The 45th Round
The clear message was sent to us on March 9, 2001, when Greg Page was left lying in a boxing ring, without an ambulance or paramedics at his disposal; without emergency medical technicians on hand, without oxygen, without a stretcher, without so much as a licensed physician to attend to him.
It was sent again, immediately subsequent to that event, by Nancy Black, when she conducted an “investigation” that was in fact an insult to anyone with any level of moral sensitivity.
Jack Kerns, the chairman of the Kentucky Athletic Commission, and the man primarily responsible for the severity of the injuries that threatened Page's life, sent it again in his transparent effort to cover up his ineptitude by campaigning for the Executive Board of the Association of Boxing Commissions, refusing to talk to the people who demanded answers for his neglect, but issuing a pre-packaged story to an unwitting Kentucky Post reporter highlighting his “concern for the welfare of boxers”.
It was sent by the ABC itself, when it indeed elected Kerns to its board, even after his involvement in the Page fiasco, then a year later, when, armed with full details of his utter disregard for the safety of fighters, and given the opportunity to take a positive step by removing him, refused to do so.
Finally, that message has been recently conveyed by Kentucky promoters, the Kentucky Athletic Commission, and certain individuals in the Kentucky legislature when they voiced objections to the Greg Page Act BASED ON the contention that having an ambulance present at a professional boxing match was NOT COST-EFFECTIVE.
In case you haven't guessed, that message, which has been sent in a number of different ways, is – GET LOST, FIGHTERS – YOU'RE NOTHING TO US BUT FURNITURE.
Well now it's time to send a message back, LOUD AND CLEAR – one that the ABC hasn't sent, that John McCain doesn't seem to want to send, and that Greg Sirb, the wannabe boxing “czar”, who was more concerned with gathering votes to stay on the ABC board himself at the 2001 meeting than he was in some real leadership in this matter, has consciously avoided sending as well.
THAT message is – ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. If you are going to produce working conditions that are potentially unsafe, and resist any adjustments or enhancements to bring those conditions to a level that is acceptable, it is simply not going to be tolerated.
It's a message that can be delivered most effectively by one group in particular – the boxers themselves.
And with that, I am, in fact, calling for a full boycott of the state of Kentucky by ALL professional fighters, until such time as the state is willing to establish a requirement that safety conditions be improved to the point where fighters are not taking an undue risk every time they step into a Kentucky ring.
What does that entail?
Well, paraphrasing and/or embellishing on what was in the Greg Page Act:
* An ambulance, with at least one paramedic, to be present at all times
* A requirement that the ringside physician be licensed, not just by the commission, but by the state board of licensure, and that the license be in good standing (no suspensions or revocations on record)
* Health insurance for all fighters in order to cover injuries suffered in a match
Certainly, we'd like two physicians present at all cards, but we can live without it for now, as long as ringside is never left unattended by a physician while punches are being thrown, and that all those physicians have their proper licensure.
The ambulance, with the paramedic, is an issue on which no one should budge.
Somebody e-mailed me and asked what the big deal was about having the ambulance there as opposed to EMT's. Well, an ambulance isn't necessarily accompanied by anyone but a driver, but if there is at least one paramedic coming with that ambulance, the difference is:
* Even the “EMT 2”, which is the more experienced Emergency Medical Technician, has only about 75-100 hours of training. The paramedic has over SIX HUNDRED. Unlike an EMT, the paramedic can make diagnoses, administering all kinds of fluids and medication, with the ability and authority to follow protocols for administering the drugs. In effect, he/she is an extension of the emergency room out in the field.
In short, under certain circumstances, it could be the difference between life and death.
What you've got to understand is that these are two trained people HITTING EACH OTHER IN THE HEAD.
Ambulance + Paramedics = NECESSARY
An atmosphere that includes anything less than the aforementioned safety components constitutes a workplace that is potentially unsafe, a state of affairs that should be of at least some concern to the following organizations, all of whom have represented themselves to be looking out for the best interests of boxing and whom I will prevail upon to offer their support:
THE BOXERS' ORGANIZING COMMITTEE — Paul Johnson, head of this fledgling boxers' union, has already pledged his support to this campaign. “It's what we're all about,” he says. “Who are we if we are not looking out for the fighters' safety?”
RETIRED BOXERS FOUNDATION — This one, headed by Alex Ramos and Jacquie Richardson, is designed to render assistance to retired fighters, as the name implies, but they'd much prefer it if those fighters retired of their own volition, unlike Page, who had no choice, mainly due to the unsafe environment in Kentucky. Needless to say, the RBF is solidly behind this effort.
F.I.S.T. — This organization recently aligned with the OPEIU, a union that is part of the AFL-CIO. Since the OPEIU is apparently concerned with “unsafe working conditions”, this should be an issue that is right up its alley.
RING 8 — On this organization's website, it says, “Boxers helping boxers”. I'll be happy to explain how they can do that here.
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF PROFESSIONAL RINGSIDE PHYSICIANS — Exists as a “non-profit organization dedicated to the health and safety of the professional and amateur boxer”. It should be noted that Dr. Michael Schwartz, head of the organization, wrote a strongly-worded letter to Kentucky Senator Gary Tapp, advocating for the improved safety measures outlined in the Greg Page Act. He is a advocate in particular of having two doctors present at all fights at all times.
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR THE IMPROVEMENT OF BOXING — In their words, the AAIB is “composed of volunteers who were willing to work to improve the image of the sport, aid in the welfare and safety of its participants, and provide a means for young people to improve their self-image.” Perfect.
INTERNATIONAL PROFESSIONAL RING OFFICIALS ASSOCIATION — Barry Druxman heads this organization, and has told us, “IPRO believes that for the safety of our fighters, every state and commission should see to it that an ambulance and at least one paramedic is at ringside at all times. Otherwise, the fighter's safety is at great risk.”. Obviously, if ANY official is mindful that anything less than a safe environment existed, he/she should respectfully refuse to work such a fight.
THE ABC'S MEDICAL COMMITTEE — I would dare say that if Dr. Paul Wallace, the chairman of this committee, who has been an advocate of ambulance services at fights, didn't come out solidly behind a boycott of Kentucky, I'd have to question the justification for the committee's very existence.
EVERY STATE BOXING COMMISSION — My first instinct is to send a letter to Tim Lueckenhoof, urging him to distribute it to the ABC membership and collect feedback. If that particular request is refused, I will be happy to send a letter on my own to each and every boxing commission. My objective here would be to (a) create some awareness as to what their colleagues are up to; (b) ascertain how they feel about this issue, by soliciting the feedback myself; (c) hope that we might prompt some action, somewhere, somehow.
EACH MAJOR SANCTIONING BODY — Naturally, they shouldn't be sanctioning any title fights in Kentucky. Wouldn't it be ironic, after all the bashing the ABC-types like to give them, if these guys threw their support behind a boycott based on this safety issue, while boxing commissions resisted it?
BOXING PROMOTERS — I'm relatively sure that if you inquired with the likes of Don King, Bob Arum, Cedric Kushner, Main Events, Lou DiBella, Gary Shaw, Dan Goossen, Dino Duva, Mike Acri, Tony Holden, Jimmy Burchfield, Ballroom Boxing, Kingfish Boxing, Don Chargin, and others, they would never even DREAM of conducting a fight without an ambulance present, or go into a state that not only doesn't require it, but discourages it. Or would they? Have they? We'll find out.
Please understand that it really wouldn't matter to me if a promoter came in from out-of-state, for example, and installed an ambulance, with paramedics, at one of its fights. My concern is in disadvantaging the state, i.e., the commission, for its careless ATTITUDE about fighters.
I'm realistic enough to know that we won't be able to get all fighters to stay out of Kentucky. But I'd like to know where everyone's philosophical position on this issue. I want the message to be passed on to fighters. And frankly, I'd like to see who's willing to step out. You see, a lot of organizations created ostensibly “for the benefit of boxing” like to preach, but when it comes time to be strong, they take out their calculators, and start to think about things like, 'Who are we going to piss off?', 'Who's not going to give us money?', 'Who's going to say naughty things about us?', 'Whose friend is upset with us?', etc., etc. And then all of a sudden you've got someone with nothing but excuses.
So I guess what I'm saying is, to use an oft-beaten cliche, I already know who can talk the talk.
We'll find out soon enough who's willing to walk the walk.
I'll keep you posted.