Chris Sarro of Ellsworth has earned world rankings in two weight classes while competing for the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship promotion. Credit: Courtesy of Monty Rand Photography

When Ellsworth’s Chris “Golden Gloves” Sarro faces Josh “The Hammer” Burns of Dearborn, Michigan, in a battle of top-ranked bare-knuckle fighters on Dec. 11, quickness and coolness may be just as important as any fisticuffs.

The 235-pound Sarro, 2-0 with two knockouts since joining the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship promotion last year, expects to spot Burns approximately 35 pounds when the two heavyweights enter the ring for their BKFC 15 bout at Biloxi, Mississippi.

“I’ll have all my power to deal with him but I’ve still got my speed,” Sarro said. “It’s the best I’ve ever felt because I don’t have to cut any weight. I’ve been able to maintain and I don’t have to deprive my body.”

The need for a calm demeanor amid his preparation for the confrontation stems in part from some trash talking by Burns during prefight interactions with the media.

“I see what he’s trying to do, he’s trying to hype himself but he’s putting more on his plate and he’s got a lot to live up to now,” Sarro said. “At our end it was a natural decision not to take that route. We’ve got nothing to say. We’re just going to show up on fight night.”

Sarro, a 32-year-old former Northern New England Golden Gloves boxing champion, earned a contract with BKFC in September 2019 with a first-round knockout of Ras Hylton on a New England Fights mixed martial arts card at the University of Maine in Orono.

Since then he has scored two first-round knockouts with the BKFC and, like the 67-second Hylton bout, each took less than two minutes.

Sarro stopped John McAllister in 1:32 in November 2019 at Biloxi, and halted Billy Martin in 1:50 last July in Oxford, Mississippi. He now is ranked fifth in the Police Gazette bare-knuckle fighting heavyweight rankings and fourth in the light-heavyweight division.

Burns, 42, will be making his BKFC debut but is a combat sports veteran.

“He charges forward, he’s aggressive,” Sarro said. “He tries to use his brute force and strength and ugly face and tattoos to intimidate people and none of that works with us. We’ve been training specifically for a freight train that’s coming forward.”

Burns compiled an 8-10 professional mixed martial arts record, including six fights — all losses — in the upper-echelon Bellator promotion during a 10-year career in that discipline from 2006 to 2016.

More recently he has compiled an 8-3 bare-knuckle fighting record in Europe. He also pleaded guilty in a Michigan courtroom in 2018 for his involvement in a $112 million healthcare fraud case involving an alligator-wrestling doctor.

Burns admitted funneling kickbacks and bribes to Dr. Francisco Patino in return for referring urine samples for drug tests that cost Medicare more than $2.6 million, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Burns is ranked third in the Police Gazette bare-knuckle fighting heavyweight division.

“He’s definitely a step up in competition,” Sarro said. “He’s my biggest challenge to date but I’m going to complete this task. It’s not in my genetics to lose to a person like this so it’s going to be a beautiful night.”

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...