37 and have to hit this now while I can. I’m still nice, and I still have the ability. So, let me get what I can out of the game and all I can,” he said.
After so many years donning gloves for a fight, I was curious to know what physical and psychological adjustments Austin Trout had to make to prepare himself for a bare-knuckle contest.
Austin Trout Watched Movies To Prep For Bare Knuckle
“I watched the movies Fight Club and Snatched,” he said, chuckling. “They were my muse and got me into a good mindset. I thought back to the times that I used to scrap in the street and try to harness that emotion and that energy. It took me a long time to get nervous, honestly. I didn't start getting nervous until right before the fight because it’s bare-knuckle; there are no gloves. I'm training with a lot of MMA guys. In Houston, Bob Perez is helping me with a lot of the clinching. In bare-knuckle, there are intricate details – like coming with an underhook, making the arm go dead and rolling out, controlling the head, and things like that. So, we spend a lot of time working on those little intricacies.”
Throughout his boxing career, Austin fought the best fighters in the world including Miguel Cotto, Canelo Alvarez, and the Charlo twins. Why would it be any different in the BKFC? In his debut, Trout fought former UFC superstar Diego Sanchez. The fight was competitive, but Trout systematically broke down the former MMA fighter by attacking his body during clinches. Then Austin made mincemeat out of Diego's face, and the fight was stopped in the fourth round earning Trout his first win in the BKFC.
His win over Sanchez increased his popularity and fanbase in combat sports. Slowly assimilating as a bare-knuckle fighter, Trout hosted the BKFC tryouts on April 16 in El Paso, Texas. What does the BKFC look for when scouting for new fighters?
“We look at their background and fight experience. We make sure everything checks out when they come in for the tryouts. It's a test of conditioning and technical skills. You can tell right away if somebody has had formal training as soon as they start throwing punches. Also, we interview them to see what their personalities are, and mental stability is like. Some of these people come off a little crazy, and we don't need any problems. It's really to see how fit they are, how much form they have, personality, character, charisma, etc. We want to make sure they got some skills. That’s why the BKFC puts on some good fights,” said Trout.
Trout Shares Career Highlights
So much about who Austin Trout is as a fighter are the many battles he has fought within the squared circle. The former champion has experienced thrilling wins and heartbreaking defeats as a boxer. Highlighting some of the most dynamic moments of his boxing career, Austin told NYFights that he considers his 2012 victory over Miguel Cotto his most outstanding achievement.
“The Miguel Cotto win, that win put me on the radar in the mainstream period, not just boxing. I got to be on BET on 106 and Park along with Iron Mike Tyson, Lil Bow-Wow, and BY Jennings. I got to sit there and talk about boxing. The world got to see it all because of that Cotto fight. I was a world champion for almost two years before I got that Cotto fight, and it didn't even matter. I had maybe two to three TV appearances on ESPN and Showtime, but nobody was checking for me like that. I was under the radar, and that Miguel Cotto fight changed my life,” said Trout.
On the flip side, Trout has been in some tough battles. “Physically, the toughest opponent I have ever fought was probably Jarrett Hurd, said Trout. “I was whupping him until till I couldn't whup him anymore. He just took it, and then he came back and had a rally. Mentally, I was never beaten as badly as when I fought Erislandy Lara. I had no answer, and he had every answer for everything I attempted. I never wanted to fight to be over so badly. Even with Hurd, I wanted another round. But with Lara, I'm like, “What round is it? Eight!” It was boring as can be. Lara was the worst fight of my career.” (Note: Trout battled Cotto, then Canelo, then Lara, which is a tough-as-hell schedule.)
He thought about it. “Toughest fight was probably Hurd. So, let's run that back,” said the former champ, challenging Jarrett Hurd. “I love for Hurd to run that back. I was 17 months off, and that ass whupping I gave him for the first seven rounds, I can maintain that for ten or twelve rounds now.”
When you look back at your boxing career, do you have any regrets? Is there anything or any fight you wish you would've done differently, I asked Austin.
“Yes. I would have never agreed to the open scoring in the Canelo fight (in 2013). I would’ve listened to my manager and walked away because that whole setup was bullshit from top to bottom. But I was cocky. I asked for this fight for two years and said, ‘The judges aren’t going to help him. I'm going to stop this kid – I got something for him,’ and boy, was I wrong. They had everything stacked against me, and the open scoring was the worst part. I was in a groove from the fourth round, and they told me, you aren’t winning, change it up and I did, it wasn't the best move to have done so. That's probably my only regret. The result might have been the same, but I would’ve had a better chance,” he said.
The New Mexican native is 37 years old. Most fighters at this age are wrapping up their career. However, Austin is experiencing a resurgence. Time keeps on ticking, and a fighter's clock works at an accelerated pace. How long can Austin Trout continue fighting at a high level?
Fight For How Much Longer?
“That I can't say. My wife asked, ‘Why don't you just tell me you’re done at 40.’ I don't want to put a number on it. I take it day by day, fight by fight. I'm in the gym, and I love it,” said Austin. “I don't take much damage in any of these fights. After each fight, I will take an assessment and ask myself whether I want to keep doing this. Am I able to do this? Thank God I have good investments. I have good streams of income. So, boxing is a plus. I'm not saying I won't miss the checks; it's a blessing. But it's not what I need. I still love the game, and I will keep rocking with it as long as I can, and I love it,” said Trout reassuringly.
The BKFC recently signed another former boxing world champion. Mike Alvarado is about to make his BKFC debut on April 29. Is this going to become a trend? Are more boxers going to transition to the BKFC, I asked Trout.
“Paulie Malignaggi started it, but I'm the first boxer who showed you can succeed. It is going to start a trend. They pay well, treat and promote you well, and it's reviving my career.
“I've got a lot more fans now. I got people taking me seriously as a contender and a warrior. See how they build their fighters? They’re taking it back to the old school, and they get you in your hometown, then take that hometown against the world like Tommy Hearns had all of Detroit coming down to watch him fight Sugar Ray Leonard. Top Rank is still doing that, so they'll probably be one of the only ones that last. Top Rank is good at what they do. So, I think anybody who is tired of the bullshit in boxing, the BKFC is definitely a fresh breath of air,” said Trout.
Staying active is why Austin Trout signed with the bare-knuckle promotion company. Busy he will be. After the BKFC tryouts, Austin will be training for possibly the most formidable challenge of his combat sports career. On June 16, Austin will fight Luis “The Baboon” Palomino.
Palomino is undefeated and an absolute bare-knuckle terror. Palomino is considered “The King” of bare-knuckle boxing, in fact. Don’t believe me? Check out his war against Tom Shoaff during BKFC 34.
However, as terrifying Palomino may seem, Trout wouldn’t have it any other way. “I gotta fight The Baboon, The King,” he said. “Ain't no half-stepping; I'm going to take on the king because I want to be the king. And when I become king, I'll be a two-sport world champion. Then you can call me the Bo Jackson of boxing.”
Although Austin is thriving as a BKFC fighter, he still hopes to land a significant fight in boxing. “I’d like to fight Danny Garcia. He needs a legit fight. Israil Madrimov, he’s number one in the WBA. I would love to fight him. I would definitely beat him up sufficiently.
“Plenty of fights can be made, and with my rankings, these fights should be made. All roads in my weight to class lead to Charlo.” (Trout lost a decision to Jermall in 2016, then lost a decision to Jermell in 2018.) “His ass has been hurt; who knows what's going on with him. All those belts might be vacated, which means in the IBF and WBA I can make a move, God willing,” he said.
“Follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @No Doubt Trout. Go to my Instagram, get that link in the bio to the BKFC app, and subscribe; it's the best $7.99 you will ever spend. Those fights are lit. Check me out on June 16. I'm going home. Las Cruces, New Mexico, get ready; we're about to fill the PanAm out! I’m about to be a champion again,” concluded Austin with a message for his fans.
My Take: The BKFC’s popularity is growing with each event. Signing boxers like Austin Trout is the reason why. Austin Trout is a fighter who’s all about the business of fighting. What you see is what you get. Austin is all thrills and no frills when it comes to battle. Combat sports fans want action-packed fights where the best fight the best at a high level and a reasonable price. That's what you get when you watch a BKFC event, which is why it is slowly taking over combat sports by storm over the last five years.