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House passes Ali boxing reform act

Associated Press Thursday, May 22, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) The proposed Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, a first step in Congress' attempt to bring financial reform to the sport, passed the House by voice vote Monday.

If President Clinton signs the bill, which passed the Senate last month and is not considered controversial, it would become the second piece of boxing reform legislation in four years to become law.

"What was once a great sport has been taken over by greed and abuse," said Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, one of the bill's sponsors. "Boxing fans ought to be able to watch a fair fight, and boxers deserve a fair reward for their sport."

The bill targets promoters and sanctioning bodies, placing limits on one-sided contracts that often favor the promoter, and on the complex, conflict-of-interest-marred money trail that often accompanies big-time fights.

The bill's key reforms would:

-place a one-year limit on the length of a contract between a promoter and boxer;

-prohibit a promoter from having a financial interest in the management of a boxer, and prohibit the manager from having a financial relationship with a promoter;

-prohibit improper payments from promoters or managers to sanctioning bodies, such as the WBA, WBC and IBF;

-require the sanctioning bodies to establish objective and consistent criteria for ranking boxers.

The bill was introduced three years ago by Oxley, and Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Richard Bryan, D-Nev. The Senate passed the bill in 1998, but the House didn't take up the measure before that congressional term ended.

The bill's most visible targets are super-promoters Don King and Bob Arum, both of whom declined invitations to appear at hearings on Capitol Hill. Several fighters testified in favor of the measure, and Ali also attended a hearing to offer his support.

McCain, Bryan and Oxley were also behind the Professional Boxing Safety Act of 1996, which introduced modest health standards for the sport.

Bryan, who is leaving the Senate this year, said his colleagues will continue working for more reforms. He cited the lack of a pension system for boxers and debate as to whether states or the federal government should have the final say over boxing regulation.

"We have to restore the public confidence in the integrity of boxing," Bryan said.

Eds: the bill is H.R. 1832