HBO seeks rights for documentary about bare knuckle boxers

A DOCUMENTARY about bare-knuckle boxing in Dundalk, which featured in this year’s Sundance Film Festival could be re-made into a TV drama series by HBO.

A DOCUMENTARY about bare-knuckle boxing in Dundalk, which featured in this year’s Sundance Film Festival could be re-made into a TV drama series by HBO.

According to Variety, HBO is nearing a deal for remake rights for the documentary ‘Knuckle’, which chronicles a 12-year journey into the world of travellers and bare-knuckle fighting.

Ian Palmer’s film was shortlisted to compete in the World Cinema Documentary Competition where it received its premiere alongside most of the other 12 features in the group.

The documentary chronicles a history of violent feuding between rival clans such as the Quinn McDonaghs and the Joyces. However, it mainly focuses on two brothers, James Quinn McDonagh and his younger brother, Michael.

The story begins in 1997 with the wedding of Michael Quinn McDonagh and ends with him fighting against Paul Joyce. The two men had fought before, and Michael had lost because he was disqualified for biting.

Ten years later, in 2007, he sought a rematch in a bid to restore his honor. In another scene, two men are driven to a quiet country lane near Dundalk. Cars are used to block off access to the lane before the bare-knuckle fight begins.

A small group of less than ten people watch silently, as two men, walk to a clear area, strip to the waist and prepare to fight. The two men are James Quinn McDonagh (Michael’s older brother), and Paddy “The Lurcher” Joyce.

The Quinn McDonaghs and the Joyces are cousins, however, the two families have been engaged in one of the longest and most violent bare-knuckle boxing feuds in Ireland and England.

Funded by the Irish Film Board and BBC Storyville, Knuckle was directed, produced, shot and narrated by Palmer over a 12 year period. The film’s other producer is Teddy Leifer (Road to Las Vegas) and the feature is edited by Oliver Huddleston (Cowboys in India).

In the mid-1990s, Palmer was introduced by a filmmaker friend to a family of Travellers. One of the daughters of the family was getting married and they asked Palmer to shoot some footage of the wedding.

Palmer went along and a few weeks later he received a phonecall from one of the brothers of James Quinn McDonagh, a renowned bare-knuckle boxer. He told Palmer that James was preparing for an upcoming fight and asked him if he would like to film it.

Palmer agreed and he became hooked. He has described the six-minute fight, which James won easily, as “amazing” and so began a 12 year journey which has culminated in ‘Knuckle’.