Former world welterweight and junior middleweight boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard told members of a Maryland House of Delegates committee today that amateur boxing should be more strictly regulated, but not banned altogether.
Leonard, who lives in Potomac and gained amateur boxing experience in Prince George's County, testified against a bill sponsored by Del. Joan Pitkin (D-Prince George's) that would end boxing and sparring matches in the state.
"I really feel that boxing is a great sport as long as we maintain the proper supervision," said Leonard, whose comments were greeted by an unusual round of applause from committee members who heard testimony on three boxing bills today.
Along with the boxing ban, committee members also are considering legislation that would require boxers to wear thumbless or thumb-attached gloves and create a task force to examine the effect amateur and professional boxing has on the health of boxers.
Leonard said he continues to favor the use of thumbless gloves to help prevent the sort of eye injury he suffered when he was forced from the ring with a partially detached retina in 1982.
Pitkin, in testimony submitted to the committee, said that boxing is an unsafe sport, referring to an incident at a Hillcrest Heights gymnasium last year in which 19-year-old Hayes Singletary Jr. collapsed and died of brain injuries sustained during what the medical examiner's office later described as "boxing rounds."
"I feel it is imperative that boxing be banned because present medical and safety standards have not significantly reduced the risk of brain damage for boxing participants," Pitkin said.
Although Leonard was present to testify against Pitkin's bill, she introduced him as "a legend" and had him autograph a copy of her testimony on behalf of the legislation.