Rep. James J. Florio (D-N.J.) introduced legislation yesterday to create a congressional study commission to investigate all aspects of professional boxing and to make legislative recommendations that would establish minimum uniform federal standards governing all fights held or shown in the United States.
Florio, chairman of the subcommittee on commerce, transportation and tourism of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, acted two weeks after his subcommittee heard testimony on Capitol Hill that boxing is a sick sport, unable to police itself and unevenly regulated from state to state.
"Our hearings demonstrated the absence of a system," Florio said at a news conference.
Cosponsor Bill Richardson (D-N.M.) called the proposed legislation "a first step in reforming what is a sick sport, chaotic and out of control."
Under the proposed legislation, a 10-member commission would be established to make its legislative recommendations for the reform of boxing within nine months. Five members of the commission would be named by the speaker of the house and five by the majority leader of the Senate; and the appointees would represent the American Medical Association, the Association of Ringside Physicians, state athletic commissions, boxers, promoters and the media.
Among the legislative items to be covered in the commission's final report would be the establishment of a national data base of information on the health and medical condition, background and ring record of professional fighters and background information on fight promoters. Several witnesses at last month's hearing complained that fighters who are declared medically unfit to fight in one state simply move to another state and continue fighting.
Other issues to be covered include health and medical requirements, with testing before and after fights; safety requirements for equipment and facilities; insurance requirements for fighters; guidelines and standards for classification, and ranking of fighters and establishment of a national authority to monitor such rankings; bonding requirements for fight promoters, and establishment of training programs and standards for referees, judges and other ring officials.
Florio said the commission's recommendations were not intended to supplant the regulatory role of the state athletic commissions but only to set uniform minimum standards.
Asked if his proposed legislation could lead to federal regulation in other professional sports, Florio said he didn't know. "The problems associated with this sport require uniformity, and the only way you're going to get that is with federal involvement."
Cosponsoring the legislation were Reps. Dennis E. Eckart (D-Ohio), Norman F. Lent (R-N.Y.) and Don Ritter (R-Pa.), all members of Florio's subcommittee.
"We're trying to make the sport safer. By making it safer and cleaner, we'll make it better," said Ritter.
The committee said it would hold additional hearings March 18, focusing on business and other relationships among promoters, the World Boxing Association, the World Boxing Council and the media. Those hearings will be held in Atlantic City on the date of the light heavyweight title fight between WBC champion Dwight Braxton and WBA champion Michael Spinks.