Monday, June 23, 2003

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Boxing announcer Mark Beiro has called scores of professional and amateur fights in his career, but he refuses to be ringside at Toughman bouts.

The competitions, pitting inexperienced fighters against one another in unregulated bouts, billed as “brawling for fun,” appeal to the “uncaged savage in all of us,” he said.

“Toughman loosens about every restriction that boxing currently has and makes it that much more dangerous,” said Mr. Beiro, one of the nation’s best-known boxing announcers. “Personally, I am surprised more people haven’t been permanently injured or killed in it.”

Criticism of the events flared up again last week when a 30-year-old mother of two died after entering a Toughman competition in Sarasota. She was the 10th contestant to die in the 24-year history of Toughman.

In a statement, Toughman founder and promoter Al Dore denied that the events are dangerous, and he billed them as safer than conventional professional and amateur boxing.

After the woman’s death, though, Mr. Dore temporarily halted the traveling show.

Sarasota police are investigating whether a crime was committed when Stacy Young, who had never boxed before, was pummeled by a woman who appeared to have more experience.

As the fight wore on, voices in the crowd were yelling for someone to stop it. Mrs. Young’s daughters, ages 12 and 9, were among them. “They are just devastated,” said Don Meyers, Mrs. Young’s brother-in-law.

Mrs. Young was the first woman killed in a Toughman event. Her family’s attorney said she never would have agreed to fight if she had known people had died in previous matches.

Her family said she didn’t plan to enter the ring when she went with her husband and daughters to the event at publicly owned Robarts Arena in Sarasota. Mrs. Young was recruited by Toughman organizers because 20-year-old baker Sarah Kobie wanted to fight but had no female opponent.

At 240 pounds, Mrs. Young outweighed her opponent, but Miss Kobie landed several blows to Mrs. Young’s head and knocked her down several times. In the third round, she had a seizure.

Officials in several states have attacked the fights as lacking adequate safeguards.

Referees in Toughman matches are not required to have the same formal training or pass the same strict exams as referees in professional matches or sanctioned amateur bouts.

The only organization that sanctions Toughman competitions, the American Boxing & Athletic Association, is a foundation Mr. Dore created and controls.

In a recent series on Toughman, the Detroit News reported that in one deadly match in January, a fighter twice asked to give up but was urged by a referee to continue.

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