herald

Monday 18 December 2017

Fists of fury as secrets of bare knuckle bouts are Revealed

BROKEN noses, bloodied faces and violent clashes between warring families.

It's a far cry from My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding with its focus on the extravagant pageantry of weddings -- but it does capture another aspect of life for some Travellers.

The gloves are off for the film Knuckle, which looks at 12 years of grudges, settled with bare-knuckle boxing.

The film, which won international film critic accolades for its portrayal of the boxing set, is due to be broadcast on RTE tomorrow.

Behind-the-scenes footage reveals beaten men who don't want to fight anymore -- but who feel forced to out of loyalty to their family name.

It's the first time a portrayal of these fighting traditions been captured on film.

The documentary makers follow James Quinn McDonagh and his younger brother Michael as they fight for their reputations and the honour of their family.







Unbeaten

Fight organiser James is unbeaten against his opponents and is hailed a hero by his family.

However, although he is at the end of his boxing career, James trains the younger men of his family and referees fights for other Traveller families.

His younger brother Michael is in intense training for a rematch against 'Big' Paul Joyce, a top fighter from the Joyce family.

Michael, who is described as an unpredictable character and keen to prove himself, sets out to mend his reputation.

He was knocked out of the competition after being disqualified in a previous fight against Paul Joyce nine years before the film was produced in 1999.

Shot in an observational style, Knuckle gives a hard-edged portrait of Traveller male culture and explores the bonds of loyalty, the need for revenge and the pressures to fight for the honour of your family name. The programme is on RTE at 9.30pm tomorrow.

clairemurphy@herald.ie

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