The Politics of Boxing

10.06.04 – By Keith Terceira: Boxing has long been a sport that pulls its participants from a pool of individuals that at best come from the blue collar working class and just as often from the underprivileged of the nation. If you look to the political map of how this nation votes for its officials you will see a direct correlation between what states over regulate boxing and what states allow more personal responsibility to take effect. While some states under regulate others swing to the obscene which hurts boxing.

As an athlete and the father of athletes, I am often amazed that the rules and regulations that are dumped on boxing are not dumped on other sports as well. In the ten years I spent boxing, playing both baseball and football, and 4 years getting hammered on the hockey ice, baseball and boxing were the softer of the four. In a two year span in high school football I suffered two concussions, a separated shoulder, and had my bell rung so many times I began to think I was the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Never once those years did someone run out and force me to have a neuro exam or CAT scans. Fact is that the summer I suffered heat exhaustion from two a days in 90 degree temps was the most miserable of my life and still I started 9 games. No one attempted to protect me from my own decision to play football until I could barely move, get my butt kicked on the ice, or stop me from a rotor cuff tear and various other ailments from baseball that remain to this day. Instead I had my name on a banner and was celebrated as a team player.

So when I began seeing politicians overwhelming boxing with medical evals and testing in some states and only blood work in others the bells in my head starting ringing again, no not from football, but warning bells for the sport.

It would figure that the states that require all the testing are the same states the politically swing to the side of big government and governmental intrusion on the people rights to self determination. Under the guise of protecting the people they have been sworn to represent, numerous laws have been enacted that have caused the sport to suffer almost to the brink of extinction.

Case in point, in several states a boxer who wishes to become a pro must do one of two things, afford the medicals himself (a cost of 800-1200 dollars) or convince a promoter to pay for these medicals. Many times the boxer who is a native of say New York will begin his career in another state that does not require all these meds. This of course makes him the underdog immediately. Often being thrown in with a local favorite and more often than not being the loser unless he has been put on some manager or promoters protected list..

Now the second thing this boxer can do is find himself a manager with some deep pockets who has the connections to get him started at home. So instead of being a free agent so to speak here is a guy strapped to a contract from the get go.

Problem is that promoters are having to pay the rising costs of these medicals which is totally destroying the fight game in the areas that once supplied the majority of fighters. The rising costs make it financially impossible to run a small show or a club fight. Fact is that the medical costs often run more money than the purses in a four rounds fight. This problem has driven fighters from states like New York and forced them to states like Florida to fight. There will be more fights this year in the state of Indiana than in the State of New York even though they have but a fraction of the population. Same goes for Pennsylvania.

Let’s be realistic, many fighters that turn pro are not from Bel Aire, did not attend Harvard, and if they could afford several thousand dollars in medical testing would rather put braces on their children’s teeth or move to better neighborhoods. These costs throw fighters into the arms of sometime unscrupulous people. Not the majority of managers and promoters but the small percentage that ruin the sport. Why because of limited funds for those good businessmen in the sport.

Then you must consider the side of those managers or promoters. While the majority love the sport, they are businessmen, if they are going to bring a fighter up in the ranks they must protect them, match them to win or create wins. Problem is that in order to manufacture the wins while the fighter learns and matures you must have a pool of opponents. That pool is disappearing a little more every day. What you have left is a whole bunch of protected fighters and no opponents, unless you fly them in from states that have fighters. Of course those states are the ones with little to no medical costs. So now the small time or beginning promoter has to contend with travel costs and medicals and purses. This is a cycle that ruins the sport of boxing.

Now lets examine another effect on the sport. The same states that have over-regulated the sport to almost extinction are also the ones that have the biggest media outlets. The media which impacts the fans and the fighters fan base has little to nothing to report unless its out of state. So who cares. Not the fan, because he wants to see the fighter fight. Not just read about some show in Gary or Miami his local favorite was on. So the majority of media moves on to other things.

Next comes the bad calls, whether intentional or not, conscience and sub-conscience, they are created by the same system that the officials and politicians have created themselves. Promoter A has protected his few fighters so that he can afford to continue running his shows. Promoter A is one of the only games in the state anymore and if he goes away like the dozens of others, the commission has little to no work on which to validate their offices. So guess what happens and who wins. Is it not natural to go with what pays you. Supply and demand. If promoters had a larger pool of fighters to draw from they could have less concern on who wins and loses. So would the commissions of a state.

States like New York, New Jersey, and the New England region once had several club shows going on any given weekend. The pool of fighters to draw from was huge. You could run a show and put on a debut fighter for very little cost. A fighter could begin his career without having to be attached to anyone until he choose to. Now if those states have even a couple dozen shows a year it is a lot. The city of New York alone at one point would have a dozen shows a month. All packed with neighborhood fans rooting for a local kid. To fight at Madison Square Garden was the ultimate goal for New Jersey and New York fighters. Now you are lucky to have a couple of shows a year in the city.

Here is another issue, fighter A pays a grand to have his medicals done so he can fight his first fight. His purse is 500.00 already he is in the hole, well he loses, now the commission requires him because he was stopped to have another CAT scan or MRI and a neuro to get off suspension. That’s another grand or so. Well fighter A says screw it. I barely have two nickels to rub together as it is, I already have a loss on my record, I make more money pumping gas or running a forklift, and fans only like the undefeated fighters any more anyway. The promoter or manager either has to cover the costs or release the fighter eventually to survive himself. It is a business ,not only a sport.

You can’t fault the commissions either because they have to function within the laws they have been given to work in. It is their responsibility to fulfill their duties while also attempting to save the sport in their states. A job that is becoming increasingly difficult.

This political environment affects not just boxing but any activity that elected officials think you need to be protected from yourself on. Horseback riding, motorcycling, jogging, even riding a bicycle has come under regulations that are intrusive to self determination.

Unless these things are changed in a more equitable fashion the sport will eventually perish and what will come next are similar rules for other sports because these politicians will need to interfere elsewhere.

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