By CATHERINE BYRNE
Capital News Service
LANSING — After promoters chose to hold the Mike Tyson-Lennox Lewis fight in Washington, D.C., Michigan legislators aren’t optimistic about the future of legislation to impose tougher restrictions on boxers.
Under a measure sponsored by Rep. Andrew “Rocky” Raczkowski, R-Farmington Hills, the governor would name five people to a boxing commission designed to both impose tougher controls and draw bigger fights to Michigan.
Sen. Philip Hoffman, R-Horton, approves of the bill as long as it’s a “tightly regulated commission,” but he doesn’t like what has become of boxing.
“Boxing has degenerated over the years from a legitimate Olympic sort of sport to more of a WWF sort of sport,” Hoffman said. “I don’t have a lot of confidence in boxing as a result.
“If Rocky’s legislation can bring about a level of fair competition, then I’m in favor of it.”
Matt Miner, legislative assistant to Sen. Harry Gast, R-St. Joseph, believes the bill won’t make it much farther now that the Tyson-Lewis fight is happening elsewhere.
“I think it got so much attention just in case they wanted to bring that fight here,” Miner said. “Rocky’s a term-limited legislator, and I don’t think this bill will come back up again before he’s gone.”
Raczkowski is still fighting to create the Michigan Unarmed Combat Commission designed under his bill to actively pursue champion fighters and bring them to Michigan.
Drawing title fights to Michigan would infuse millions of dollars into the Michigan economy and give the state a worldwide audience, Raczkowski said.
“We want to see big-time fights come home to Michigan,” he said. “Too often when promoters are planning big-time fights, Michigan is a second thought. I want to make sure Michigan is at the top of that list.”
Tyson applied to fight in Nevada, Washington, D.C., and Georgia before he applied in Michigan on Feb. 28. Lewis and Tyson will battle it out in Washington’s MCI Center on June 8.
The Department of Consumer and Industry Services, which oversees the state Athletic Board of Control, has some concerns with the original bill. It is now working to amend a bill already in existence to make restrictions tougher.
“It’s clear that (Raczkowski’s) bill is not going to get very far,” said Maura Campbell, director of media relations for CIS. “We’re willing to change the regulations as they are now, but we want to make sure any changes have adequate oversight.”
R. Thomas Martin, director of policy and legislative affairs for CIS, sent a letter on behalf of the department to the House Regulatory Reform Committee detailing its problems with the bill.
One of the department’s main concerns is giving the proposed boxing commission too much power. Currently, the bill would give the commission the power to suspend licenses without a hearing and to withhold any part of a purse or prize money from a contender if it sees fit.
“We must be careful to minimize the potential for arbitrary and excessive use of such power,” Martin wrote in the letter.
Judith Scranton, R-Brighton, a member of the Regulatory Reform Committee, agreed that Raczkowski’s measure needs tweaking, but she believes it is necessary legislation.
“It needs a lot of work,” Scranton said. “But tougher boxing regulations would do for Michigan what they did for Las Vegas: keep the rotten people out and the good people in.”
The measure includes a clause that requires the commission only license fighters who demonstrate good moral character.
“Boxing fans in the state of Michigan deserve to see quality fights between quality fighters and this bill would provide them with that,” Raczkowski said.
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism
By CATHERINE BYRNE