To date only three men have held the Police Gazette American Heavyweight Title in the sport of Bare Knuckle Boxing. Not to be confused with Bobby Gunn who holds the World Championship, the trio that have held the American title are John L. Sullivan, Arnold Adams, and current champion, Chase Sherman.
Although the prestigious championship dates back to 1882, no man was able to lay claim to the title following Sullivan's reign due to the sport being deemed illegal.
Richard K. Fox, proprietor of the Police Gazette magazine, orchestrated a fight between Sullivan and Paddy Ryan in February 1882. The contest would take place on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, just a few miles from where Bare Knuckle FC currently holds fight card in Biloxi.
The Sullivan-Ryan scrap would last nine rounds and was contested before 5,000 people with a ticket price of $15 per person (roughly $377.59 in today's market). The Police Gazette declared Sullivan the American champion of all boxing. This moment launched the Gazette as not just a sports magazine, but the premier boxing, i.e., bare-knuckle boxing, sanctioning organization in America, later the world. The belt Fox produced was made from 12.5 pounds of solid silver and gold with eight diamonds, including two in the eyes of a fox head.
It was the first championship belt not just in bare knuckle boxing, but in any sport at the time in the United States.
Sullivan was then supposed to fight English champion Jake Kilrain. When Sullivan denied the fight, Fox stripped him of the title and created the "Police Gazette Diamond Belt," essentially a "world title."
Sullivan and Kilrain would eventually meet later down the road in Richburg, Mississippi, near present-day Hattiesburg, and Sullivan won the fight in what turned out to be the last major bare knuckle world championship.
Fast forward 137 years to October 20, 2018 and Arnold “AJ” Adams would win the Police Gazette American Heavyweight Championship in Biloxi with a split decision victory over Sam Shewmaker just a few months after bare knuckle boxing became legal at the state level for the first time when it was approved by Wyoming and then Mississippi.
Then in August 2019, former UFC heavyweight Chase Sherman defeated Adams to become the third man to own the hardware. Scott Burt, President of the Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame was there to wrap the title around Sherman's waist.
"For me personally, I think everyone wants to do something that lives beyond personal life, something to make a lasting impression on the sport," Burt said. What we have now is a substantial sport that has been rekindled legally and to have Chase have that belt and to know that he can sit around when he's 80 years old in his rocking chair, and pull that belt out and show his grandkids, means an awful lot. I'm here for the fighters and for their spot in history. If I can do that, and help them out, that's great."
David Feldman, the man credited with bringing bare knuckle back to life, and President of Bare Knuckle FC, couldn't be more proud of the history his promotion is helping to create.
"Mississippi has such a rich heritage in Bare Knuckle Boxing," said Feldman. "The last recognized Bare Knuckle fight happened in Mississippi in 1889 prior to the launch of BKFC. Chase Sherman has exactly what we are looking for, not only in Scott's champion, but in our promotion's too. He will fight anyone anytime. Being a Biloxi fireman makes it all that much better. Having a Mississippi native being our heavyweight champion is pretty amazing and historical."
Sherman will now defend his legacy and the title at Bare Knuckle FC 9 in Biloxi on November 16. The man standing opposite the champion inside the squared circle will be none other than "The Mexecutioner," Joey Beltran.
We spoke with Chase about the fight, the history of the title, and his career as a firefighter.
On history of title
“It was very important. History and tradition have always been important to me,” Sherman said of winning the title and bringing it back to his home state of Mississippi. “It’s really cool to know that no matter what happens, my name will live on through the history books.
"Hundreds of years from now, just as John L. Sullivan’s name is being mention, mine will be mentioned too. My family will be able to see that long after I’m gone. The heritage behind it is cool. It was just something that was important to me.”
On BKFC 9 fight against Joey Beltran
“This is such a fun fight. The first two fights I had (with BKFC) were against guys who were boxers. Patty cake, point fight game. That’s great, but I’m athletic enough, long enough, and intelligent enough to beat you in that aspect if you want to go there, but I also know that I’ve been in some f**king wars in my career. I have the durability, gritty enough, tenacious enough, to stand in that pocket, and if you want to get down and turn it into a barnburner, I’m not going to shy away from a fire fight. I enjoy that aspect of it too. Anywhere this fight goes, I feel I’ve got the advantage.”
“I feel like I’m a technical brawler really in all aspect. If you watch my fights that’s kind of where I’m at.”
On Bare Knuckle FC as a promotion
“I love fighting at home. It’s just (bare knuckle) is a growing sport right now. It’s in that infancy stage, but they’re doing a good job. They’re making all the right moves. Bare Knuckle FC is treating me really well.
“I have a few guys around my station, with the Gulfport Fire Department that used to train and compete. I’m on one day, and then off two days, so it’s not too bad,” Sherman said of his work schedule. We have to do PT every day anyways, whether it is training in gear, lifting and running, whatever the case may be. I’ll call those guys over to the station and we’ll get some work in on pads, get some cardio, stay crisp on your day at work, and eat right. Everyone is kind of like a family over there. I’m the new guy. They make sure I get the things I need because they know how important it is to me. They also know how important it is to the station because I represent them. I can’t be going out there and getting my f**king ass kicked. ‘Oh this guy’s a Gulfport Fire Department firefighter. They got a bunch of p**sies over there.’ No, I can’t have that. I represent those guys when I step into the ring as well and that’s important to me. I have to make them proud. I also don’t want to go back to the fire department and get made fun of either. They already give me a hard enough time being a rookie. I’m the newbie and they treat me as such. They don’t care if I’m the bare knuckle boxing champion of the world. When you go into a burning building none of that really matters.”
On BKFC 9 Main Event
“Not to take anything away from Jason (Knight) and Artem (Lobov) but I feel like…. This is my second championship fight, both in my home town. I need to be a main event spot soon too… shit! It is what it is. You can’t take anything away from Jason and Artem from being the main event. That first fight is singlehandedly going to build this sport. I’m hoping to have one like that with Joey. You are only as good as your dance partner. Styles make fights. If you went and watch the Artem and Paulie Malignaggi fight, it was not the same as the Artem and Jason fight. You have to have the right dance partner. I hear people bitching, asking why Beltran is getting a title shot. Stylistically it is going to be a fun fight you know? That’s all I’m looking forward to. I’m a gladiator man. I like to come out of there covered in sweat and blood.”
Former UFC standout Artem Lobov and Mississippi native Jason Knight will meet in a rematch of their 2019 Fight of the Year candidate as the main event of Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship (BKFC) action Saturday, November 16 live on pay-per-view from the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, Miss.
“BKFC 9” will be broadcast across the United States and Canada, exclusively on pay-per-view through MultiVision Media, Inc., on all major television distribution outlets for $29.99. It will also be available to BKFC’s international broadcast partners worldwide and via stream to all in-home and out-of-home connected devices through FITE.