It’s 10 o’clock on a cold Friday night in an industrial area of the Bronx, New York. A line of people gathers in front of an auto body shop, where a towering bouncer asks for tickets and lets in groups of three at a time to be screened and searched for weapons.
Inside the body shop is an octagonal ring made of crowd control barricades and gym mats. Roughly 200 people have purchased tickets and try to claim a spot with an unobstructed view. The promoter refused to disclose ticket prices. This is the fourth fight night of the Bronx’s newest underground fight club, Rumble in the Bronx.
Each night has been held at a different location, and attendees learn the venue’s address only hours before the fights begin. The third fight night was held inside the trailer of an 18-wheeler and was limited to 60 spectators.
So far, each night has had about 10 bouts. The rules are simple: No kicking, biting or shots below the belt. Sixteen-ounce gloves are provided, but fighters are allowed to bring their own. The fights last three three-minute rounds, and the winners are determined by cheers from the crowd. In the event of a draw, a fourth round is fought. A cut man, an off-duty emergency medical technician, monitors the safety of the fighters and tends to wounds. Under state law, anyone involved with an unlicensed boxing match can be charged with a misdemeanor. Everyone from the promoter to the card girls could be punished with up to a year in jail.
Killa Mike, the founder of Rumble in the Bronx, was once a fighter for another underground group called BX Fight Club. After BX stopped holding fights and he received the blessings of its founders, he created Rumble in the Bronx.
The club is “a place to kill beef and release aggressions,” said Killa Mike. He attempts to arrange fights in which both parties have a dispute and can settle their differences before guns become a part of the equation — all while still being entertaining. Killa Mike is proud of an early match that involved an ex-husband and the new boyfriend. The two men’s problems had escalated to the point of death threats toward each other on social media. The two men walked out of the ring with a mutual respect, he says, and the threats and bickering have ceased.
The current undefeated heavyweight champ of Rumble in the Bronx is a 6-foot-2, 240-plus-pound 21-year-old known as Big Country. All of his fights have been won by TKO or KO, and none reached the third round. After his first win, Killa Mike helped Big Country find a job with him at a construction site. Big Country’s fourth fight was the most important to him because he was fighting to end the beef between his neighborhood and that of his opponent, Big Pun. Their fight, the final one of the night, ended early in the second round as Big Pun was winded and tapped out. By the end of the night, people from both neighborhoods were posing for pictures with Big Country. Asked whether he would ever consider going pro, his response is quick: “I never train. I’m too lazy. When I get home from work, I just want to lay down. I’ve always loved combat sports, but this is only a hobby for me.”