SBJ/August 26 - September 1, 2002/Opinion

Give boxers a voice in reform of pro boxing

The need for reform in professional boxing is undisputed. The federal government, state commissions, promoters, television and ranking/sanctioning groups all talk about problems, but without a representative organization for boxers being included in this process, there will never be a meaningful solution. Democracy is no less important for boxers than it is for the system of free enterprise.

Promotional contracts can be as restrictive to boxers as the leverage between owner and athlete is in the other major sports. Television and promoters team up to work with boxers, and yet the collaboration can be in itself a conflict of interest.

Who owns the championships — the boxer or television or the promoter? Too often the value of the title is the cause of disputes over championships. In other words, the promoter or television network that has the champion boxer under contract is reluctant to give a shot at the title to boxers it doesn't have under contract.

Currently the federal government is proposing legislation that attempts to solve the abuses in professional boxing. The purpose of the legislation is to help boxers. Yet the boxers themselves are not given any authority in the proposed legislation to help themselves. Critical subjects, such as contractual reform, health and safety, disclosure and pension systems are excluded from boxer input.

Democracy does not discriminate. Freedom applies to all and the ring (the workplace) is no less sacred than our homes. If boxers — the people responsible for generating the revenue in boxing — are not included in the governing authority for boxing, then disputes, dispute resolution, discipline, rules and the application of rules will all become arbitrary.

This relentless attempt to do what's best for boxers, without the boxers being represented in the process, will be disputed.

Paul Johnson

Bloomington, Minn.

Paul Johnson is chairman in the Minnesota office of the Boxers Organizing Committee.

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