The chairman of a House subcommittee said yesterday he expects a bill that would set uniform minimum safety standards in professional boxing to be ready for a vote by the full House early next year.
During hearings concerning four boxing bills that have been introduced in the first session of the 99th Congress, Rep. James Florio (D-N.J.) said he opposes banning the sport, as has been proposed by the American Medical Association and Rep. Henry Gonzalez (D-Tex.), among others.
Instead, Florio favors a bill introduced by Rep. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.), a fellow member of the subcommittee on commerce, transportation and tourism, as the framework for a compromise bill to be voted out of the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Richardson's bill would establish an independent 10-member U.S. Boxing Commission, at a maximum cost of $1 million annually to the taxpayers. Membership would be voluntary, and state boxing commissions would retain their current powers. But Richardson's bill would, among its objectives:
*Propose rules changes to ensure the safety of the participants and establish a uniform set of rules for the various state athletic or boxing commissions.
*Conduct research into boxing-related injuries and recommend preventive steps, establish standards and procedures for physical and mental examinations and set standards for the manufacturing and use of boxing equipment.
*Provide a unified national computer source listing all professional boxers, their records, size, weight, biographical information, medical history and business associates.
*Annually certify that boxers, corner men and officials have met USBC standards.
"There's a wide range of options, but I don't want to talk about banning it," Florio said after Gonzalez, Rep. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Rep. Pat Williams (D-Mont.), sponsors of the other bills, appeared before the subcommittee. "The key concept is uniformity . . . There's no excuse for all the different systems in the different states. With commercialization, (states take) the lowest common demoninator. States that do the right thing have a disincentive."
Dr. George Lundberg, editor of the AMA Journal, testified that all boxing, both professional and amateur, should be banned "as preventive medicine." But Dr. John W. Stiller of George Washington University, who recently co-authored a paper on boxing and chronic brain damage, said more studies would be needed before he could reach that conclusion.