Musangwe – Bare Knuckle African Boxing


Musangwe is a ruthless and brutal form of fighting practiced in many countries across Africa. It is unknown when this style of fighting first originated. However many sources close to the style claim it has been practiced since the 1800’s.

Musangwe includes fighters from a range of different age categories. The youngest of these is known as Mambibi and features fighters as young as nine.

This is one of the reasons Musangwe is such a deadly style of fighting. It is not only fought through adulthood but also between teenagers and even kids.

What is most dangerous about this fighting category is that it features children between nine and twelve.

This means kids soon to go into puberty or already in it are fighting pre-pubescent kids in some fights. Obviously this isn’t a fair contest and thus leads to injury regularly.


Outside of the Mambibi category there are 4 other age fighting categories:

  • Rova is the group for people for teenagers, people aged 13 to 17
  • Ngwenya is the group for people over 18 but still under 35
  • Seniors is the group for people aged between 35 and 45
  • Legends is the group for people over 45

This is obviously a flawed system to decide who fights who leading to the style being even more dangerous.

Most other tournaments in fighting require fighters to meet weight limits. This isn’t the case in Musangwe though.

Age is used instead of weight and this can allow for significant mismatches. These can lead to fighters becoming seriously injured due to the sheer difference in weight leading to an easy win.

Rules of Musangwe

At first glance it is hard to imagine rules for such a fighting style. A style that offers no form of safety equipment doesn’t seem like it would instill rules.

However this assumption is actually wrong as Musangwe offers 3 different rules. These rules are implemented in order to attempt to prevent injury. Obviously this is hard due to the aforementioned lack of safety equipment but these rules do somewhat assist.

The three rules dictate situations where the fight ends and a winner is established. It is clear that these rules were put in place not as a means of safety but as a way to determine a winner in fights.

The first rule is that when blood is shed the fight is over. This is a good rule in terms of safety and most know, a fight with just bare knuckles is a recipe for blood. Bloody knuckles, bloody faces and everywhere else the blood hits when it is spilled.

The second rule is that the fight is over once a knockout occurs. This is also an important rule for safety. If a fight was allowed to continue when a person has been knocked out it could lead to serious injury or even death.

The third rule of the fight is that the fight ends when a fighter raises a hand to surrender. This is seen as a less honorable way to lose a fight but it does offer a way out to those concerned for their own safety.

Musangwe is a brutal sport. It encompasses all the dangers of regular boxing but steps it up tremendously by removing the gloves.

Though there are some rules to prevent serious injury and death this style is still a brutal form of fighting to watch let alone engage in. Here is some footage of Musangwe fights.