Will Arkansas Play Host To The Next Ring Tragedy?

BY Charles Jay ON August 25, 2005
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While middleweight champion Jermain Taylor has truly reached the apex of his profession, his home state of Arkansas is still in the dark ages in terms of regulating the sport of boxing. That's the theme of a recent, well-written piece in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette by a young man with a name that was built for boxing - Jake Bleed. Certainly this story comes from the point of view of someone who appears to be looking at these kinds of issues for the very first time. The revelation that a boxing commission would have no earthly idea about what they were doing seems like an unpleasant surprise. Unfortunately, it's widespread problem, and if you have any doubt about that, allow me to introduce you to about 800 pages of reading, in the way of Operation Cleanup, Operation Cleanup 2 and Body Shots.

Nonetheless, the story by Bleed should offer a barometer as to how a casual boxing fan or a member of the general public might look at this situation if made aware of it. There are some interesting tidbits; for example, the commission office is located in the back of a janitorial supply company. They don't test for a lot of different things, including hepatitis and HIV; a couple of officials went to the ABC convention last month to find out how to do things right, which is kind of like going to see Ed Wood to learn how to write an Oscar-winning screenplay. The commission's lone employee states the obvious - that when you don't have a clue what you're doing, "You're just waiting for an accident to happen." Bleed writes, "Commissioners say they lack enough people who know the rules of professional boxing and can tell when those rules are being broken."

Yes, that's a scary thing, not just in Arkansas but in a lot of places. Of course, something will happen as a result of this commission's ineptitude or negligence someday, and then THEY'LL be the ones who are running scared. You think the Arkansas people are aware of what happened in Utah, when the commission's lackadaisical attitude may have directly led to the death of a fighter who probably shouldn't have been in the ring? I doubt it very seriously.

"They don't know a left hook from a fish hook," said Ray Rodgers, who is identified as chairman of Golden Gloves of America Inc., about the Arkansas commission.

Scariest part of all is, he may not be exaggerating.

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