By Elisa Harrison
Updated: August 29, 2005

MIAMI, FLA.—Testimony of BRUCE C. SPIZLER, Chairman, Legal Committee Association Of Boxing Commissions before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Oversight Hearing:

“Examining Professional Boxing: Are Further Reforms Necessary”


• From the first attempts to regulate the sport of professional boxing in the United States more than 100 years ago through to the present, the “sweet science” has been affected, and infected, by an environment replete with connivance, coercion and, all-too-often, corruption

• Unlike other professional sports in the United States, professional boxing has always been without a centralized league or other form of national oversight; the regulation of the sport being left to those states and tribal organizations which have legislatively created a boxing commission

• From 1960 to the present, previous federal legislative efforts to provide for uniformity and effective enforcement via various forms of a national oversight have been unsuccessful

• “Professional Boxing Safety Act of 1996″ (15 USC §6301, et seq.) – first federal legislation regarding the regulation of the sport of professional boxing; providing for boxer federal identification card; certain conflict of interest provisions; minimal health and safety standards to be adopted by each boxing commission; and enforcement of such measures by the Attorney General via injunction or criminal prosecution for violations of these provisions

• “Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act” (amending 15 USC §6301, et seq.) – addressing some of the exploitative economic practices attendant to professional boxing; .e.g., prohibiting “coercive contracts,” mandating certain financial disclosures by sanctioning organizations and promoters, and requiring sanctioning organizations to publish their “ranking” criteria

• Current problems

A. Venue Shopping

1. Mike Tyson v. Lennox Lewis (2002)

2. Hasim Rahman v. Mario Cawley (2004)

3. Riddick Bowe (2004)

B. Sanctioning Organizations

1. Rankings – Each sanctioning organization independently “ranks,” or “rates,” boxers (typically, one through fifteen), providing a “pecking order” in which each such ranked boxer may move “up the ladder” toward the opportunity to compete for the championship. Considering that a “championship belt” is the end to which every boxer aspires, and that a ranking assigned to a boxer constitutes the road to such glory, a sanctioning organization is all powerful (considered by some as the “engine” which generates power and money in the sport of professional boxing). Yet, sanctioning organizations are not licensed by any boxing commission and, as a result, are not subject to the jurisdiction of any boxing commission.

a. Bob Lee, Sr. (former President of the International Boxing Federation)

b. Kirk Johnson

c. Graciano Rocchigiani

2. Selection of Officials

1. Jones v. Hall – Indiana (2000)

2. Forrest v. Mosley – Indiana (2002)

• Association of Boxing Commissions – notwithstanding its noble goals and its volunteer members’ stalwart dedication, a total lack of funding, together with the absence of adequate authority, hinders the ABC’s ability to effectuate uniformity or provide effective enforcement

• “The Professional Boxing Amendments Act of 2004″ (S. 275 / H.R. 1281)

1. licensing and regulation of sanctioning organizations

2. selection of judges and referees by the supervising boxing commission

3. repeal of current provision allowing for boxing in states without a boxing commission

4. creation of a “United States Boxing Commission” – providing, for the first time, for uniformity (eliminating “venue shopping”) and effective enforcement (including investigatory power) while leaving the autonomy of state and tribal boxing commissions in tact

a. approval authority of all boxing contests (approval presumed unless championship bout; bout of 10 rounds or more; others)

b. development of minimal health and safety standards

c. development of minimal contractual provisions

d. establishment and maintenance of a centralized medical registry

e. development of guidelines for objective and consistent written rating criteria which each sanctioning organization must adopt and follow

• Conclusion: The history of the sport of professional boxing is, indeed a sordid one; the absence of a national oversight perpetuating boxing as the “red light district of sport.” Congress has made various attempts to provide for a national oversight of professional boxing for more than 40 years. If not us, who; if not now, when?