A BARE-knuckle boxing event planned to take place in Bolton would be 'more suitable for a Guy Ritchie film', claims a councillor.

The sport is legal in the UK if the organisers have a licence.

The event is planned to be held in the Memory Hall, in Gilnow Lane, on Saturday, March 17.

Cllr Sue Haworth, who represents the Harper Green ward, says the sport 'has too many downsides' – but supporters argue that fights are legal, take place with a full medical team, security staff and are no more dangerous than boxing or mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts.

The event is being run by the Bare Fist Boxing Association and will also include white collar boxing and Thai boxing fights.

Cllr Haworth said: "I thought it fair to research it. For example, I wondered if, with less blows to the head, there may be less long term brain damage. I do not support bare-knuckle boxing. I think it has too many downsides.

“What separates licensed bare-knuckle boxing from street fighting is that there are rules governing the fights. There is avoidance of the head. Nevertheless teeth get smashed out. Fractures to jaws, face and hands happen. Then infection is a risk.”

“I blame this government, who are turning a blind eye to bare-knuckle boxing and Temporary Event Notices, knowing that councils and police have limited powers in the licensing laws.

“Bare-knuckle fighting is for Guy Ritchie films rather than for Bolton."

Bare-knuckle boxing has moved more into the mainstream recently and last year an event was held at the O2 Arena in London, which more than 2,000 people attended.

Cllr Haworth added: "Some argue the satisfaction from fight watching makes fighting and violence on the streets less likely. I don’t buy it.

“Bare knuckle fight watching can engender an enjoyment of fighting and violence and we are at risk of seeing more of it on the streets. Then our taxes can be required to pay for the policing of illegal fights and the policing of violence on the streets."

Spokesman for Bare Fist Boxing Association, Andrew Bowling, said: "There may be concerns among people who don't know about the sport, but it's only bare-knuckle in name.

"The fighters have wraps and padding on their hands. That's to protect the hand and also to protect against cuts to the opponent.

"We don't want to see people getting battered. We're there to watch a sport."

Mr Bowling, aged 33, who recently organised a scheme to give Bolton's homeless people free showers and haircuts at a town centre bar, says that organised events prevent illegal, unlicensed fights, and that the sport is no more violent than MMA.

He said: "An unorganised event might take place on a car park where 50 friends of the other fighter show up unexpectedly. That's dangerous and it's not we represent.

"This way, if you want to compete, you can go to a safe, managed event. We have a medical team on hand and full security."

Bare-knuckle events consist of two three-minute rounds, though they rarely go the distance. They are often stopped by the fighter's support team throwing in the towel, or the referee recognising that the bought is an unfair contest.

Supporters of bare-knuckle boxing point to research that suggests the repetitive blows of Queensbury Rules boxing over 12 rounds can be more dangerous than the short rounds of bare knuckle boxing - where the imperative to protect the hands leads to fewer punches, particularly of the skull.

Top bare knuckle fighters can earn up to £50,000 for a bout.

Mr Bowling added: "We have a very experienced referee. One of our fights lasted only a couple of seconds. The referee saw immediately that it wasn't a fair contest and stopped the fight; a decision that we fully supported."

Bare knuckle fights are organised all over the country by various promoters. Mr Bowling expects to see bare knuckle fighting become a mainstream sport in the next two years, mimicking MMA's rise from the underground to a prime time TV sport, where the Ultimate Fighting Championship has produced household name champions like Conor McGregor.

He added: "Our fighters work hard and train hard. They're serious about it.

"If MMA can go mainstream - a sport where you can actually knee someone in the head - then I'm pretty sure we could.

"It's legal, but if the Government turned round tomorrow and said: 'it's outlawed', we'd be the first to say: 'well, we had a good time, but it's time to give it a rest."

Cllr Haworth said she thanked Mr Bowling for an invitation to the event to see the sport first-hand, but that it was unlikely she would attend.

She added that she "wasn't convinced" by the argument that bare-knuckle bouts were no more dangerous than MMA or gloved boxing.

She said: "Gloved boxing is regulated and governed at an Olympic level. To me, bare-knuckle looks harsher."

The Bolton event features two championship fights and costs £30 to attend, or £50 for VIP tickets.