Dibella: Insurance Requirement Kos New York Boxing

DiBella Entertainment (“DBE”), the most active boxing promoter in New York and one of the foremost in the United States, announced Friday that it has released its dates on hold with the New York State Athletic Commission through the end of the year, effectively ending the boxing program in New York until at least 2017. The announcement is a direct result of New York’s new insurance requirements, which have made it impossible for promoters to purchase the coverage necessary to do an event in the state and the New York State Athletic Commission’s failure to use its authority to alter the requirements.

N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law § 1015, colloquially known as the MMA Law as it also served to legalize Mixed Martial Arts in the state, went into effect on September 1, 2016, requiring promoters to purchase $50,000 in medical coverage and $50,000 in death benefits for all athletes competing in an event; this is an increase from $10,000 in medical coverage and $10,000 in death benefits, but is in keeping with other states at the forefront of boxing safety such as California and Nevada.

However, the law took the unprecedented step of requiring $1 million of coverage per athlete in the event of life threatening brain injury. No insurance carrier has been authorized by the state to offer such a policy and it does not appear that, despite the efforts of various promoters and the Commission, such a policy is imminent.

The practical impact of the law, meant to provide increased safety to professional boxers, is the extinction of boxing in New York and shows being moved to nearby jurisdictions where the insurance requirements provide much less coverage for the athletes.

There has not been a professional boxing event in New York since August 21, when DBE promoted Errol Spence Jr. vs. Leonard Bundu at the Ford Amphitheater in Brooklyn. WBA Middleweight Champion Danny Jacobs, who was born and resides in Brooklyn, had planned to defend his title in September at Barclays Center, but the bout was moved to Pennsylvania due to the insurance barrier.

September 2016 marked the first time in over 11 years since a full calendar month occurred without a professional boxing event in New York.

“There is such a rich history of boxing in New York,” said Lou DiBella, President of DiBella Entertainment. “And now the sport has, for all intents and purposes, been evicted by a legislature willfully ignorant of both the boxing and insurance industries. The actions of the powers that be in Albany and their political appointees are depriving New York state residents in the sport of boxing from their livelihoods. This is hitting boxers very hard, as most struggle to pay their bills and need to be active. Small businesses are being put at jeopardy with no recourse or ability to continue plying their trade.

“This is a disgraceful abuse of legislative and state power.”

In many instances, fighters who have built a fan base in New York are being deprived the opportunity to earn a living.

Heather Hardy, one of the most celebrated female fighters in the world with a passionate fan base in the New York metropolitan area, was scheduled to fight on December 16 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn – one of the dates DBE released today. Hardy, who, in addition to her purses, makes money selling tickets to her fights, will now have to look elsewhere to provide for her family.

“These new insurance restrictions are not just destroying the sport of boxing in New York, they are destroying my livelihood,” said Hardy. “Do you have any idea what life looks like for a professional boxer, especially one who is a female and a single parent? With these new laws, fewer shows and dates being moved or canceled, I don’t know how I’m going to survive at all, let alone the upcoming holiday season. I’m going to have to go back to delivering books and answering phones to try to cover the bills.”

Even if an insurance carrier were eventually approved to offer insurance for life-threatening brain injuries sustained in a boxing match, the costs would no doubt be prohibitive for all but the most high profile shows. Club shows like Broadway Boxing, which DBE has promoted regularly in New York since 2004, would cease to exist and smaller promoters that promote only club shows would be faced with the choice of moving out of state or shuttering entirely without a modification in the law.

The New York State Athletic Commission is authorized to make such a modification per the MMA Law, which states: “The commission may from time to time, promulgate regulations to adjust the amount of such minimum limits.” The Commission did promulgate regulations in early September, but did little more than reinforce the minimums set forth in the MMA Law.

On August 27, DBE and another New York based Promoter, Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing, jointly submitted a Public Comment in advance of the Regulations being approved that warned “[A]ll boxing in the state of New York – marquee events and club shows alike – are under an immediate danger of extinction” as a result of the new insurance requirements. A full copy of the Public Comment can be found here: http://dbe1.com/dbe-star-boxings-public-comment-to-nysac-proposed-regulations19-nycrr-parts-206-214/

The warnings provided in the Public Comment, much like the barren boxing calendar, seem thus far to have eluded the attention of those with the authority to bring boxing back to New York. For now, the state where Muhammad Ali fought Joe Frazier, Rocky Marciano fought Archie Moore, and Sugar Ray Robinson fought Jake LaMotta twice is without professional boxing entirely.

“It is incumbent upon either the legislature or Commission to take a long look at what they’ve done and fix it. If there is an honest intention to continue boxing in the state, there must be a modification of the required limits,” said DiBella. “I have had endless conversations with insurance brokers and underwriters and any narrative being spun suggesting that a policy with an affordable premium will be in place soon is flatly wrong and not helping restore boxing in New York.

“I have several dates on hold with the New York State Athletic Commission in January 2017 and beyond and I look forward to bringing world class boxing back to New York, but I must have both the assurance that it is legally possible to satisfy the insurance requirements and proper time to promote a show.”

DBE returns with live boxing Saturday, November 19, at the Fox Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, CT, and Friday, December 2, at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia, PA. Tickets are available through the respective venue box offices.