ABC Suspends 20 Bare Knuckle Fighters in Legally Murky Circumstances

MMAJunkie’s Nolan King did a good job documenting the recent suspension of 20 bare knuckle boxers by the Association of Boxing Commissions (“ABC”).

The fighters competed on a card called BKFC Fight Night Montana. The State does not have a ABC member boxing commission. The promoter, BKFC, apparently reached out to State authorities and were given the green light for their event. The promoter hired the ISKA, a body that has ample experience overseeing combat sports events, to act as regulator.

Following this event the ABC handed out suspensions to every combatant on the card. This caused BKFC president David Feldman to imply the ABC may be hypocritical in their stance noting other combat sports athletes compete in the State and are not suspended by the ABC. Feldman noted as follows:

But at the end of the day, I don’t even know if he had the authority to suspend these guys. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. But what I’m trying to say is that there were other professional combat sporting events in the State of Montana from mixed martial arts to two bare-knuckle fights that happened in the State of Montana where the fighters did not get suspended. But they did get suspended for our event. That’s a big question mark in my mind.”

So let’s break this down. What authority does the ABC have to suspend bare knuckle boxers who compete in States without boxing commissions? Enter the Ali Act. This federal legislation, which is the reason behind the loose confederacy that is the ABC, expressly addresses boxing in state’s without a commission. Section 6303 notes that in such circumstances the match “is to be supervised by a boxing commission from another State and subject to the most recent version of the recommended regulatory guidelines certified and published by the Association of Boxing Commissions as well as any additional relevant professional boxing regulations and requirements of such other State“.

If another State commission does not step up to the plate then the ABC themselves can come in and act as regulator.

The Act goes on to note that promoters who intend to hold such bouts must notify an appropriate supervising boxing commission at least 14 days before the event to ensure various safety protocols can be met.

ABC president Mike Mazzulli noted that the state of Kansas was willing to step in and fill the void but the promoter declined the offer. Mazzulli told MMAJunkie as follows:

There was an ABC commission that contacted (BKFC) numerous times to say that they would go up there and regulate the event…That was the State of Kansas. (BKFC) did not take them up on it. They decided to ride with ISKA. ISKA was not granted the ability to regulate that by the State of Montana, so therefore all of these fighters fought in an unsanctioned fight.

Considering the above it looks like there was a better path that BKFC could have taken to avoid this outcome. That said not everything is crystal clear.

As noted above the Ali Act requires that when a fellow State commission steps up to fill the void they must use “the most recent version of the recommended regulatory guidelines certified and published by the Association of Boxing Commissions“. The ABC has no rules addressing bare knuckle boxing. So even with another State stepping up to the plate it is a fair question whether a BKB event could occur.

Another legal twist is whether BKB is even professional boxing? That seems like an odd question but when the Wyoming State Board of Mixed Martial Arts was the first state athletic commission to allow BKB in the modern era they did so under the logic that BKB was not a subset of boxing but rather was a sub-set of Mixed Martial Arts.  Technically BKB in Wyoming is a seperate ruleset for MMA.

There is an argument that a BKB event is actually an MMA event and could be outside the express language of the Ali Act which applies only to professional boxers.

In short things are murky.


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