The 17th Round

I get a surprising amount of feedback from people within the boxing industry who believe that it is not a commission's job at all to exercise authority in the area of approving matches that take place on shows within their jurisdictions.

A common quote I hear is, “If fights turn out to be mismatches, just yank the matchmaker's license from him. But let him do his job.”

On the surface, this is a point well-taken. After all, when you license certain individuals the way boxing commissions do, you are, in a way, relying on their professional expertise and judgment, and to a certain extent, you are actually CERTIFYING that professional expertise, at least to the point where you are permitting the licensee to practice.

It would follow that you are also granting a certain amount of latitude by virtue of this licensure. Some say if a matchmaker or promoter were to abuse that latitude, there would then be sufficient justification to revoke a license, but not until then.

I guess I could go along with this train of thought, if not for a few things:

1) It's too easy for a matchmaker to turn around and operate through other people, and without a license.

2) A lot of the suspensions and revocations that are not medically-related, and don't involve boxers, are not honored in reciprocal fashion by other boxing commissions.

3) Experience has taught me that most promoters will do exactly what they can get away with in the process of moving a fighter's career along.

4) Experience has also taught me that padding a fighter's record on the way to a prospective payday is a much more important consideration for most promoters than the interests of a live audience at a club show.

5) It's a lot more difficult in boxing to protect the consumer after they've already been duped.

I also hear the argument that “the marketplace should decide”. Well, the problem there is that, although there may not be blatant false advertising, there may indeed be certain vague misrepresentations, or omissions. For example, a poster promoting a fight has the fighters billed without their records being listed. One of the fighters may even be touted as “tough contender”, or some kind of nonsense like that. He may have an 0-15 record, but that's obviously never mentioned. So theoretically, the public is being asked to make a buying decision, yet does not have all the necessary information at its disposal. That more or less violates the rules of the “marketplace”.

There simply has to be some recourse available.

So if I were a commissioner, I could probably agree to divorce myself from being involved with vetoing certain matches submitted to me by matchmakers/promoters. But this is the complete set of conditions under which I would do it, and it's what I would suggest for all commissioners whofind themselves faced with this decision:

* I'd require all promoters to deposit the purse money into my custody, or take a property bond for the amount of the purses, so that fighters would have the security of knowing that no matter what happens, they'll get paid.

* I would require that all advertising related to the fight include the records of fighters when their names are prominently featured, and records posted next to fighters' names when undercard bouts are listed.

* I would reserve the right to “red-flag” certain matches submitted to me by the promoter. These are the matches that I feel I would not normally have approved. This puts me, as a commissioner, on record in finding certain fights questionable, and at the same time, puts the matchmaker on notice – up front – that this is one of those instances where I'm relying strictly on his professional judgment.

* For fights like these, I would make it a point to have designated representatives of my commission watching for two things, so as to have corroboration – lack of performance, and signs of ARTIFICIAL performance, out of the contestants, as I am evaluating every fight.

* For every show, I would require ALL gate receipts to be surrendered to the custody of the commission until such time as I authorize them to be released to the promoter for the purpose of paying fighters.

* If, at the conclusion of the show, I, as the commissioner, have determined that enough horrible, inexcusable, and avoidable mismatches have taken place so as to be offensive to the public interest – and paying particular attention to those fights that were “red-flagged” – I have the right to seize the microphone, and make an official announcement that anyone in the crowd can, right then and there, avail himself/herself of a full refund, as long as he/she has a PAID ticket stub.

* If such a situation occurred, I would reserve the right to revoke the promoter's and/or matchmaker's license.

* I would create the mechanism by which I would formally request that all suspensions or revocations of licenses in connections with such an action be reciprocated by ALL boxing commissions.

* I would make sure I was in a position to enforce further suspensions against promoters or matchmakers who might operate while still under disciplinary sanction within my jurisdiction.

* I would impose fines on the offenders as I see fit.

* I would dare any of them to sue me.

So what would all this accomplish?

Well, it would, almost without question, drive shamelessly bad promoters and matchmakers out of business. At the very least, it would cause them to be a lot more careful in terms of taking “liberties” with the quality of their fights.

Imagine if a promoter is put into the position where he has to refund money to any customer who wanted it, while at the same time, he has already guaranteed the fighters' purses with the commission. This supplies the consumer protection component and is a potentially disastrous turn of events for any promoter who doesn't put forward a quality product. And it could bring up an ironic reversal – in a matter of moments, it can go from a situation where the public is at the mercy of an unscrupulous promoter to one where that promoter is completely at the mercy of the public.

For all scam artists who choose to disguise themselves as boxing promoters, that's a delicious irony, isn't it?

Copyright 2003 Total Action Inc.