Boxing / Richard Hoffer : If More Safeguards Are Needed, Who’s to Pay?

Boxing is certainly among the least regulated of our sports, making it attractive to both the shady entrepreneurs, who don’t mind cutting corners, and government observers who would like to include it in their own bureaucracy.

If forced to make a choice, government intervention is preferable. Maybe the time has come for a federal commission such as is being proposed before a House panel in Washington.

Currently, boxing is regulated by highly political state commissions, some of which--California and New York, for example--do a good job. But among the good ones, communication is a problem. And among the bad ones, well, communication is the least of their problems.

The biggest problem may be that there is no uniformity of standards from state to state. One demands drug tests, and another does not. One requires neurological examinations of its boxers, another does not.


A federal commission could provide uniform standards of safety that would protect fighters from coast to coast. It might also pay for them.

Right now, in California, there is a bill before Gov. Deukmejian requiring fighters to get a neurological examination before they are licensed each year. The bill, authored by Assemblyman Art Agnos of San Francisco, is a well-meaning one but is meeting some resistance from the fight promoters. They’re being asked to foot the bill.

If we truly insist on safety, it may be foolish to expect promoters, who would be spending more on medical tests than on the fighters’ purses in some cases, to pay the tab, just as it would be to require boxers to pay for the tests. Most promoters and fighters do not make enough money to encourage looking beyond immediate fiscal survival to long-term physical survival.

Whether it’s fair or not, it may be more practical to ask the state to pay for it. Or a federal commission. At least we’d find out if the public is willing to back up its concerns over boxing safety with the money to ensure it.


Boxing Notes

What happens when three boxing shows go head to head to head? Well, somebody loses. Two Thursdays ago, the Sports Arena, the Olympic Auditorium and the Irvine Marriott all put on shows, as if there were no other night in the month. To be fair, the Olympic promotes weekly, while the Irvine Marriott shows, promoted by Don Fraser, draw an entirely different crowd from the others, so the recent one probably didn’t hurt the other two. The competition between the Sports Arena, which is backed by ousted Olympic promoter Rogelio Robles, and the Olympic Auditorium was entirely unnecessary, however. Both appeal to the blue-collar and Mexican boxing fans. Here are the figures: The Sports Arena was the apparent winner, drawing a gate of $45,000. The Olympic drew just $5,000. The Marriott show, which is run on a smaller investment, may have been the biggest money-maker, drawing $27,000.

The Forum, which drew more than $24,000 with its last Stroh’s Tournament show, will have another card on Monday featuring a featherweight semifinal, Adrian Arreola vs. Refugio Rojas. The other semifinal will be July 8 with Rocky Garcia vs. Lupe Suarez. Also on that card, two bouts to kick off the welterweight tournament: Roberto Mendez vs. Rocky Ortiz and Alfonso Long vs. Mike Hutchinson. The featherweight championship bout is scheduled for Aug. 20. . . . The Irvine Marriott, which had a near sellout for its last show, will have another June 24 with Hedgemon Robertson of Huntington Beach fighting Eddie Nuno of Pomona in a junior welterweight bout. Also on that card will be former basketball player Tom Payne. Payne, since being beaten at the Forum, has won two fights in Northern California. The Olympic, meanwhile, will be dark this Thursday after seven straight weekly shows. The promoters decided it would be foolish to go up against the locally televised light-heavyweight title fight between champion Michael Spinks and undefeated but little known Diamond Jim MacDonald, and a WBC cruiserweight fight between champion Carlos DeLeon and Alfonso Ratliff. MacDonald, who has been fighting for only three years, has a shot at one of just two undisputed world championships. His last knockout--he has 15 in 16 fights--was scored in four rounds over top-ranked Willie Edwards. Also on that card, which will be televised on Channel 9, will be a non-title bout between WBC lightweight champion Jose Luis Ramirez and Manuel Hernandez. Ramirez had been scheduled to defend his title against former WBC junior lightweight champion Hector Camacho, but Camacho pulled out several weeks ago with a training injury. As for the Olympic, it should light up June 13 for a card featuring Joe Ruelas and Ernesto Mendez. The Olympic, bucking only the Lakers on TV last Thursday, drew more than 1,000, not all paid. . . . Manager Bennie Georgino reports that WBC bantamweight champion Albert Davila may or may not be retired but that in any event, Davila is now managing himself. And former WBC junior featherweight champion Jaime Garza is now back in the gym, finally, after his distressing one-round knockout by Juan Meza. Georgino says, rumors aside, that he still has a contract with Garza.