Golden Gloves Officials Hope for Knockout Over Proposed Regs

August 27, 2018

There is a growing concern among New England Golden Gloves officials that amateur boxing safety regulations being pushed by the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission may jeopardize Lowell’s ability to host the annual event.

The Medical Advisory Board of the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission has determined that a medical evaluation, including several specific tests mandated in 523 CMR 6.02, constitute a minimum requirement to discover some potential pre-existing conditions that could result in increased risk of serious permanent injury or death while engaged in unarmed combatant competition.

According to Bob Russo, executive director of the New England Golden Gloves, MSAC wants all amateur boxers to be licensed before competing.

To apply for an amateur fighter’s license, a boxer must submit the following to the MSAC:

1. Completed application and trainer attestation forms (a fighter’s license is valid for one day only)

2. Non-Massachusetts residents only: One passport photo (2 inches by 2 inches) of applicant

3. Copy of a government-issued photo identification (e.g. driver’s license/passport)

4. Medical information, including a physical examination to determine whether the unarmed combatant is physically fit to compete performed by a licensed physician within one year of the event; an electrocardiogram (EKG) within one year of the event for which a first license is sought, then within five years thereafter; blood test results for HIV, Hepatitis BsAG and Hepatitis Cab; a dilated eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist within one year of the event; a brain CT or brain MRI within five years of the event; no earlier than one day prior to the event, all female fighters must provide satisfactory proof to a Commission-approved physician that they are not pregnant.

5. Amateur unarmed combatant medical waiver/informed consent for applicants who elect not to undergo an EKG, brain CT/MRI or dilated eye exam.

The record of each test/examination must include an acknowledgment from the examining physician that the applicant is “physically fit to compete” or “cleared to fight.”

Russo believes these regulations would provide a massive obstacle for boxers to clear in order to put together consistent fight cards in Massachusetts. The Central New England/Greater Lowell Golden Gloves Tournament takes place every winter at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. This coming winter will be the 73rd year of the event.

“Basically over the past few years, the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission has come up with regulations that are totally unacceptable and undoable in our sport,” said Russo. “The main thing is there is very little blood in amateur boxing. I have been at thousands of bouts with my boxers and during that time I’ve seen very few cuts.”

The worry is that amateur boxers across the state won’t have the means to cover all the necessary steps to receive a license before each fight. Most of them have full-time jobs outside of boxing and other priorities. It could potentially make filling out fight cards supremely difficult. It could also force the Golden Gloves to depart Lowell in favor of another state with softer regulations.

“I think this would have a big impact on the Gloves,” said Terry McCarthy, president of Lowell Sun Charities, which is affiliated with the Golden Gloves. “We have a hard enough time getting fighters now. That would be a big blow, economically, to downtown Lowell and we don’t want that.”

Russo said that over the past couple of years he’s been going to the State House and attending commission meetings. He’s been working closely with Mike McAtee, the executive director of USA Boxing, to help his case.

“After a while, (MSAC) agreed that these things were probably not doable, so they were going to allow us to have the fighters sign waivers to avoid going through all that. Then a couple of weeks ago, it came out that all boxers will have to be licensed.

“When you get a professional license in other states, it’s good for a year. Here, they’re talking about these kids getting licensed every time they fight. These kids could fight eight times in the Golden Gloves. It’s absolutely insane. Safety is obviously important and we do everything we can to protect our boxers, we’re already doing that, such as headgear and standing eight counts.”

Russo said he doesn’t know of any other states pushing for similar regulations as Massachusetts.

“It would basically shut down amateur boxing in the state of Massachusetts,” Russo said.

Earlier this month, Dean Fay, who represents Western New England Golden Gloves, gave a presentation to the MSAC in support of loosening these regulations. Russo said it went well and the commission would try to work it out with the Golden Gloves. Another meeting is scheduled for September.

“The Golden Gloves is such a great tradition, it’s like a franchise sport,” said Russo. “Who is doing anything in January and February in Lowell? I’m sure the city would be upset if we had to leave. The Gloves will live on. It’s just a matter of whether or not that will be in Lowell.”

Follow Matt Langone on Twitter @MattLangone.

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