The 55th Round

Years ago, when I was doing a little matchmaking, both on the pro and amateur level, in the Tampa Bay area, I was trying to put a certain aspiring heavyweight on one of my Friday night amateur cards, but was rebuffed by some officials of the ABF (now known as USA Boxing), who told me he was ineligible, because not only had he competed in a “Badman” contest (a knock-off of Toughman) a couple of weeks before that, but he had actually won the first prize – a check in the amount of $1000.

According to those officials, by just competing in that event, he forfeited his amateur status. I was at the “Badman” show, so I saw the guy fight. But I really didn't know about the rule, since the competition was billed as something that was essentially “amateur” in nature.

So I put the kid into a pro show the next week. He wanted to be a fighter, so if he wanted to do so he had no real choice. He got knocked out, and that was basically the end of his career.

The point is, these “toughman” contests – or any variation thereof – exist in this nether land between professional and amateur boxing. As far as some commissions are concerned, they are not professional contests and therefore don't fall under the same laws and/or regulations as professional fights would, and the bouts obviously don't go on anyone's professional record. For anyone but the winner of most of these events, there is no financial reward. But the amateur governing body – USA Boxing – doesn't want to come anywhere near it, beyond the extent to which it bans Toughman competitors from ever competing in amateur boxing – that is, if they find out about it.

On June 13, 2002, a Michigan congressman proposed something he promoted as a solution to this dilemma. Rep. James Barcia, a Democrat, introduced H.R. 4929, which would “recognize the American Boxing and Athletic Association as the official sanctioning body for amateur elimination boxing contests.” This would have established the ABAA as the entity setting and enforcing standards for these types of events across the country. And I would assume that no one would be permitted to go forward with an “amateur elimination contest” without ABAA sanction and approval.

For now, let's get away from semantics. Let's forget about the proposition that someone from this ABAA might walk into a courtroom, maybe even in the state of Michigan, and try to enjoin an event like the National Golden Gloves or the Olympic Trials because it could be argued that these too could be considered to be “amateur elimination boxing contests.”

For now, I'd rather focus on just exactly what the “American Boxing and Athletic Association” really is. In a letter sent to Barcia on October 16, 2002, Tim Lueckenhoff, president of the Association of Boxing Commissions, wrote, “As they are
private entities, there may be more than one legitimate sanctioning body for such sports. To bless one with the designation of 'official' will unfairly give preferential treatment to a non-governmental organization over others in the marketplace, regardless of their proficiency or standards.”

It's actually much worse than that.

In fact, it's worse than any sanctioning body one can imagine, because it's clearly set up as a promotional tool, designed to support one organization and one organization only – The Original Toughman Contest – to the exclusion of all others.

There's a good explanation for that.

You see, the “ABAA” is Art Dore. And Art Dore IS the “ABAA”.

The Amateur Boxing and Athletic Association is 501-C(3) non-profit corporation that is on file in the state of Michigan. The registered agent for the company is Arthur P. Dore. Dore, and Murray Sutherland, the former super middleweight champion who is one of his employees, are listed as officers on the Form 990 of this corporation, which was previously known as the “Art Dore Boxing and Athletic Association”.

The address is a post office box in Bay City, Michigan.

James Barcia, the representative who introduced this bill, is from Bay City as well.

And in case you're a little slow, what this means is that – unbelievable as it may seem – an elected public official actually engaged in a pro-active attempt to create a legal monopoly for one of his constituents – no doubt a constituent who arranged some “campaign financing” somewhere along the way.

If this bill had gotten through the House Science and Commerce Committee and eventually passed, Dore could have effectively knocked out all opposition – not to mention all of his competition – in what would have been one of the all-time great end runs around any form of independent boxing regulation.

Thank God it never got that far.

Mercifully, for the sport of boxing, Congressman Barcia became a victim of redistricting and re-apportionment. The 2000 U.S. Census eliminated one of Michigan's seats in the House of Representatives for 2002, and Barcia was the casualty. So instead of working for the benefit of Art Dore in Washington, he now must do so from the Michigan State Senate, which he was elected to last year.

But this should serve as a cautionary tale for anyone who contends that the solution to ANY of boxing's ills is to get a bunch of Washington politicians involved, because we have before us a textbook example of the potential disaster that can result. Barcia's office won't clarify it, but what we're presented with is one of two possible scenarios – either it was a case of a politician who was completely clueless as to the ramifications of legislation he was actually introducing, or a politician who was perfectly aware of the potential effects, and consciously proposed that kind of bill anyway, in the name of the public interest, with hidden motives we can only speculate on.

Either way, it sucks.

Likewise, either way, because this was his “brainchild”, there's very little doubt as to where Art Dore's head is at, in terms of his long-term objectives.

And that's a very dangerous place, even by the standards of professional OR amateur boxing.

Copyright 2003 Total Action Inc.