a knock-down, drag-out fight

a knock-down, drag-out fight

A fight, argument, or conflict that is lengthy, intense, and contentious. The phrase usually refers to non-physical quarrels, or athletic contests, but not actual violence. This meeting is shaping up to be a knock-down, drag-out fight between the two rival executives, who have each been trying to recruit allies. We knew from the beginning that this was going to be a knock-down, drag-out fight, and it hasn't disappointed, with both sides relentlessly trying to gain an advantage.
See also: fight
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

knock-down, drag-out fight

a serious fight; a serious argument. Boy, they really had a knock-down, drag-out fight. Stop calling each other names, or you're going to end up with a real knock-down, drag-out fight.
See also: fight
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

a knock-down, drag-out fight

AMERICAN
A knock-down, drag-out fight is a very serious, emotional and often violent fight or argument. This year, nobody wanted another knock-down, drag-out fight over the state budget. You shouldn't engage in knock-down drag-out fights in front of your children. Note: This expression refers to a type of boxing match in which a fighter who had been knocked down was dragged out of the ring and replaced by another contestant.
See also: fight
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

knock-down drag-out fight, a

A violent altercation; a free-for-all, literal or figurative. This term, which has a modern ring to it, actually dates from the 1820s and originated in America. In those days it was nearly always used with reference to westerners, at least in print. James Fenimore Cooper used it in The Prairie (1827): “It was thinking of what you call consequences . . . that prevented me from . . . making it a real knock-down and drag-out.”
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in periodicals archive ?
Harrisburg and Nashville girls squared off for the third time in as many years in a heavyweight fight that much like the other two battles were a knock-down, drag-out fight.
The couple went out on the roof terrace and had a knock-down, drag-out fight."
The key to this achievement is Clinton's budget plan, which passed through Congress in 1993 only after a knock-down, drag-out fight led by the President--a fight won with only the votes of a fractious Democratic party, and against a vehement and united Republican front.