SPRINGFIELD - Gov. Rod Blagojevich today signed legislation that effectively outlaws “Toughman”-type competitions, where often untrained and unconditioned fighters pummel each other, sometimes fatally.
At least 12 people have died after participating in Toughman contests across the country, including Stacy Young, a 30-year-old mother of two from Florida who climbed into the ring at an event last year against an opponent with vastly more experience. Young’s sister, Jodie Meyers and her husband, Donald, have become active in warning about the dangers of Toughman and worked with states officials in ending the events in Illinois
“Toughman-style competitions will not get up off of the canvas to menace our state again,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “I want to thank Don and Jodie Meyers for their tireless efforts, both in Illinois and across the country, to end these Gladiator-like spectacles and prevent another family from suffering through the same tragedy they did.”
In recent years, Toughman competitions organized by national promoter Art Dore, who organized the event at which Young was killed, have been held twice a year at convention centers in Peoria and Rockford. Other smaller, unsanctioned events have been staged in bars and taverns across the state by unlicensed promoters.
The Governor also thanked Sen. James DeLeo (D-Chicago) and Rep. Angelo “Skip” Saviano (R-Elmwood Park) for their leadership in the General Assembly in passing SB 2251.
“When most people thought Art Dore and his allies had won in Illinois, Sen. DeLeo and Rep. Saviano stepped in and scored a near unanimous decision in stopping them,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “I also want to commend the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation under the leadership of Secretary Fernando Grillo in pressing the fight against Toughman-style events in the last year.”
SB 2251 only allows:
· Professional fights approved and regulated by the Department of Professional Regulation;
· Amateur fights approved by USA Boxing and Golden Gloves; and
· Bona fide kickboxing and martial arts tournaments.
Unauthorized fighting like Toughman events pose serious health risks to those involved because the events:
· Do not always require boxers to undergo a pre-fight physical;
· Do not test competitors for HIV;
· Do not prevent inebriated fighters from entering the ring;
· Offer only a few weight classes so competitors can be 100 pounds or more apart in size;
· Pair trained and untrained fighters;
· Offer inadequate medical care and physician oversight.
The new regulations will require promoters and participants to abide by the same rules professional boxing does, such as using stringent class and weight measurements in pairing fighters, and mandating that unlicensed one-and two-day elimination tournaments be sanctioned by reputable organizations like the Golden Gloves of America and the U.S. Amateur Boxing Federation.
Illinois joins 16 other states in banning or severely restricting these types of competitions. Another five states are considering similar action. SB 2251 is effective immediately.