Boxing promoters have put on hold at least four dates with the New York State Athletic Commission from January to March but have been uncertain about whether they would be able stage the fights, because they are not legally allowed to put them on.
The reason is because of new insurance regulations for combat sports in the state that went into effect on Sept. 1, as part of the law that legalized mixed martial arts in New York. When the law was implemented, boxing promoters were left without any available insurance policy to buy to cover the events, leaving the sport dead in New York since the last card took place on Coney Island in Brooklyn on Aug. 21.
Promoters canceled several cards through the end of the year, but after months of wrangling and negotiation, a policy will soon be available to promoters enabling them to put on boxing events, albeit at a dramatically higher cost.
New York's Department of Financial Services, the state agency that worked with the insurance industry, has approved a policy that the United States Fire Insurance Co. is getting set to make available to promoters. It is expected to be in place in time for the first card on the commission's schedule to take place. That is the card co-promoted by DiBella Entertainment and Mayweather Promotions and headlined by the Badou Jack-James DeGale super middleweight title unification bout on Jan. 14 (Showtime) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
"It is our understanding that a combat sports insurance policy has been approved with an insurance carrier [United States Fire Insurance Co.] and will soon be made available to promoters," NYSAC spokesman Laz Benitez told ESPN on Tuesday.
When the law legalizing MMA in New York went into effect, it raised the minimum coverage for a boxing card from $10,000 to $50,000 for general medical coverage per fighter on the card, a change most promoters had no issue with and one that conforms to the norm in many other states. But the law also required a new and unprecedented $1 million minimum requirement for each fighter in the event the fighter suffers a life-threatening brain injury, a very rare occurrence.
It was difficult to get even one insurance company to enter the market to offer the policy that United States Fire Insurance Co. is about to roll out. Even when the policy becomes available, it is still likely to dramatically reduce the number of boxing cards in New York because of the cost.
A source with direct knowledge of the pricing being discussed for the policy told ESPN that a 10-bout card in New York would likely cost "in excess of $16,000 but possibly substantially more" to meet the minimum standards of the new law.
UFC has put on two cards since MMA was legalized in the state, but they were covered by an MMA-only policy issued by AIG.
Lou DiBella, founder and owner of DiBella Entertainment, said he was not clear yet on the precise cost of the new policy. He also stated that while he is pleased there will be a policy available to cover major cards in the state, such as the ones that take place at Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center, he is still very upset and concerned about the future of the club cards that are the life blood of the sport in the state.
"There will be insurance for the Jan. 14 card at Barclays Center, but this is not solving the long-term problem," DiBella said. "It's potentially phenomenally expensive. I don't have all the final details, but my understanding of the insurance is that it would be available for the Jan. 14 card and will allow the highest-level fights to take place, but it does nothing to help the club shows or any grassroots New York boxing to take place. This is a temporary fix. I'm looking for a permanent fix."
DiBella also has March 4 at Barclays Center on hold for the much-anticipated welterweight world title unification fight between Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia.
According to the New York commission, there are two other dates on hold for cards in New York so far in 2017: March 17, for a Top Rank card at The Theater at Madison Square Garden that will feature the professional debut of Irish Olympic star Michael Conlan; and March 18, at Madison Square Garden, that K2 Promotions has slotted for the possible Gennady Golovkin-Daniel Jacobs middleweight world title fight.
DiBella said those are all big enough shows to absorb the additional cost of the new insurance policy, but his Broadway Boxing club cards in Manhattan and Star Boxing promoter Joe DeGuardia's club cards on Long Island at the Paramount in Huntington remain impossible to do at such an inflated cost.
"This policy will allow the biggest fights to take place, but it does nothing to address the more serious problem of club shows or small regional television cards," DiBella said. "You're not going to see a 'ShoBox' card in New York with this insurance policy. I'd say 90 percent of the shows that normally happen in New York won't be possible to take place under this policy because of the cost.
"Why would a promoter come to New York for that cost when they can go elsewhere for a lot less money?"