THE ANCIENT art of Dambe boxing sees fierce Nigerian warriors box without protective gear in a brutal “fight to the death.”

Opponents wind rope around their strongest hand, and until recently were even allowed to dip the makeshift boxing glove in resin and coat it with shards of glass.

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A fighter deals out a socking punch to his opponent’s jaw[/caption]

The deadly sport is centuries old, with the aim of the game being to knock out your opponent – known as called “killing” them.

The ancient tradition is usually practised by Hausas in the north of Nigeria but it has spread to southern areas as well.

ANCIENT SPORT

Dambe fighters in Lagos battle on the beach under floodlights while jumbo screens replay them for bloodthirsty revellers.

Opponents punch and kick each-other until they fall down.

he sport started from clans of butchers travelling to different villages at harvest and fighting those from the area as part of the festival entertainment.

Butchers come from a lower caste of Hausa society – they are the only ones who could ritually slaughter animals and handle meat.

They would form teams from the village – known as armies – and challenge men from other butchers guilds, as well locals from the audience.

Nowadays, that sense of team is still very strong, and the sport is still dominated by the butchers caste, but competitors will often be very young – teenagers who train in gyms and yards – and will fight all year round.

FIERCE WARRIORS

Dambe fights are now a huge deal, competitors travel the country for fights with matches a huge spectacle.

Elaborate pre-fight entertainment with is a must, as spectators gather around the ring.

An average competitor will win 200,000 naira (£443) per win, with some Dambe fighters taking the practice full-time and making a career out of the ancient sport.

Fights last three rounds – though these rounds are not timed – their end is signified either when there is a lull in the action, one of the contestants or an official calls a stop to it, or when someone is knocked down.

There are no official weight classes, though fighters are normally matched up with someone of a similar size.

The strapped up strong arm is knows as the ‘spear’, while the front hand is called the ‘shield’ – and must be held with the palm open and facing the opponent. As well as for protection, the shield can also be used to grab hold of an opponent.

Contestants can also kick with both legs – the lead leg can sometimes be wrapped with a chain and is also used for defence.

Some fighters cut their legs and arms with razor blades before putting ‘medicine’ in them and wrapping them in hard rope.

Other traditions include the use of amulets for supernatural protection, with some fighters wrapping them to their spear hand, while some of the fighting groups also ritually smoke marijuana before matches.

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A Dambe warrior is all smiles after a fight[/caption]

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A pair of opponents trade blows[/caption]

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A fighter sprays his opponent with water[/caption]

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Aljanin Yahaya, a 28-year-old Dambe warrior[/caption]

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A young warrior prepares for his fight[/caption]

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A Dambe warrior cools off after a fight[/caption]

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A fighter throws his opponent to the ground during the bare-knuckle fight[/caption]

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Ropes used to wrap the warriors’ hands[/caption]

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Crowds of hundreds gather to watch the fight[/caption]

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A fighter pushes his opponent towards the ground, head first[/caption]

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Warriors pose for a photo, their arms wrapped in rope[/caption]

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Two Dambe warriors square up, ready to fight[/caption]


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