“Bare knuckle is not as bad as everyone thinks it is as far as injuries and pain wise,” Joey Angelo said after successfully making the transition from mixed martial arts to bare knuckle.
Angelo made the change in sports last year even after winning a title in MMA in his most previous fight.
“I looked at it as a great opportunity to get my boxing better for my MMA career,” he said of signing with his first bare knuckle promotion. "I’ll eventually go back to MMA.”
He took a risk and it was one that was not worth the reward, but if you talk to Angelo he will not tell you it was an entirely bad experience. The fighter, father, and husband from Las Vegas used what happened to him as a learning experience.
Just as many of the fighters on the card, Angelo was not paid, and the medical bills were left to pile up. He sustained a broken hand among other injuries, only to receive zero compensation.
“I still had to go to work," Angelo said following the fight that left him broken in more ways than one.
"I turn wrenches all day at work. When I found out that the money wasn’t coming in, I had to work with a broken hand. It felt…. Honestly, I didn’t even mind losing because it was such a close fight with Julian (Lane, who is also now a BKFC fighter and on the BKFC 8 fight card), and he is such a competitor. It just felt like I was being used. Like, I didn’t know this happened anymore. I thought this was old school stuff not paying fighters. The fact that I had to go to work every day in pain… if you know me, I don’t take aspirin or ibuprofen, I don’t take any pain killers at all. I do everything naturally, so for me to go to work and do 12 hour shifts, and injured, I just felt used. It sucked, it was such a black eye on the sport of bare knuckle boxing, because it was somewhat new. It still didn’t deter me at all. I still wanted to get back in there and do it again, just not for that company.”
After Angelo recovered from his wounds, he went back to the drawing board. He would take another fight with another bare knuckle promotion and because of the horrible experience he had, requested payment up front. The promoter obliged after understanding the situation and subsequently paid half the purse before Angelo even stepped on a plane. After he won the contest, Angelo was paid the remaining balance and his faith in the sport of bare knuckle had been restored.
Now with two bare knuckle bouts under his belt, Angelo was welcomed to BKFC with open arms.
Because he now has the experience in bare knuckle, and understands that injuries that may occur, Angelo is taking a new approach to training.
“I went back with Dewey Cooper. I had not trained with him since I was about 16 years old. He was my first ever combat sports coach. If you watch my last fight, I basically knocked the guy out with left hands, but I threw my left hand a little differently. I looped it a little bit more, but I hit with almost the inside of the knuckle, if that makes any sense. Instead of turning over toward where the pinky side is. I have a tendency to really launch my left hand as a southpaw. Dewey has me doing nothing but speed and accuracy because you don’t necessarily have to punch really hard in this sport to cut these guys open. The knuckles do that themselves just by precision and speed. I’ve dissected myself as a boxer and really just broke it down and focused on speed and accuracy. It’s been working.”
This Saturday, October 19, Angelo meets Walber Barros inside the squared circle. Barros is coming off a draw against former UFC fighter Joe Riggs at BKFC 6 in June.
"I watched it," Angelo said of the Barros-Riggs fight. "It was the perfect fight for me to watch because Joe is a southpaw like myself. Walber is tough. To go to a draw with Joe is tough. Everyo