A Grim Report On Boxing

Posted: January 08, 1986

It may not come as a surprise to anyone that boxing has been corrupted by underworld influence. That sad fact has been documented by investigations in the past. Nonetheless, the New Jersey Commission of Investigation has performed a useful public service by conducting an extensive study of the inner-workings of the boxing business and reporting its findings. It is not a pretty picture.

The commission has detailed, for example, how young fighters controlled by the mob are elevated quickly to contenders for world championships through fraudulent means. Some of the techniques would be funny if the subject were not so serious.

Fighters gain prominence swiftly by being matched against ineffective opponents who are essentially nonfighters. Young men of appropriate weight have been approached on streetcorners of Philadelphia, according to the

commission, and offered a chance to make a few hundred dollars by entering the ring against a competent professional. The purpose is to put up the appearance of a good fight, for maybe a round or two, and then get knocked out. The KO will look good on the winner's record.

In at least one instance a person thus recruited was a "ringer" - that is, he was misrepresented as being an experienced fighter and introduced in the ring under the name of a real boxer.

Once a boxer has achieved championship contender status through a series of

phony fights, there is big money to be made. Much of it can come from closed- circuit television of championship fights or "elimination bouts" between major contenders. The commission has told how organized crime money is invested in some closed-circuit ventures, with hefty profits.

New Jersey has been an active state for professional boxing for many years, but the introduction of casino gambling in Atlantic City has added a new dimension. Fight cards are regular attractions at a number of casinos. There is a big demand for fighters - especially for those with impressive won-lost records. Thus there is incentive to provide the supply to meet the demand.

Cable television is another element. A number of cable TV channels carry fights on a regular basis. There is need for many boxers - and a continuing entry of "new faces" - to supply the needs of cable systems.

Outlawing boxing might be viewed as a solution to the problem. Outlawing it in New Jersey is suggested by the Commission of Investigation. But that does not appear to be a practical solution. A complete ban would be difficult to enact and even more difficult to enforce. Besides, the fighters and the corruption would be exported to other states and the problems would continue.

Sending people to jail would be an appropriate response. Investigations and reports don't help much unless they are followed up. There must be prosecutions and convictions of those who violate the law.

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