As a fan of mixed-martial arts (or “ultimate fighting”), I cringe whenever a sensational “news” story conflates it with “toughman” competitions. Fortunately, Fancy Footwork: How Impresario Of Fight Events Evades Regulation doesn’t make that mistake. Instead it explains how toughman competitions dodge regulation:
Twenty-four years ago, Mr. Dore founded the boxing equivalent of karaoke: Toughman contestants — often out of shape and in poor medical condition — climb into the ring and slug it out. Mr. Dore’s skill in ducking oversight has been critical to the success of his brutal fight shows, which take place in cities and towns around the country and can gross $20,000 or more in an evening.
States, rather than the federal government, are the main regulators of professional boxing. But Mr. Dore says that avoiding state supervision is sometimes as simple as labeling Toughman contests ‘amateur’ events. ‘Then we don’t have the jurisdiction of the boxing commission,’ he says.
I’m not quite sure how you can run a prize fight as an amateur event…
To bring mixed-martial arts back into the discussion:
Florida bans fighting matches involving “a combination of skills.” So Toughman events in that state, including the one in which Mrs. Young fought, allow only standard boxing punches — no kicking or karate chops. That is enough to dodge the ban, says Florida’s boxing commissioner, Chris Meffert. His agency oversees conventional professional fights in the state but doesn’t regulate Toughman.
Legitimate athletes trained in wrestling, jiu-jitsu, and muay thai can’t compete — but fat slobs can — fat, untrained slobs, in dubious health:
He argues that Toughman, which puts on about 100 fighting contests a year, leads to fewer deaths than professional boxing. Mr. Dore won’t say exactly how many fighters have died from Toughman-related injuries since he founded the event. But eight are known to have died since 1981. During the same period, at least 14 professional boxers have died after competition in the U.S. The comparison is of dubious value, however, because there isn’t a reliable count of how many individual bouts there have been in either category of fighting.
I shouldn’t have to point out that no one has died in a mixed-martial arts competition in the US. Or Japan. Or Brazil.