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Bill fines bad, biting boxers 100 percent of purse

July 2, 1997

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) _ Proponents of a bill to strip boxers of all their winnings for biting or other unacceptable acts were called publicity seekers during bitter debate Tuesday on the Senate floor.

``The blood wasn’t dry and we had a bill,″ said Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, referring to SB488′s introduction Monday following Mike Tyson’s disqualification Saturday night after he bit off a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear.

Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, said the bill introduced by the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Mark James, R-Las Vegas, was ``moving too fast,″ giving James’ panel ``a lot of publicity without a proper hearing.″

Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, also called SB488 ``a rush to judgment,″ and said there’s more pressure to punish boxers now that most top fighters are blacks or Hispanics and there are few ``great white hopes.″

James interrupted, saying the bill is needed and the Judiciary Committee was being accused of racism. The Senate president, Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren, had to call a recess until tempers cooled.

After a short break, the full Senate voted 11-10, with Hammargren casting the tie-breaking 11th vote, to adopt an amendment toughening the measure by taking a rule-breaking fighter’s entire purse. The money would go to a fund for abused and neglected children.

The amendment increasing the penalty and the scope of offenses was sought by the Nevada Athletic Commission. If the bill passes in the closing days of the 1997 Legislature, it couldn’t be applied retroactively to Tyson.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Anne Cathcart said the commission reviewed the bill and asked for authority to take the full purse if a boxer violates standards listed in official contracts signed by a boxer before a fight.

The new bill states the whole purse could be seized if a referee or the commission decide a fighter or manager entered into a contract in bad faith, agreed to throw a fight, didn’t honestly compete, or ``is guilty of an act detrimental to the interest of boxing.″

Gov. Bob Miller’s legal counsel, Ann Nelson, said the change will bring Nevada’s statutes into compliance with boxing contracts and will define for the commission the behavior deserving of a penalty.

Under current laws, the commission can withhold up to 10 percent of the purse or $250,000, which ever is greater, for violations of fight rules.

James said some may joke about the Tyson-Holyfield fight but he’s serious and the plan’s approval would show ``we aren’t going to tolerate this in Nevada.″

``These people are sports heroes who our children look up to and society looks up to,″ James said. ``They should be held to a higher standard than committing mayhem.″

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