Jerry Kopel


Rep. Nolbert Chavez plans to introduce a bill in the Colorado House in January to regulate boxing through a state boxing commission. When he does, he will violate a Colorado law requiring any attempt to regulate an unregulated occupation be submitted by application to the legislature's Sunrise-Sunset Committee, and not directly to the legislature through a bill.

The law, CRS 24-34-104.1, was passed in 1985 to relieve pressure from lobbyists hired by occupational groups who wanted licensing in order to relieve themselves from pressure by competitors. Of course, Rep. Chavez or any other legislator can constitutionally introduce a bill to do whatever he or she wants. But since 1985, legislators have chosen to obey, not violate, their own statute.

Perhaps Rep. Chavez is ignoring the statute because the Sunrise-Sunset Committee has not been supportive of applications to restore licensing for boxers. The legislature KO'd boxing regulation in 1977. The last Sunrise application to restore regulation was submitted by Remigio Pete Reyes of the Mile Hi Professional Boxing Association, and was turned down in 1991.

The Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) which is under control of Gov. Romer, reviewed that application and told the committee "don't do it." Here are some forceful excerpts from that report:

"The primary analysis to determine harm to the public is whether or not the participants are harmed by the unregulated practice...By most accounts, participants fight voluntarily. Many, if not most, train specifically to engage in the sport. Boxers pose a threat to the health, safety, and welfare of their opponent and both of the fighters in the ring are fully aware of this threat.

"True, state mandates could add extra protection for professional fighters. Larger gloves with more dense padding would increase a boxers' safety. A law requiring professional boxers to wear head protection would also contribute to safety in the ring.

"It is not likely that these safety measures would be greeted with favor by the boxing community. Nor is it likely that major boxing events would be held in Colorado under such regulations even though Colorado would be one of the safest states in which to hold matches."

"Professional football is also a violent sport and games are held in Colorado. This sport is not regulated by the state. Participants understand and accept the risk involved in their sport. The Department sees no role for state intervention based upon protection of the participants from the consequences of their personal choices...and the state should reject any effort to shift the responsibility for that choice from the individual to the state government."

As to protection of the general public:

"This argument holds state government regulation protects consumers by establishing a level of quality in the competition. This reasoning could be applied to any entertainment event. Professional team sports, symphonies, even theaters might offer a higher quality product if they were regulated by the state. The counter argument is that free market forces cause entertainment providers to meet their customer's standards for quality or go out of business."

When boxing regulation was outlawed in 1977, only two managers, ten boxers, two promoters, four seconds, one timekeeper, two trainers, and one referee were licensed in Colorado. For the past eighteen years, while Colorado has been without a boxing commission, the U.S. has seen boxing deaths, serious injuries and "fixed" fights. Most, if not all, have occurred in states that regulate boxing.

The other area of concern to Rep. Chavez is the "Ultimate Fighting Championship" which makes money by selling videos of the battles. Here a bill to ban, not regulate, doesn't violate the Sunrise law.

And a Colorado law, CRS 18-7-601, originally passed to halt the sale of "snuff" (death) videos in Colorado to persons under the age of 18, could reduce the "Ultimate" profits. Using traditional obscenity standards, the major part of the law states:

"No person shall sell, rent, or otherwise furnish to (any person under age 18) any video tape, video disc, film representation or other form of motion picture if...the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, repeated acts of actual, not simulated, violence resulting in serious bodily injury or death."

Come to think of it, that law might also apply to boxing matches, regulated or unregulated.


Jerry Kopel served 22 years as a Democrat in the Colorado House of Representatives, and is the author of the Sunset and Sunrise laws.

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