Nevada Athletic Commission passes rules changes

LAS VEGAS -- Nevada passed a series of rule changes Wednesday in hopes of making boxing safer after two fighters died in Las Vegas last year.

The State Athletic Commission changed rules about gloves, ringside drinks and doctors, medical exams and trainers.

The commission also approved measures requiring more state funding, including increased drug testing, CT scans immediately after fights and other medical improvements. Those measures will be submitted Sept. 1 to state legislators for funding approval.

"Above it all, if the boxers are in better shape as a result of what we're doing here today, the boxing matches are going to be better in my opinion," said Sig Rogich, a former commissioner and chairman of an advisory panel that recommended the changes. "You're going to have boxers that are healthier, so no one is out anything."

The new rules could spark changes across the sport.

"I think what we do here will change boxing because other states will follow suit," Rogich said. "Nevada's always been the forerunner. We will continue to be, just because of the nature of what we do here in this state."

The heightened attention to boxer safety came after the 2005 deaths of Martin Sanchez in July and Leavander Johnson in September. It was the first time since 1933 that two fighters died in Nevada in the same year.

The deaths, coupled with two other Las Vegas bouts in which fighters suffered career-ending brain injuries, led the commission to establish the five-member advisory panel.

"This is not a perfect science," Rogich said. "Boxing is a brutal sport by nature."

The new rules will allow approved sports drinks to be used ringside in addition to water to replenish dehydrated fighters, mandate three doctors at ringside instead of two and require all boxers to be examined in the ring immediately after bouts conclude.

The commission will also develop a test requiring trainers to know about nutrition, weight loss, concussions and hydration before they are licensed. Previously, corner trainers needed only to complete a short application and pay $50. Commissioners will also consider punishing trainers for not sharing information about serious injuries during training.

Fighters 135 pounds and heavier will be required to use 10-ounce gloves. Previously, fighters 147 pounds and below could use eight-ounce gloves, which provide less padding and theoretically allow a boxer to punch harder.

Nevada has already been experimenting with some of the rule changes. An extra doctor will be ringside during Saturday's Fernando Vargas-Shane Mosley fight, and each fighter will be examined immediately afterward. The glove requirements will take effect in August.

The commission proposed tripling its budget and having the state pay for increased drug tests, CT scans for every boxer after every fight, a part-time commission doctor, a new medical advisory board and money for research. Commissioner Tony Alamo said the current annual budget is about $400,000.

"We're going to work with the Legislature carefully to get this done, and we'll get it done," chairman Skip Avansino said.

Commissioners also supported the idea of fining boxers 10 percent of their purse if they fail to make a specified weight during their first attempted weigh-in. Weight management can be dangerous for fighters, who often dehydrate themselves, over- or
under-eat or take other drastic measures to manipulate their weight.

A June 3 lightweight-title fight between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo was canceled after Castillo failed to make weight. Castillo was visibly drained and had trouble getting up while lying on the stage at the weigh-in. Besides losing his $900,000 purse,
Castillo faces a $250,000 fine and license sanctions and Corrales filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against him.

"He was playing poker and guess what -- he blinked and he got hurt real bad," Alamo said. "The problem with boxing is the weight game is a financial game."

The commissioners said they want to change boxing philosophy so fighters lose weight without endangering their health. The fines would encourage fighters to progress to their fighting weight more gradually.

Along with the changes, the commission is studying boxing gloves to see if some brands are safer than others. The group will also explore establishing health and pension funds for boxers, based on the panel's recommendations.