Professional Boxing Safety Act

Written by lani thompson
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Professional Boxing Safety Act
Professional boxers had no protection from unscrupulous managers and promoters prior to the Boxing Safety Act of 1996. (boxe direct-faciale image by B-Decencière from Fotolia.com)

The Professional Boxing Safety Act of 1996 established minimum safety and health standards for the boxing industry and gave limited federal oversight to the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission. In 2000, Congress passed the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act to amend some of the provisions of the Act and help improve the integrity of the sport.

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History Behind the Act

The Department of Justice originally became interested in boxing because of the large role organised crime played in it during the 1940s and 1950s. In 1960, Senator Estes Kefauver began a four-year investigation into the sport. He was an ardent crusader against the Mafia and chaired the Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce during the early 1950s. The first hearings he held looked at organised crime's involvement in fixing fights in the middleweight division. On March 29, 1961, Senator Kefauver introduced an anti-racketeering act that would create an Office of National Boxing Commissioner. The Commissioner would license boxers, managers, and promoters. Congress, however, refused to pass the legislation.

A number of bills were introduced between 1983 and 1994. These bills dealt with health and safety standards as well as establishing a federal commission to promote uniform state standards. There was even talk of banning professional boxing because of the violence involved. However, Congress didn't pass any of these bills either. When the first Professional Boxing Safety Act was introduced in March, 1994 it, too, failed to pass. Then, on January 10, 1995, Senators John McCain and Richard Bryan reintroduced their bill.

Professional Boxing Safety Act
Organised crime played a large role in boxing during the 1940s and 50s. (man"s hand and a gun image by Elena Vdovina from Fotolia.com)

The Professional Boxing Safety Act of 1996

Congress passed The Professional Boxing Safety Act in 1996. It established minimum health and safety standards for professional boxing. It requires boxers to have a physical exam to ascertain that they're fit to compete, requires them to have health insurance to cover any injuries they might suffer, and ensures that a doctor is present at ringside during bouts. In addition, boxers must obtain a federal identification card that has to be renewed every three years. It also provides for limited federal oversight by the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission.

The Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act

Many boxers come from the lowest economic levels and are often uneducated, making them easy targets for unethical promoters, managers and sanctioning commissions. The Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act was passed on May 26, 2000 to protect the rights of boxers. It requires the Association of Boxing Commissions to develop minimum provisions that have to be included in all boxing contracts and bout agreements. The Act also offers protection from coercive contracts and seeks to improve the integrity of the boxing industry.

The United States Boxing Commission Act

Boxing is regulated on the state level, although states are required to follow minimum federal standards. However, The United States Boxing Commission Act would have established a three-member U.S. Boxing Commission within the Department of Commerce. On Nov. 17, 2005 the House voted it down. A similar bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent on May 10, 2005.

Professional Boxing Amendments Act of 2009

On January 6, 2009, Senator John McCain sponsored yet another bill to amend the Safety Act of 1996 and establish a United States Boxing Commission to administer the Act. Among other things, this bill would require the presence of an ambulance and emergency medical personnel during a match, and prohibit arranging or fighting a match unless it's approved by the United States Boxing Commission and held in a state that regulates matches in accordance with USBC standards. It would also require a health and safety disclosure to boxers, require the USBC to establish and maintain a registry of comprehensive medical records, medical denials and suspensions for every licensed boxer and establish a national computerised registry of boxing personnel. As of March 4, 2010, this bill had not passed.

Professional Boxing Safety Act
The Amendments Act of 2009 would establish a registry of records for every licensed boxer. (capitol image by Andrew Breeden from Fotolia.com)

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