The 66th Round

As you can imagine, I always enjoy getting feedback from my readers, especially when they are subscribers. A few weeks back I was actually a little surprised to receive the following e-mail. Whether this particular sender has a stake in the matter is something that is not known to me.

Mr. Jay,

In my opinion, you are taking a dangerous and sanctimonious path by encouraging then end of Toughman-type fights with such headers as “June 17, 2003

You are the investigator, but as someone who tries to keep up with this “ban toughman” crap, here's my impression…there have been relatively few deaths and relatively few bad injuries over the last 25 years. There's been zero attempt at really trying to decipher why these unfortunate things have happened, just some use of the shock-value effect of a few (of the already few) examples where the circumstances were extreme. No attempts at showing how many fatalities per bout. No attempts at showing how rare injuries really are because it's (I can only assume) contrary to the authors' agendas.
This is the exact same method of attack the people who try to ban boxing use. It's also the same type of flawed reasoning I've seen you so often point out while reading your articles.
Perhaps I am mistaken, but I sure would like to see you spend some Operation Cleanup rounds explaining your views on this issue.

Mike Curran

In the interest in getting an answer back to him quickly, I fired this response, as respectfully as possible:

Mr. Curran,

I'm surprised you would make that suggestion. I've already spent several rounds doing just that in Operation Cleanup 2. Those views and explanations are CRYSTAL-CLEAR, and are based in part on some personal experience with the issue. Perhaps you should read it.

Shock value? Yes. Why? Because it IS shocking.

If your choice is to communicate criticisms like the one above without reading what I have already written on the subject, let me give you the problem in a nutshell – I could give a shit about “statistics”, frankly. Manifestly out-of-shape people should not be participating, without proper supervision, in a sport that is dangerous, even if they're just fooling around. In fact, ESPECIALLY if they're just fooling around. PERIOD.

When WILL it all end?

Thank you


Of course, now that I've had some more time at my disposal to contemplate things, allow me to elaborate on this a little.

First of all, the notion that there ARE any statistics on the Toughman is nonsense. Despite any contrived numbers that are offered up by Art Dore, the fact is that he can't produce anything plausible because there ARE no records of fighters in these contests, or of what happens to them in the event of serious injury. There is no way to tell whether they've been knocked unconscious one night and fought the next, because suspension lists for it don't exist.

There is no way to determine whether a contestant has spread or contracted HIV or Hepatitis-C, because those kinds of pre-fight tests are not taken. There is no way of determining the after-effects of fighting in a Toughman contest, because post-fight examinations are not taken, and because the competitors are not licensed, there is no way to track their history of injuries in the ring. There are no MRI's, no EEG's, EKG's, no eye tests, no nothing.

There is really no way of telling whether a contestant is in shape or has trained to any extent; no way of detecting any serious medical condition that might exist and might normally disqualify someone from participating. There is no mechanism in place to preempt mismatches, because there are no licensed matchmakers and no consideration of background when making a match.

There are no real penalties for those who have lied on their applications. In fact, people like Dore have been contributory to this problem, by bringing “ringers” from one state to another. Obviously, there are no fight-by-fight records kept in a centralized database on Toughman competitions. As a result, someone coming into the event to compete “for fun” has no idea whether he or she is going to be thrown into the ring with someone much more experienced.

There is no effective sense of regulation, since the promoter and sanctioning body are one in the same, which in this case amounts to a total joke. There is no insurance whatsoever to cover injuries to competitors. In most cases, there is no ambulance, and no paramedics to offer immediate medical attention to seriously injured combatants.

You've got referees who are employees of the promoter, carrying out the promoter's overall directive, which is to facilitate action, not to stop a fight when it looks like the action may be too perilous for one of the fighters. In just the last year or so, we have seen examples of competitors who wanted to quit, but essentially weren't allowed to, and suffered serious injury or death as a result. And how many times do we have to see the image of the huckster promoter (Dore) standing there with the microphone, like a carnival barker, egging the whole thing on, before we puke?

What kind of guy is Art Dore? He's the type who went before the Nevada State Athletic Commission and would not acknowledge his involvement with an “elimination contest” death in Idaho, then was subsequently proven to be a liar when videotape of the event in question was shown on HBO, as part of a “Real Sports” segment, clearly with Dore as the ring announcer, and the “Original Toughman” logo squarely in the center of the ring canvas. Sure – that's the kind of fellow to whom I could entrust the safety of fighters through something like the phony “American Boxing and Athletic Association”.

Dore has insisted to reporters on more than one occasion that he warns all his contest entrants about the inherent dangers of boxing. But does he? If he doesn't tell them everything I've outlined in the last few paragraphs, he most assuredly isn't doing that.

And the biggest assholes of all in this whole thing are the so-called state boxing commissions who honestly feel that having Toughman contests are going to fill the vacuum left by the dearth of true professional boxing within their jurisdiction. Because of that, they're all too happy to “regulate” it.

Dore is only too happy to have it regulated as well, but only if its regulated AS IS. Meaning, as long as he's allowed to run his promotions exactly the way they would be run if there were no oversight at all.

And I can tell you this unequivocally – anybody who is under the impression that having this event “regulated” is somehow going to bring a level of legitimacy to it, or is going to be make it safer, or generally less objectionable, should be fired from his state job. Can anyone explain to me how maintaining an atmosphere where fighters who are 160 pounds compete in the same weight division as fighters who are 185 pounds somehow resembles a degree of acceptable regulation?

Is there anyone who can break down for me how it is in the public interest, from the commission's perspective, for pedestrians with little or no training, and no experience, to step into a boxing ring in a competitive fashion, and how that can possibly qualify as a “state-sanctioned sporting event”?

The “sanctioning” of a Toughman contest does not change one very fundamental aspect of the event – the fact that you've got a lot of people putting themselves at physical risk who have no business going into a boxing ring. Look at every one of the serious injuries or deaths in Toughman – everybody thought it was going to be “fun”; no one had any idea that the activity carried something a lot more serious in the way of potential consequence.

So what really makes the whole thing any different when a commissions sanctions and approves it, other than the fact that the state collects money from it?

Truth be known, if states applied anything in the way of respectable regulatory standards, it would almost undoubtedly preclude Toughman shows from taking place. Imagine Dore having to get the required pre-fight physical test done on the competitors – in advance, since it takes a couple of days to get some of the results. Or having to provide sufficient information about his fighters to get them licensed. Or having an ambulance continuously present. Or having insurance for everyone who enters the ring. Or having to divide his competitions into the traditional weight classes, as any state-sanctioned boxing event requires.

Certainly, it would present a logistical nightmare for Toughman promotions. From a financial standpoint, proper regulation would make it cost-prohibitive for someone like Dore to do business.

And you know what? That's the way it SHOULD be.

Copyright 2003 Total Action Inc.