A narrowly divided House committee voted yesterday to ask a boxing advisory panel to look into the question of whether the sport should be outlawed.
By a 12-11 vote, the House Education and Labor Committee endorsed amendments to pending legislation that would broaden the mission of the proposed study panel to include the possible abolition of boxing. The 10-member panel would also have six months to study such issues as whether there should be a central authority to oversee boxing in the United States and to make recommendations concerning uniform safety standards.
After the vote on the amendments, the committee approved the legislation unanimously and sent it on to the full House for consideration.
The amendments calling for a study of whether boxing should be abolished were offered by Rep. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) over the objections of Rep. Pat Williams (D-Mont.), one of the sponsors of the legislation.
"What we really ought to be doing is outlawing boxing," said Simon. "What we're doing is paying two poor kids to beat each other's brains about while the rest of us sit around and cheer. It is not much different from the Roman arenas when they fed the Christians to the lions. For us to call this a sport when what they are trying to do is damage someone's brain is intolerable."
Rep. Ron Packard (R-Calif.), "I concur. We've outlawed animals killing animals. We've outlawed humans killing animals. Yet we continue to allow humans to beat on humans."
Opposing the amendments, Williams told committee members he feared their inclusion in the legislation would kill the measure.
"It is not our purpose to outlaw the sport. We are trying to reform the sport," he said.
Later, however, Williams said he thinks the bill still has a good chance of passage.
Yesterday's legislation was actually a combination of two boxing-related bills, one by Williams that calls for creation of a federal boxing commission to oversee the sport, and another by Rep. James J. Florio (D-N.J.) calling for a nine-month study of whether there should be a federal commission or some other central authority to enforce uniform standards on the sport.
Those bills were introduced early in the current congressional session following a public outcry after the death of Korean fighter Duk Koo Kim last November from head injuries suffered in a fight with Ray (Boom Boom) Mancini, and the mauling of heavyweight Tex Cobb by champion Larry Holmes in another bout.
Under the legislation approved yesterday, the panel was directed to make recommendations on such measures as health and medical requirements for fighters, safety requirements and standards for equipment, and uniform waiting periods between fights for boxers who have suffered a knockout or a technical knockout.