OPEN LETTER FROM NYSAC ED DAVID BERLIN
May 19, 2015
To The Boxing Community,
May 1 marked my one-year anniversary at the New York State Athletic Commission. It has been a productive year for the Commission and a year that has witnessed the growth of professional boxing in New York.
New York is looking to have its busiest year in decades in 2015. Already, there have been 17 boxing cards in New York State, small and large, downstate and upstate. Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous boxing venue and the one most closely tied to boxing’s rich history, and the Barclays Center, one of the top modern venues for the sport, are each looking to host several important boxing events during the year, events that bring the energy and excitement of big-time boxing to New York.
Behind the scenes and out of the spotlight – a spotlight that rightfully belongs only to the men and women who climb into the ring to fight – the Commission has been hard at work. The Commission’s core functions are to regulate the sport, to oversee boxing events, and to make certain that medical and safety precautions are in place to protect the health of fighters. We have developed, and continue to develop, a competent and professional staff to undertake these functions. In the past year we have built a small but efficient office staff to handle the daily work of the Commission and we have added substantially to our event-day staff. Inspectors received a pay increase for the first time in 25 years, putting their compensation in line with the high demands of the job; they are our eyes and ears in the dressing rooms and in the corners, making sure that regulations are followed, that the fighters are clean and that the sport is conducted in a fair and safe manner. In addition, several workshops were held for inspectors, and clear protocols were developed for both inspectors and ringside physicians. These protocols ensure that the Commission is consistent in its practices so that boxers and their teams will know what to expect when they come to New York to fight.
What the boxers and their teams can expect in New York is a transparency and consistency that ensures that the sport is run in an open, honest and fair manner. Toward that end, we have worked to make sure that the Commission website provides up-to-date information to the public, including a calendar of upcoming boxing shows, all forms that boxers and their teams require in New York, bulletins describing current Commission practices, and New York’s boxing rules. In addition, a Boxer Information Sheet is provided to boxers and their teams at weigh-ins so that they have easy access to New York’s basic rules and practices and will know what to expect on fight night.
With the boxer as our focal point, we have developed a new Bout Contract that uses clear, straightforward language to describe the agreement between boxer and promoter, and that puts boxers on notice of what, if any, deductions will be made from the fighter’s purse. This allows boxers to know, at the time a contract is signed, exactly what they can expect to earn for the fight, and it avoids the misunderstandings that stem naturally from finding out only after a fight is complete that money is being deducted. In a departure from past practice, we have also worked with promoters to conduct weigh-ins at or near the venue where the event will be taking place in order to save boxers from the burden of traveling to the Commission and allow them time to rest for the next day’s fight.
All of our new practices are developed with the fighter in mind, and there is nothing more important than making sure that the boxer who earns the victory in the ring has his or her hand raised at the end of the fight. That means having qualified, competent officials in place who will exercise proper judgment. We have held referee and judge seminars in order to make sure that our officials are following consistent standards. These seminars also give referees and judges an opportunity to share ideas and to compare approaches toward sometimes difficult situations; in this way, they are prepared for the many scenarios that may arise in the ring. In addition to seminars, I have frequent conversations with individual judges and referees to discuss their work in a particular fight as I believe that open and constructive dialog gives all of us a chance to grow as professionals.
Other new practices also serve our goals of clarity, transparency and fairness:
- We have put in place a selection process for referees and judges in world title fights that gives the boxer and his or her team a voice in who is selected.
- We have created a clear set of criteria defining who is eligible to fight for the New York State Championship title, criteria that are in keeping with the significance of the title.
- We have changed the boxer license application to provide for the possibility of drug testing at any time during the licensure period and not only on the night of a fight.
- We have developed a clear and consistent process for weigh-ins that makes the official scale available to the boxers prior to the official weigh-in but provides just one chance for boxers in non-title fights to step on the scale at the official weigh-in. In title fights, boxers who weigh in heavy are given two hours to make weight.
- We have required that promoters provide the same brand and model of gloves to both boxers in a bout. If a boxer wants to wear a different brand or model, then the boxer or his team must supply two pairs of the gloves (or four in a title bout) so that the other boxer will have the option of wearing either the gloves provided by the promoter or the same gloves that his or her opponent is wearing.
- We encourage the boxer’s trainer to have a representative watch the opponent wrap and glove up prior to a bout.
In addition to our efforts to create a professional environment that protects boxers and advances the integrity of the sport, I am particularly proud of our program to promote boxer health through the NYSAC Health Insurance Initiative. Through a series of open houses at the Commission, at boxing gyms and at weigh-ins, the Commission has arranged for boxers to receive one-on-one assistance in enrolling in health insurance plans through the New York State of Health Marketplace. Our success is measured in the number of enrollees. Sixty-nine boxers and other boxing people who did not previously have health coverage (and 90 individuals in total when family members are included) are now enrolled in health insurance plans. Boxers who are injured in the gym can now go to a doctor and know that they will be covered, and they can maintain their good health by going for an annual check-up.
There is, of course, much work to be done, work that includes updating and modernizing New York’s boxing rules to bring them in line with current accepted practices in boxing. Toward that end, New York has abolished the three-knockdown rule, properly leaving the appropriate moment of a stoppage to the judgment of qualified referees. Continued work on New York’s rules is a project that we plan to move forward on in the coming year.
Just as we will work on the rules to bring them in line, where appropriate, with other jurisdictions, New York is committed to working with our fellow Commissions in order to bring uniformity to the sport in many other areas. This shared goal of bringing uniformity to the sport will help to ensure the long term health of boxing and will benefit the boxers who will be able to compete according to the same rules and practices wherever they ply their trade.
We have made great progress in the past year but of course the work continues. I look forward to the challenges ahead as we do our part to make sure that boxers are protected, that the integrity of the sport is maintained, and that boxing continues to thrive in New York State.