Are The Feds Going To Take Over Boxing? Will Senator McCain Be The Next Boxing Czar?

01.08.05 - By Wray Edwards: I can see it now: Fully-prepped Seal-Team commandos posted at every exit of the arena with their MP5's at the ready to make sure that the boxing matches, and decisions, meet with the new Boxing Czar’s approval before anybody leaves. This would be a "Big Brother" scenario reminiscent of James Caan's plight in "Roller Ball" or Arnold's character in "Running Man." Considering the current assault on the U.S. Constitution, some might think it possible. Realistically, however, we are, hopefully, a long way from the Federal Government of the United States getting into direct regulation of the Boxing business. Washington is presently interested in "sports" which have more lethal consequences.

Those of you who would prefer an article about this or that fight or fighter need not look here. If, however, you are interested in the survival of the sport, the following is crucial for understanding what's going on behind the scenes. There have been many statements on this site which are inaccurate, poorly informed and just plain wrong. So here, in a nutshell, are the basic FACTS about McCain's bill. This wording has been excerpted from an article on Senator McCain's website dated 1/26/99:

It is called "the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act" and is meant to improve professional boxing in the United States. It includes provisions to protect boxers from exploitation, reform sanctioning organizations, and require public interest disclosures to state boxing commissions. The Ali Act, S.305, requires no federal or state funds, and establishes no bureaucracy." This legislation is "A bill which protects the interests of boxers, encourages fair competition, and vastly improves the overall integrity of the boxing industry, a bill which would remedy many of the anti-competitive, oppressive, and unethical business practices of boxing and improve the overall well-being of boxers.

Key provisions in the Ali Act include limiting certain coercive option contracts (used to prevent boxers from controlling their own careers); establishing fair business practice guidelines for the organizations which rate boxers; establishing key financial disclosure requirements on promoters and organizations of major boxing events; requiring promoters and organizations to inform state boxing commissions of charges, costs, and fees they take out of a boxer's purse.

This legislation has been poking its nose into any tent it can find, such as being attached to a copyright bill in November of 2004. The houses of congress know more ways to skin a cat than an Asian villager. Be that as-it-may, for fans of the sport, this bill would be a critical step in the right direction for Boxing. Some say that they "like, the random chaos of all the national and international sanctions and weight divisions. They compare it to the free-enterprise of the boxers in the ring and the excitement which results in the full fog of battle. They say that the fighters should remain free agents or contracted to a certain promoter as they please.

The main reasons Boxing has been dropped from the PC networks are that shady/greedy promoters, have given the sport a black eye (outside the ring); an endless parade of sanctioning bodies and rating publications have squabbled over matching, championship credentials and title defense time constraints; and the boxers themselves have allowed the sport to slide into a more unmanageable chaos than ever before in its history. The confusion and dismay of the true fans of Boxing are quite understandable because of all of this. How can the average, potential boxing fan be expected to understand what's going on, if dedicated ones get confused and irritated by this mess.

Recent attempts to put an ethical face on the sport like "The Contender" and its red headed cousin "The Next Great Champ" were a fair try by the grass-roots (from within its own ranks) of the sport to promulgate the kind of stewardship which the McCain bill proposes. Though the author was not completely satisfied with the production values of the TV presentations, the organized concern demonstrated especially by Stallone and Leonard were highly commendable. A close review of the course and success of those efforts, reveals a need for a more regulated and well-funded approach. Some might say, because of the fluidity of the sport's individual talents, we would be trying to capture lightening in a bottle.

Nobody said it would be easy. It is, however, doable. Every organized sport has been through decades of trial-and-error before writing a successful charter and publishing rule-books. The South and Central American, European, Asian and American boxing communities have not really attempted to come to terms with the necessity for the formation of an International Boxing Commission (IBC). American, Mexican, European and British promoters (and we all know who we're talking about, don't we?) typically play both ends against the middle in their greedy, little bailiwick claim-stakes.

And who's in "the middle"? The fans and the boxers, that’s who. You, I and our fighting heroes are currently being held prisoner by the status quo which these guys perpetuate. If MLB, ITA, or NFL promoters and franchise managements were to do the kinds of things to their team-members that Boxing’s “elite” do to our players, they would be fined, and in some cases, prosecuted and jailed. Boxing is, currently, not even as well managed as the gladiatorial enterprises of ancient Greece, Rome or in the lists of knighthood Europe. Greek and Roman honor and medieval chivalry have no place in modern pugilism. That’s too bad.

Instead, we have every manner of hodge-podge promoter stables, free agents and down-right lost souls trooping throughout the Boxing scene. Some say that they don’t want Boxing to go “main-stream” and be on the networks. They want to keep it just like it is.

Boxing is the ultimate reality show. It has lost its appeal through the efforts of a few, dedicated, self-serving bridge trolls who have stolen its talents and refuse to organize for the benefit of the boxers or the sport. They are content to keep Boxing like a sick cow, remanded to the south forty where they can milk it for all it’s worth (to them) out of the majority public view. “Four legs good, two legs bad.”

There are just enough PPV suckers out there to make it worth their while. Unless the fans and the national authorities provoke a comprehensive reorganization of the sport, it will continue to limp along the back trails of cable and satellite TV. It will tread the thin line between being a real, legitimate sport and the likes of the WWF. Evander (Bryant’s “Real Sports”) and Tommy have been interviewed of late, and are a good example of the sport’s need for a serious sanity injection. They are both right at that point of departure between skill and will. We love them both and want them, for their own good, to assume new roles in the sport. Roy Jones has proven himself in the ring and recently on the air. He should stay behind the mic…he’s pretty good at it.

Boxer pairings are, at present, so random and fickle that many of the really great fights which might have happened, or might be made right now and in the foreseeable future, will never be. That is a huge loss for the fans and the legacy of the sport. It is tragic that the increased revenue which would surely result from reorganization will be lost until it is done. These funds could be put to good use for financial management of boxer’s retirement. Even enough would be available to markedly increase the apprenticeship infrastructure and staffing of the sport all over the world.

There is no doubt that many local communities have had their aimless youth redirected to more responsible lives by the honorable discipline and individual mentoring which results even if they don’t become competitive. Evander, instead of rattling around in your fifty-eight thousand square-foot hovel, why not get out there and help your fellow humans find a similar path to success and courage you found? Tommy, Bernard and whoever, let’s get it on for Boxing all around the world. Peter, take that trip to Africa. Sylvester and Ray, get back on the air.

Other sports have done it. Why not Boxing? Hey NABF, IBA, WBO, WBC, IBF, WBA, NBC, ABC, CBS, Kohl, Warren, King, Shaw, Arum, DLH! You folks really need to go to Geneva or Hong Kong or some other place and get it together. Otherwise your Goose may die.

Article posted on 01.08.2005

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