Since I work at Congressional Quarterly by day and regularly cover the deeds of Congress in an objective, news-gathering way, I cannot give my personal opinion on this legislation, alas. I can, instead, offer a few thoughts about the process and prospects for passage.
A former colleague of mine, Amol Sharma, several years ago penned this piece outlining where some of the opposition to this bill has come from in the past, and my impression is that none of that opposition has changed. McCain (above right), in his speech -- which I've attached after the jump -- seemed well aware of the opposition that is out there, and catered his arguments thusly. He talked about how the commission would not interfere with states' rights, with states in the past having opposed the legislation on those grounds. He also talked up how taxpayers wouldn't pay for the commission (the CBO had labeled an earlier version of the bill as costing taxpayers $7 million a year). Both of those are key points in a Congress that has a great number of anti-federal regulatory, anti-spending Republicans who either ran because of Tea Party backing or relied on Tea Party backing for reelection.
It'll be worth watching to see if Congress is outraged enough about this to act this year, and to act in this specific way; it's also an election year with a typically crowded slate of legislation in the queue, although having Reid on the bill means that the person in charge of setting the Senate agenda will be able to put it on the calendar if he chooses to throw his weight behind it. The GOP-controlled House? That's a bigger question mark, because that's where some of the most numerous, and most vocal, anti-federal regulatory, anti-spending Republicans reside. This all strikes me as a heavy lift, but I've thought that before about bills in Congress only to see them pass anyway.
It might seem like I'm giving a lot of space here to the arguments against the bill, but it's because I'm letting McCain's Senate speech on the floor run below, unanswered. He makes all the arguments in favor of the bill you'll need to make up your own mind. If you feel passionately about the issue one way or the other, I encourage you to contact your state's U.S. senators and your representative in the House, and let them know what you think.
“Mr. President, today I am pleased to be joined by Senator Reid of Nevada to introduce the Professional Boxing Amendments Act of 2012. This legislation is virtually identical to a measure reported by the Commerce Committee during the 111th Congress, after being approved unanimously by the Senate in 2005. Simply put, this bill would better protect professional boxing from the fraud, corruption, and ineffective regulation that has plagued the sport for too many years, and that has devastated physically and financially many of our nation’s professional boxers.
“My involvement with boxing stretches back a long way – first as a fan in my youth, then posting a painfully undistinguished record as a boxer at the United States Naval Academy, and then over my time here in Congress, where I have been involved in legislation related to boxing since the mid-1990s.
“The 19th century sportswriter Pierce Egan called boxing the ‘sweet science,’ while longtime boxing reporter Jimmy Cannon called it the ‘red light district of sports.’ In truth, it’s both. I have always believed that at its best, professional boxing is a riveting and honorable contest of courageous and highly-skilled athletes. Unfortunately, the last few decades of boxing history has – through countless examples of conflicts of interest, improper financial arrangements and inadequate or nonexistent oversight – led most to believe that Cannon’s words best describe the state of boxing today.
“The most recent controversy surrounding the Pacquiao-Bradley fight is the latest example of the legitimate distrust boxing fans have for the integrity of the sport. After the Pacquiao-Bradley decision was announced, fans were clearly apoplectic and many commentators found the decision astonishing.
• “Bob Arum, the longtime promoter representing both Pacquiao and Bradley, said: ‘What the hell were these people watching? ... How can you watch a sport where you don't see any motive for any malfeasance and yet come up with a result like we came up with tonight. How do you explain it to anybody? … Something like this is so outlandish, it's a death knell for the sport.’
• “ESPN boxing analyst Dan Rafael – who scored the fight 119-109 for Pacquiao – called the decision an ‘absolute absurdity,’ saying, ‘I could watch the fight 1,000 times and not find seven rounds to give to Timothy Bradley.’
• “Additionally, following the fight, HBO’s Max Kellerman was ringside where he said, ‘This is baffling, punch stat had Pacquiao landing many more punches, landing at a higher connect percentage, landing more power punches. Ringside, virtually every reporter had Pacquiao winning by a wide margin … I can’t understand how Bradley gets this decision. There were times in that fight where I felt a little bit embarrassed for Bradley.’
“Clearly, the conspiracy theories and speculation surrounding the fight are given life because there are so many questions surrounding the integrity of the sport and how it is managed in multiple jurisdictions. Professional boxing remains the only major sport in the United States that does not have a strong, centralized association, league, or other regulatory body to establish and enforce uniform rules and practices. Because a powerful few benefit greatly from the current system of patchwork compliance and enforcement of Federal boxing law, a national self-regulating organization – though preferable to Federal government oversight – is not a realistic option.
“Ineffective oversight of professional boxing will continue to result in scandals, controversies, unethical practices, a lack trust in the integrity of judged outcomes and most tragic of all, unnecessary deaths in the sport. These problems have led many in professional boxing to conclude that the only solution is an effective and accountable Federal boxing commission.
“This legislation would establish the United States Boxing Commission (‘USBC’ or Commission), providing the much-needed oversight to ensure integrity within the profession through better reporting and disclosure, requiring that the sport avoid the conflicts of interest which cause fans to question the outcome of bouts which hurts the sport. If enacted, the Commission would administer Federal boxing law and coordinate with other Federal regulatory agencies to ensure that this law is enforced; oversee all professional boxing matches in the United States; and work with the boxing industry and local commissions to improve the safety, integrity, and professionalism of professional boxing in the United States. More specifically, this legislation would require that all referees and judges participating in a championship or a professional bout lasting 10 rounds or more be fully registered and licensed by the Commission. Further, while a sanctioning organization could provide a list of judges and referees deemed qualified, only the boxing Commission will appoint the judges and referees participating in these matches.
“Additionally, the USBC would license boxers, promoters, managers, and sanctioning organizations. The Commission would have the authority to revoke such a license for violations of federal boxing law, to stop unethical or illegal conduct, to protect the health and safety of a boxer, or if the revocation is otherwise in the public interest.
“Mr. President, the Professional Boxing Amendments Act would strengthen existing federal boxing law by improving the basic health and safety standards for professional boxers, establishing a centralized medical registry to be used by local commissions to protect boxers, reducing the arbitrary practices of sanctioning organizations, and enhancing the uniformity and basic standards for professional boxing contracts. Most importantly, this legislation would establish a Federal regulatory entity to oversee professional boxing and set basic uniform standards for certain aspects of the sport.
“Thankfully, current law has already improved some aspects of the state of professional boxing. However, like me, many others remain concerned the sport continues to be at serious risk. In 2003, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) spent more than six months studying ten of the country’s busiest state and tribal boxing commissions. Government auditors found that many of these commissions do not comply with Federal boxing law, and that there is a disturbing lack of enforcement by both Federal and State officials.
“Mr. President, it is important to state clearly and plainly for the record that the purpose of the Commission created by this bill is not to interfere with the daily operations of State and tribal boxing commissions. Instead, it would work in consultation with local commissions, and it would only exercise its authority when reasonable grounds exist for such intervention. In fact, this bill states explicitly that it would not prohibit any boxing commission from exercising any of its powers, duties, or functions with respect to the regulation or supervision of professional boxing to the extent no consistent with the provisions of Federal boxing law.
“Finally, with respect to costs associated with this legislation. The price tag for this legislation should not fall on the shoulders of the American taxpayer, especially during a time of crushing debt and deficits. As such, to cover the costs, the bill authorizes the Commission to assess fees on promoters, sanctioning organizations and boxers; ensuring that boxers pay the smallest portion of what is in fact collected.
“Let there be no doubt, however, of the very basic and pressing need in professional boxing for a Federal boxing commission. The establishment of the USBC would address that need. The problems that have plagued the sport of professional boxing for many years continue to undermine the credibility of the sport in the eyes of the public and – more importantly – compromise the safety of boxers. This bill provides an effective approach to curbing these problems. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.”
What's the point of having sanctioning bodies without any teeth?
Seriously, why not just have a Top Rank and a Golden Boy champion in each weight class, with them occasionally meeting to determine an undisputed champion when there's a rare thaw in relations between the two companies and the fight makes fiscal sense?
Here's another example of why those who control the money in boxing -- the promoters and TV networks -- never will cede power to a national commission.
All five judges commissioned by WBO President Paco Valcarcel to review the Pacquiao-Bradley fight scored the fight in favor of Pacquiao. But there's nothing the WBO can do but order a rematch. Even so, Paco is yielding to the true power brokers of the sport.
"Paco's not a dictator," Arum said. "He's saying that it's up to the fighters and the promoter, as well it should be. My first stop on any quest to determine what to do next is that I have to talk to the guy who is the money generator, and that's Manny Pacquiao."
@KenHissner1 Thanks for writing, Ken.
I agree with you that "who" runs boxing -- whether with a federal commission or a league-like structure -- matters tremendously. I've often wondered who could do the Dana White-like job for our sport.
Comparing boxing to MMA is a bad analogy. MMA was a nascent sport, with a bunch of weak sanctioning bodies floundering without pay-per-view, marketing and aggressive PR. There wasn't much money in the sport.
White was the visionary to see that consolidation and absorption of those MMA confederations under the UFC brand would create tremendous revenue opportunities. And he has the marketing and promotional skills to follow through and make that dough, growing the sport of MMA to unprecedented heights.
And he has done that with a brand, UFC, that is synonymous with the sport. Think of facial tissues, you instantly think Kleenex. Think of insulated foam coolers, you instantly think Styrofoam. Think of MP3 players, you instantly think iPod. Think of MMA, you instantly think UFC.
Think of boxing, you think what? Boxing has NO brand it can build.
Despite that lack of branding, boxing still has tremendous revenue streams going to rival promoters. So there's ZERO incentive for consolidation, and Golden Boy and Top Rank both are operating from fiscal strength, so neither is at risk of being purchased by the other, much the way White and UFC mopped up the remaining, small MMA sanctioning bodies by buying them.
My big concern: What will prevent the USBC from the corruption and mismanagement that occurs on the state commission level?
Plus the concept is flawed from the outset. Professional sports governing bodies and leagues work as benevolent dictatorships because they control the primary revenue sources, namely TV rights and series/league sponsorships. So when they talk or rule, their constituents listen and heed.
The USBC won't be able to do this. Top Rank and Golden Boy still control the VAST majority of the money in boxing, so they will continue to rule the sport. The USBC will be a largely toothless ceremonial body.
The only example I can think of a regulatory body holding sway over the money brokers in a sport comes in Formula One auto racing. Bernie Ecclestone and Formula One Management (FOM) control all the TV rights, signage and paddock hospitality revenues for every F1 race in the world. But the FIA, the world governing body of auto racing, makes the rules for the series.
But the FIA came before the FOM and only ceded the commercial rights of the sport after a long battle with Ecclestone, who has forgotten more about making a killing at business than the suits at the FIA ever will know.
Excessive regulation by the USBC -- or decisions with which Top Rank and Golden Boy disagree -- only will drive more big fights out of the United States. Two of the biggest rising stars in the sport are Mexican -- Canelo and Chavez -- so what would prevent Arum and De La Hoya from holding their fights in front of 100,000 in the Mexican national soccer stadium in Mexico City if they didn't like what USBC Commissioner Teddy Atlas ordered them to do to?
Nothing. But Tom Benson can't take the New Orleans Saints and play in another professional football league because he disagrees with Roger Goodell's bounty penalties.
It's Goodell's way or the highway. That type of concentrated regulatory power never will happen in boxing.
@PaulKelly Without getting into my views of a federal commission, I do very much wish boxing had a league that was run by one person. That would create some new problems as it vanquished some old ones, but I'd rather have that set of problems than the current set.
@tstarks There's a better chance of the Palestinians and Israelis linking hands and singing "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" than Golden Boy and Top Rank putting their feud and respective power in the sport aside to make way for a national league or commission that rules the sport.
It will NEVER happen, sadly.
Just look at Arum's hypocrisy in the last seven days, after all. He shreds the Nevada commission for the results of the Pacquiao-Bradley bout on June 9 and one week later announced plans for a Chavez-Martinez fight Sept. 15 in -- you guessed it -- Nevada.
It would be impossible for a national commissioner to regulate thieves, liars and hypocrites of this brazen nature. De La Hoya and Schaefer are no better, nor are DiBella or Shaw.
How can someone with absolutely no credibility or integrity himself, like John McCain call for a investigation? McCain in all probabiilty just lost a bet on the fight.
@bailei Wowsers. You think he's been crusading on this tip for more than a decade because of one lost bet?
...."Commission would administer Federal boxing law and coordinate with other Federal regulatory agencies to ensure that this law is enforced; oversee all professional boxing matches in the United States; and work with the boxing industry and local commissions to improve the safety, integrity, and professionalism of professional boxing in the United States...."..it is stated here that.."to improve the safety.." it implies that a more reliable testing method would be introduced or implemented".....my opinion.
It's an interesting thought I'm having about the impact that Mayweather and Pacquiao will have on boxing after their time in the sport has passed. Although I question Mayweather's intent to "clean up boxing" if more fighters jump on the testing bandwagon, Mayweather would become the lead player in doing just that however intentional or unintentional. Likewise, if this bill finally passes as a result of the not-the-worst-but-still-pretty-damn-terrible decision that happened nine days ago, Pacquiao's stature and attention will be cited as the main catalyst however indirectly. Just like the death of Junior Seau, R.I.P, brought a new level of attention to a known problem in the NFL, a bad verdict against an athlete like Manny Pacquiao may do the same thing for something that unfortunately often takes place in boxing. It seems as more time passes the story of the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight becomes that much more interesting. Of course if when they don't fight, none of that will matter. If the best won't fight the best then what's the point?
Great comment eggs. From what may be accomplished in the sport because of them to their variable nature of their performances against similar opponents these two not fighting is at this stage I think being eclipsed by everything that they do tangentially in regards to one another. Thirty-Forty years from now a kid asking his enthusiast pop, "Who won that fight?" Plagued by it the rest of the day a week later asks fellow fight friend, "Who? Mayweather, right?" "Not sure." Finally turning to the net they both stare I-Pad 50s (JUST got holograms) and are only able to mutter an incredulous: "Huh!"
We all know they're both at stages now where one's victory over the other can be widely discreditted and attributed to, blah...blah...blah. At this point though the lack of this mega-fight, at least to the hardcore fan, may have become the least compelling aspect of their inextricable connection. As far as this legislation goes... we'll see.
@Al_Eggs_Myth That's a really interesting thought, AEM. A kind of improvement-by-accident?
"The point" -- Fight of the Year-style brawls. But that's not enough to sustain a fan base outside the hardest of hardcores. A lot of sports fans, some of them in boxing now and some of them potential boxing fans, won't tune into the sport without the "best vs. best part."