Jerry Kopel

"The states have failed", Congressman Peter King (R) told the New York Times regarding the 1996 Professional Boxing Safety Act. That act applies to all states, including Colorado, as a non-funded mandate. "I always felt" said King, "the government should stay out unless there is a need, but this is an area where the states have failed."

Consequence of that "failure"? Major amendments to the federal boxing law are moving through Congress. Those amendments will have to be adopted by our state legislature, probably in 2005, to apply to Colorado's boxing law. The Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) state boxing commissioners will need to adopt new regulations.

Movers of the 2004 amendments are Sen. John McCain (R) and Rep. King, the same gentlemen who forced re-regulation of boxing in Colorado. S.275 by McCain, has already passed the U.S. Senate. King is co-sponsoring a second version, HR 1281.

Both bills would set up a three member "United State Boxing Commission" (USBC) with staff, to write and oversee boxing events and regulations. The USBC in some instances could "ignore" state boxing commissions, including Colorado, or could "delegate" authority to state commissions.

Main duty of the USBC? "Except as otherwise determined by the Commission, oversee all professional boxing matches in the United States." The commission would promulgate uniform standards and "work with the boxing commissions of the several states..."

Not clear is whether the USBC would be financed by funds collected by the state boxing commissions as to fights that the USBC decides it will oversee. Here are some of the changes being proposed in the McCain bill.

Jurisdiction over fights at Indian casinos on Indian reservations will be with the USBC and with boxing commissions established under jurisdiction of the Indian tribes.

Approval of fights by the USBC is not "presumed", as to fights in Colorado for championships, or for ten rounds or more, or where one of the boxer has suffered ten consecutive defeats or been knocked out five consecutive times. The approval can be delegated by USBC to a state commission.

In effect, the bill takes away authority of state legislatures to determine whether or not state rules and regulations have met the standards required by the federal law. The USBC will make that decision.

All persons licensed, either at the state or federal level have to be placed in a unified national computerized registry. Licenses for boxers will last for four years and two years for other persons licensed. License fees will be set by the USBC. (Will the fee be the same in New York as in Colorado?)

Colorado's State Athletic Commission (regulating boxing and wrestling) was one of the first agencies reviewed under the 1976 Sunset law which required a need for licensing to be shown. Reports issued by the State Auditor and DORA in 1977 criticized how the commission operated. Also two of the three commissioners had served over 25 years. One, Eddie Bohn, had served 43 years and as chairman for 20 years.

Witnesses at the hearings in a 1977 Senate committee claimed discrimination by the commission against blacks and Hispanics with "the chairman often making allegedly unilateral decisions regarding issuing a license."

The commission was abolished in 1977. Many attempts to reinstate it failed, until 2000, when the legislature approved revival based on the 1996 federal law mandate. While language in the proposed 2005 federal language is stronger than present law for protection of the public and boxers, the language does weaken state control over boxing.

(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)

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