"I've been talking about it since I came here seven years ago," Rep. Pat Williams (D-Mont.) said after a House subcommittee convened yesterday to hear testimony on his measure to reform professional boxing in the United States. "But I believe we are closer to finding acceptance in the boxing community than ever before."
Congressmen heard two hours of testimony from the boxing community, including state boxing commissioners Sig Rogich of Nevada and Jose Torres of New York. "It seems to me that the nature of boxing is such that it needs oversight," said Williams, after the presentations.
Williams' legislation, discussed before the Subcommittee on Labor Standards of the Committee on Education and Labor, seeks to establish the American Boxing Corporation, a quasi-public and self-governing clearinghouse for boxing labor and health standards and a national registry of prizefighters. Operating under a federal charter and overseeing state commissions, the six-person body would be charged with designing and maintaining model standards for fight contracts and compensation, insurance and pensions, medical services, equipment and bout facilities.
Main opposition to the proposed legislation was voiced by Rep. Steve Bartlett (R-Tex.), who said he is "skeptical about federal intervention when no other sport has a federal structure. Sports in the U.S. are rather self-regulated and well self-regulated, and I'm not in favor of singling out boxing."
"Boxing, unlike other major sports, has not lent itself to regulation," answered the subcommittee chairman, Austin J. Murphy (D-Pa.) "There are no teams like baseball or football. There are no leagues . . . Our bill allows such standards as minimum age and waiting periods (between bouts). We leave this not to (Congress), but to the six-person committee of experts to decide."
As it stands now, there are further inconsistencies on standing eight-counts, thumbless gloves, etc.
Rep. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) withheld support, citing lack of "a delineated plan, a program spelled out in advance which would assure . . . that the body will adequately fund itself and would not be a drain on the federal treasury." Then, he suggested, the corporation should "be created under sunset legislation, so that once it has done its job it can go out of existence."
Williams disagreed: "If we establish it under sunset legislation, (boxing) might flip back to the way it was before."