Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship Fighter Justin Thornton has died earlier this week 4th of October 2021. He died after being hospitalized in a paralyzing knockout loss to Dillon Cleckler at BKFC 20 on Aug. 20, 2021.
The BKFC committee wrote in a statement on Tuesday, “Bare Knuckle Boxing (BKB) has been gaining in popularity across parts of the United States. Since 2018, early injury studies in BKB have suggested a higher rate of minor hand fractures and lacerations, but less severe concussions.
“Nevertheless, athletes who compete in this sport are generally older (over 35 years old), have already fought in various other Mixed Martial Arts disciplines, and tend to be at the tail end of their careers. Many of these competitors have been affiliated with other MMA organizations and have been subsequently released by these promotional companies due to many factors including (but not limited to) loss of skills, consecutive losses, or injuries. Lastly, many of these fighters have not fought for extended periods of time. Therefore, the Association of Boxing Commission’s Medical Committee is especially concerned that athletes competing in BKB may be at higher risks for acute and chronic injuries due to these and other factors.
“Disturbingly, and despite our recommendations, some jurisdictions regulating these events are still not following the minimum medical guidelines set forth by the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC) and the Association of Ringside Physicians (ARP). More concerning is the fact that many commissions still do not require any imaging studies (CT Scan or MRI Scan) in a sport where individuals are at risk for acute and chronic head injuries.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up by Thornton’s family to help raise money for his funeral expenses.
ABC’s medical committee recommends authorities be cautious when licensing bare-knuckle boxing.
“Given the limited data regarding the medical risks of BKB, the ABC medical committee implores commissions who are considering licensing these events to proceed with caution,” the statement reads. “Furthermore, we encourage those jurisdictions who are still deficient in these minimum medical recommendations and guidelines to immediately update and revise their requirements to include a CT scan, MRI scan, and/or neurological clearance performed by a board-certified neurologist prior to clearing a fighter to compete.
“With the tragic news regarding the death of Justin Thornton and the limited medical data regarding short and long-term injuries in BKB, the ABC medical Committee recommends enhanced screening of individuals considering participation in such events. During the 2021 ABC Conference, a Committee was formed to examine and make suggestions on safety regulations for Bare Knuckle Boxing.”