Boxing Dead in New York: Is MMA the Culprit?

By Rich Mancuso/Sports Editor 
What’s going on here? Again this columnist refers to the words of Dick Young, the great and late New York sports scribe.  The  issue today: Boxing in New York appears to be dead because of a suspicious power play within the New York State Athletic Commission coinciding with the legalization of the once banned combat sport known as mixed martial arts or MMA that holds its first-ever sanctioned event at Madison Square Garden this November.

Yes, MMA invades MSG, the mecca of boxing in New York (if not, the world) and the home of many historic fights, is shutting out boxing. And it goes beyond the Garden to the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn where the sport will go dark, too. 

The mainstay promoters, many who promote their fighters and create revenue for the state are also shut out. And there are no NYC dates listed on the boxing calendar for the remaining months of 2016.
Even more worrisome is the prospect that there may not be boxing on the calendar for 2017 or  beyond, because of a rumored New York State Athletic Commission stipulation–a ploy that may or may not be influenced  by the highly popular MMA. 

NYSAC will now require boxing promoters to post a $1 million insurance policy for each fighter on a fight card. The bond is intended to cover insurance for any potential life-ending injury that may occur in the ring.
The precaution of avoiding concussions and brain damage is also slapping boxing in the face as New York State, one of the better safety conscious jurisdictions that supervise fights at ringside, wants to keep it that way.  At the same time, MMA competition is also safety conscious, though more brutal, it remains to be determined how the commission will scrutinize MMA safety.

One boxing promoter is an advocate of the new bond procedures. Safety, he says is a priority, but to keep his fighters busy the promoter has left town.

With the MMA ready to invade New York, amid reports that the commission has more bookings on the table around the tri-state area, what constitutes a ploy is the same bond stipulations for their competitors does not apply. The answers to the puzzle are unknown, and the ramifications are local fighters and promoters taking their business to other boxing  venues outside the New York area.

Connecticut and New Jersey, with a history of promoting boxing cards, will get more business and the fan base in New York will see the door closed on live boxing events. In the meantime, local fighters continue to train at boxing gyms but getting a fight won’t happen in New York.

More so, 40 or more boxing events in New York this year brought a great deal of revenue to New York. Mysteriously, state governmental officials don’t want to address the amount of revenue thst be lost due to new bond requirement. 

Boxing and its illustrious history in New York, for now, are a memory.

“The timing is interesting on this,” said Mercedes Vazquez, the promoter of Pretty Girl Productions. One of the few female promoters in the sport, Vazquez has contractual obligations to 12 fighters, many coming out of the amatuer ranks and just getting their careers off the ground.

The four shows per year under her banner, that draw capacity crowds in the downtown Rochester area, are now dark. For now, and until this unresolved situation sees a compromise, Pretty Girl Productions will stage an event on October 19th further south in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Other promoters who also keep the fighters busy and create revenue for venues and the state of New York, are also looking to take business elsewhere.  Star Boxing and diBella Entertainment are two of the most active and regular promotions in the New York City vicinity.

Between them, boxing has continued to strive in New York with club shows and major title fights.  Within the last few years, and with television revenue also a part of the equation, there have been successful boxing shows that generated $1 million in revenue, $2 million, and over $4-million was the final figure at the Garden in November of 2014 when Miguel Cotto  defeated Sergio Martinez for the middleweight title.

“It really makes me question the process behind that,” Vazquez says about the entire situation, in particular how the MMA product is not bound with the insurance guidelines.

She said, “I’m not just thinking as a small promoter. It affects boxing as a whole the next three months. I’m alarmed. They know the economic benefit.”

But the benefit at this juncture apparently means nothing to the New York commission, a state operated agency that feeds off the taxpayer. The commission grants licenses to managers, trainers and fighters, and the promoters have to post the bonds and insurance.

Prior to the controversial insurance issue, that supposedly has not been passed in the state legislature, promoters were already in the deficit before the doors opened for an event. But this controversial and possible ending of boxing in New York simply makes it worse.

A prominent New York State Assembly member, a supporter of boxing who advocated the MMA legislation welcome to the state said, “It’s all about business.”

And the MMA is not responding about their suspect business to the issue. Competition has given their sport an early KO and when approached  they refused to comment as the same rules do not apply, which has no logic.

However, boxing is a sport known for corrupt politics and now on another side of business that is as unfair as the controversial decisions that have been decided in the ring at Madison Square Garden.

So where does the sport of boxing stand in New York?

Vazquez, one of the few female promoters in the sport, coordinated  a conference call Thursday afternoon with a small contingent of other promoters who support boxing  in New York.

“I’m alarmed,” she said, claiming the state and commission are aware of the economic benefit of staging boxing shows in the state of New Yor,k which also includes hundreds and thousands of dollars in merchandise sales.

A letter was composed to legislators in Albany and to the commission that calls for a revision or change in the bond stipulation. However, there needs to be more support or the cause for change will be meaningless. Meanwhile, the  arenas, ballrooms, and other venues that also generate revenue will continue to remain dark.

Vazquez says to all of this, “It’s literally going to kill boxing as we know it.”

And in New York, boxing is dark. Until the MMA changes their position, you can say the combat sport committed the murder and planted the tombstone.

Comment Rich Mancuso:  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso.