Discussion Starter · #1 ·
By Tomer Chen | June 23, 2007Not very brief look at NYSAC:
On June 21st, a Lower Hudson Online article criticized the sport of MMA, which is really no big shock given the rough ride of the sport over the last 14 years in the media and the sensationalism that seems to grasp the mainstream media as a tool to draw in readers. What was really shocking, however, was the criticism of a New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) Deputy Commissioner emeritus by the name of Steve Acunto, who has been a trainer for several decades in the sport of Boxing.
It isn't a shock that Mr. Acunto would criticize the sport of MMA given his deep rooted links to Boxing, but the analogy he made to the need for stopping MMA:
"There's a lot of money in it, but I think it should be stopped in its tracks, like they should have stopped Adolf Hitler in his tracks. You've got to stop a bad thing before it catches on and overwhelms you."
While the natural instinct would be to attack the inane reference to Hitler and the Holocaust (amongst other things), I feel it would serve no purpose to go after that particular 'argument'. Instead, I feel it will be better to discuss the institution that Mr. Acunto represents for the state of New York, the NYSAC. After discussing the history of the commission and its place in Boxing's history, there should be an obvious connection between the course of Boxing's acceptance in the state of New York (and all of the United States) and MMA's current development.
The sport of Boxing in the modern era is considered to have begun during the days of James Figg and structured under Jack Broughton with the implementation of his rules in 1743. The sport developed in England almost exclusively for the next 100 years (with a few imports from the United States such as Bill Richmond and Tom Molineaux who were freemen African Americans), and in 1838 the rules were updated and repackaged as the London Prize Ring Rules. Meanwhile, in the United States, the Boxing phenomenon was slowly developing and would culminate in the first international super fight in John Camel Heenan-Tom Sayers (which ended in a controversial draw after all hell broke loose).
But for New York, the sport didn't really have too much impact on the day to day life until May 16, 1881, when a battle hardened John Flood took on a young man who was looking forward to bigger things: John L. Sullivan. Sullivan battered Flood senseless over 8 rounds under the London Prize Ring Rules and began to call out the reigning (United States) Heavyweight Champion, Paddy Ryan. In New York, there was a great murmur, especially because the bout was illegal and there were questions as to where exactly the ring would be set up so that fans could watch the contest. In the end, the bout took place on a barge due to the anticipation regarding the land-based venues that would be available given the police attempts to halt the bout.
John L. Sullivan would, over the next few years, become the face of Boxing and would introduce a more socially acceptable version of the sport that had developed over the last 150 years by actively competing under the Marquis of Queensberry (MoQ) rules that had only been written about 20 years earlier by John Graham Chambers. Sullivan decided to implement the gloves in the majority of contests mainly because of his fear of severe hand damage. He would forever become entrenched in Boxing lore as the last of the great Bareknuckle fighters/champions (engaging in the last major Bareknuckle contest with Jake Kilrain, a war that ended with Sullivan beating Kilrain in 75 rounds) as well as the beginning of the new MoQ era that has last nearly 105 years as of today. In addition, Sullivan endeared himself to the population of New York (and really, anywhere he went) by his relentless mauling style, attempting to stop brutally anyone that he stepped into the ring with (he is generally credited with 30 KOs in his 35 wins).
With the rise of Sullivan and his promotion of the use of gloves (during the Bareknuckle era the only options were bare fists or skin-thick gloves called 'kid gloves'), Boxing was able to slowly gain acceptance as a prize fight sport. In many states and territories, for example, Boxing was banned for prize money but was accepted as an amateur exhibition with the police ready to interfere if a contest became 'too real' (which is how Sullivan fought many of his contests under the legal loophole guise of). Following the first true Heavyweight championship contest under the MoQ rules between John L. Sullivan and 'Gentleman' Jim Corbett (where the master Boxer in Corbett simply outworked and eventually knocked out the 34 year Sullivan, 8 years his senior and completely out of shape without a motivator such as William Muldoon), Boxing began to become legalized in the states for prize fights.
Early Boxing regulation in New York
New York, in particular, implemented a law called the Horton Law in 1896 that would last for about 4 years and was a basic set of regulations for the state that allowed several large title bouts to be house, in particular James J. 'Jim' Jeffries World Heavyweight Championship win over Bob Fitzsimmons and his title defenses against Tom Sharkey and 'Gentleman' Jim Corbett. In 1900, however, the Horton Law was gone, although Boxing was still allowed to be held in New York State.
From 1900-1911, New York State Boxing saw the 'No Decision' era in play, where the only way to get a 'W' on your record was by (T)KOing your opponent within the distance, as there was no judging allowed at the end of the contest and it was ruled a 'No Decision'. The newspapers of the time, however, typically reported their own winners and so there is an unofficial Win/Loss/Draw ledger that exists for Boxing researchers and fans to assess the success of fighters during this time period beyond their stoppage wins and losses (though biases (fighting style, race, etc.) are naturally present in these unofficial results). Boxing during this period was sporadic at best due to the unappealing nature of the No Decision and seemingly hostile nature of the state towards the sport by repealing the Horton Law.
In 1911, the Frawley Act came to be and would last for 6 years as another attempt to regulate the sport of Boxing officially. 'No Decision' bouts still were in existence (mandated under the Act itself) and the maximum bout length allowed during the time of the Act was 10 rounds. The sport of Boxing was receiving a great deal of controversy by the actions of one of the most controversial fighters in Boxing industry, Jack Johnson. There has been a great deal of speculation historically as to why the next event happened, but a popular theory is fear by the New York state government of another unpopular champion such as Johnson who caused riots because of his egotistical attitude as a black man in white America and his flaunting of white women (which would eventually catch up to him under the wrongfully utilized Mann Act of 1910 as the law stated that women could not be transported for 'immoral purposes'.
In any case, shortly following Johnson's KO title loss to Jess Willard in Havana, Cuba, the New York State legislature repealed the Frawley Act in 1917, setting up 3 years of no official Boxing contests in New York (unlike the lack of the Horton Act, the repeal in this case banned it completely).
The Walker Act
What followed in 1920 was the first true regulation at having the government act as a third party in staging Boxing contests. The story is well documented in Jack Cavanaugh's Tunney (on Pg. 73-80), but I will summarize the story to allow continuity in the historical timeline:
James J. Walker, a State Senator for New York (who would later become Mayor of New York City and be forced to leave amid accusations of corruption in 1932), wanted to reinstate Boxing in New York state, in part because he felt it was foolish for some of the most talented fighters in the world at the time (such as Gene Tunney and Benny Leonard) having to go to New Jersey or elsewhere to fight and also because he knew good revenue would come from reinstating the sport would be great. Walker's law reinstated decisions, forced licensing of all participants (fighters, trainers, managers, promoters, etc.), allowed a maximum round length of 15 rounds and would create the New York State Athletic Commission.
The final stroke of this bill was titling it the 'Walker Act', a clever move to allow Walker to forever associate himself with bringing back pugilism into New York State. The only real stumbling block for Walker was Governor Al Smith, who was considering a White House run at the time. Smith, a Roman Catholic, knew that he needed to appease his Protestant base in anticipation of a future run in office (since they would either make or break his potential election in the whole United States). So when Walker got the bill passed through the state assembly, Smith advised him that he would sign the bill if at least 100 Protestant clergymen signed a petition advocating the bill or would otherwise veto it.
Walker, knowing that his chances of passing the law were slipping, contacted his friend Anthony J. Drexel Biddle, a philanthropist who had deep connections with the Protestant base, simply told Walker not to worry about it and that Monday, Governor Smith found over 600 telegrams supporting the Walker Law in his office by Protestant ministers. An astonished Smith promptly signed the bill, establishing the current legalized Boxing system in New York (and the archetype for the rest of the country).
Almost immediately thereafter, George 'Tex' Rickard, the legendary Boxing promoter (who also created the New York Rangers Hockey franchise) began to run shows at the Madison Square Garden and through the unique relationship between Rickard, who was the official President of MSG and the Garden itself, the sport of Boxing began to flourish. Generally regard as the first of the top tier Boxing promoters (the others who are generally regarded as such being 'Uncle' Mike Jacobs, Jack Solomons, Bob Arum & Don King), Rickard would develop the first million dollar gate in Jack Dempsey-Georges Carpentier and would be a pseudo-manager of Dempsey (alongside Dempsey's official manager, the legendary Jack 'Doc' Kearns), guiding him to many prosperous gates in a relationship that last nearly a decade.
William Muldoon and the NYSAC
William Muldoon, one of the first chairmen of the newly created New York State Athletic Commission, was an established sports legend before he entered the office of the NYSAC. A Greco-Roman wrestler, he was regarded as an unbeatable monster on the mat and was perhaps the first big Pro Wrestling star (before Martin 'Farmer' Burns). Muldoon also became famous for his training of the legendary John L. Sullivan for the war against Jake Kilrain in what became the last major Bareknuckle Boxing fight. With such an impressive resume, it is no shock that Muldoon was made the chairman of the NYSAC, especially given his strict dietary and preparation habits that made Sullivan dread ever having to train under Muldoon again.
Muldoon, known as a fitness guru, wanted the fight atmosphere to be improved and imposed a no-smoking rule at fights, banned gamblers from attending fight cards and encouraged general improvements of the fighter health/sanitary conditions. With the reputation of the NYSAC as being the flagship commission in the country and a model of how things should be handled, Muldoon made a miscalculated error.
On February 4, 1923 (as discussed in Tunney), Muldoon announced that no Heavyweight championship bout would be allowed in New York State, citing high ticket prices and purses as being the primary motivation for his essential ban of fights in the Empire State. Muldoon argued in his announcement that it was ludicrous that a fighter could make more potentially in one day's work than the President of the United States. Many people, however, suspected that the major reason for his ban was a rumor that Jack Dempsey was tendering an offer to face Harry Wills, generally regarded as the top contender of the time and ducked by most of the best fighters of the era. Some people had claimed that Muldoon had blocked Heavyweight title fights out of a fear of having a second Jack Johnson on his hands if Wills was granted the title fight that he had earned and beat Dempsey.
The controversy ended up hurting Muldoon as he was forced to resign as chairman of the commission, although he would later reverse an order by the NYSAC along with commissioner George Brower that ordered Dempsey to face Wills if he was to fight in New York (James J. Farley, however, voted to keep the order, making it a 2-1 reversal). Nonetheless, Dempsey wasn't able to return to New York due to the License Committee forcing him to face Wills, which did not go through as Wills did not wish to face Gene Tunney in a title eliminator for $250,000 in order to get his shot, preferring to point to Nat Fleischer's The Ring magazine, which listed him as the top contender.
As a result of these political games, Dempsey ended up facing Tunney in Philadelphia in a fight that would see The Manassa Mauler getting thrashed for 10 one sided rounds, losing his title and having the famous response to his wife, Estelle Taylor: "Honey, I forgot to duck." The rematch was held in Chicago and would become legendary as the 'Battle of the Long Count' due to a controversy involving the referee, Dave Barry, who essentially started the count from one rather than including the seconds it took Dempsey to get to the neutral corner, giving Tunney around 14 seconds to recover rather than the 9 official seconds Barry counted. With two of the biggest drawing fights in the history of pugilism not run in New York, this hurt the image that New York had developed earlier on in the 1920s as being the Mecca of Boxing.
Mike Jacobs, Joe Louis & New York
Following the death of 'Tex' Rickard in 1929, there was a power vacuum in New York. Jimmy Johnston, the "Boy Bandit" of Boxing who was one of the more successful managers of all time, tried his hand at promoting and had decent success in the venture, eventually becoming the General Manager at the Madison Square Garden. Johnston's reign at the top of the promotional heap was relatively short lived, however, as he was overcome by a man that few had known about: Mike Jacobs.
Jacobs, a man who had grown out of poverty in New York by working as a ticket scalper and soon after becoming a silent partner to 'Tex' Rickard, was a brilliant businessman who, while not knowing much of anything about Boxing, knew when opportunities presented itself and prices could be raised with impunity. The business genius really began his war path to becoming the undisputed king of Boxing promotion in 1935, when he signed a prospect that was making headlines: Joe Louis. Louis was to become soon thereafter one of the greatest drawing cards and Heavyweight champions that the sport of Boxing was to ever see. Jacobs also was wise enough to see running a Tournament of Champions card, even though it ended up going into the red, secured him with several addition championships.
The creation of the Twentieth Century Sporting Club by Jacobs along with Damon Runyon, Ed Frayne and Bill Farnsworth allowed Jacobs to take control of the Hippodrome and to run events such as the Hearst Milk Fund show. In addition, Jacobs was willing to utilize higher quality talent during the Great Depression than Jimmy Johnston was, allowing him to gain ground on Johnston in the war between the Twentieth Century Sporting Club and the Madison Square Garden. In addition, Jacobs was willing to adjust the prices of seat ranges according to demands for certain seating areas (IE: if a $20 seat area sold faster than the $5, he would simply expand out the $20 seats to increase his revenue). In addition, Jacob's tactic of "raised ringside" (which is described in Budd Schulberg's excellent biography of him in the Ringside compilation book) was classic ingenuity, as he was able to add additional seats beyond capacity, charging a 'service fee' and tax to pad the NYSAC and IRS books while keeping the revenues to himself (away from the fighters).
The revenues that the NYSAC received allowed Jacobs to share a very good relationship with the commission, becoming virtually the only game in town during his run as promoter in the 1930s and 1940s. New York was once again solidified as the Mecca of the sport, with the 1940s being regarded as the 'Golden Era' for the state as several lower weight fighters, primarily Beau Jack, were able to sell out or nearly sell out the Garden even during World War II while Joe Louis was performing exhibitions for the Army during the war.
The beginning of the fall
And of course, all good things must come to an end. In late 1948 and early 1949, Joe Louis, who wanted to retire after two exhausting wars against 'Jersey' Joe Walcott and knowing that he was at the end of the road, signed an agreement with Jim Norris and Arthur Wirtz to sell his claim to the Heavyweight championship as well as sign up the top 4 contenders of the time (Lee Savold, Ezzard Charles, 'Jersey' Joe Walcott and Gus Lesnevich) to an elimination tournament to determine a new champion. After some backroom negotiating (which is described in detail in Barney Nagler's great book James Norris and the Decline of Boxing), Louis secured the top contracts and his belt for Wirtz and Norris. Mike Jacobs, the once proud promoter, was broken down after failing in health and refused to believe that Louis, a man that he perhaps treated with the most respect out of anyone in his life (besides his mother) would backstab him and sell out the Twentieth Century Sporting Club.
With the fall of one Club came the rise another: the International Boxing Club. Publicly run by Wirtz and Norris, they bought out the rights to run at the Madison Square Garden from Jacobs for $100,000. Underneath the public facade, however, the Boxing public knew that two less-than-honorable characters were pulling the strings: Frankie Carbo and 'Blinky' Palermo.
Under the run of the Mafia-controlled IBC, there were numerous accusations of fight fixing and corruption. One particularly infamous case was that of Jake LaMotta and Billy Fox. Fox, a prized drawing card of the IBC, needed a win over LaMotta to set up a fight with Light Heavyweight Champion, Gus Lesnevich. According to most accounts, LaMotta was offered numerous times a sizable chunk of money as well as a Middleweight title shot if he was take the dive. LaMotta kept on refusing until he reached the division's glass ceiling and knew he had no alternative but to take a dive in order to get his title shot.
On November 14, 1947, Jake LaMotta entered the ring against Billy Fox and after staggering Fox early on, essentially did nothing and allow Fox to batter him until a disgusted referee Frank Fullam halted the contest in the fourth round. Virtually everyone 'in the know' realized that it had been a dive. LaMotta would be called in by Chairman Eagan of the NYSAC and would lie under oath that it was a spleen injury and not a dive that led to the ending of the bout. As there was no proof suggesting that it was, in fact, a dive, the commission suspended LaMotta's license indefinitely (it was reinstated about 7 months later) and he was fined $1,000 for "failure to report an injury to the Commission". During the Kefauver Committee, however, LaMotta would turn around on his official claim to the NYSAC, stating that he in fact did take a dive to get a title shot, but did not name names.
Another example of the corruption that was damaging the name of the sport of Boxing by the day, the illegal conflict of interest of Al Weill, manager of Rocky Marciano. Weill, knowing that in New York it was illegal to be both a matchmaker (he was the official IBC matchmaker) and a manager, had his son, Marty, the official name manager (a practice that would be done by Carl King, Don King's stepson nearly 30 years later) of note. The sportswriters continually berated the NYSAC for their failure to stopping the charade and blatant conflict of interest. Weill was only forced to resign as matchmaker after openly stating that Marciano was 'his boy' in front of the commissioners.
The numerous scandals such as the aforementioned that grew out of the IBC's stranglehold on the sport (which is covered in detail in James Norris and the Decline of Boxing) both hurt the sport and the NYSAC's top quality reputation for years to come. It took a court order on the monopolistic practices of the IBC (forcing Wirtz and Norris to sell their business interests in 1959 after several appeals) and investigations such as the Kefauver Committee as well as the trials and convictions of Carbo and Palermo that finally forced the Mafia-corrupted organization to implode.
The day the NYSAC went too far…?
On April 28, 1967, Muhammad Ali refused to step forward and enter the United States Armed Forces. Ali had refused to cross the line and enter the military on the grounds that he was a conscientious objector and was supposed to be exempt from induction into the military on the grounds that he was a minister of Islam. It would begin a lengthy and ugly trial and appeal process as well as an exodus from Boxing for nearly 3 years.
Chairman Eddie Dooley of the NYSAC, a staunch war hawk, believed that the World Heavyweight Champion was obligated to fight in the military if he was ordered to, just like Joe Louis did during World War II. As discussed by Marvin Kohn in Thomas Hauser's biography Muhammad Ali, Dooley had 4 press releases ready, depending on how Ali would respond to his military induction. As soon as it was announced that Ali had refused military induction, Dooley ordered the release advising that Ali was to be stripped of his title recognition in New York State and was to have his license to fight revoked. Following the announcement, most of the other states followed New York's lead and stripped him of his title recognition and license.
The big question is: Was it right? After all, Ali had not even stepped into a courtroom at the time and was not a convicted felon and yet he had been tried, convicted and executed by the NYSAC before he was ever convicted through proper due process. While the commission may have held a patriotic sentiment towards the decision making process that a fighter should always be ready to step forward, it seemed to be an unjust call to be made.
Nat Fleischer, founder and editor-in-chief of The Ring magazine, openly berated the decision by the commissions, stating that a fighter should only lose his title in the ring or by virtue of permanent retirement. In effect, the massive stripping of Ali's hard fought title seemed to be a predecessor to the almost whim-like decisions of the current sanctioning bodies where a title can be stripped at any time for any reason rather than making a party earn the belt.
Ali would suffer through several years of trials (he pled guilty at the initial trial since he did commit the crime technically, but argued he had religious reasons not to go), eventually reaching the Supreme Court, who ruled in his favor 8-0 (with Thurgood Marshall abstaining) as the Appeal Board of the military did not give a valid reason for conscientious objector exemption rejection. In addition, the NYSAC was forced to give him a license as the New York State Supreme Court ruled that he was unjustly stripped of his license to box.
Losing ground to the casinos
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the structure of Boxing changed for several reasons. First was the advent of premium television and the development of Pay-Per-View, which were going to change the business structure of gate importance. Although TV rights had been important since the 1950s (which caused many of the fight clubs to shut down, leaving only bigger venues, for the most part), premium TV and PPV were going to change the model even further. These ventures, along with the developing casinos in states such as New Jersey and Nevada were making these states more appealing to promoters. The kicker for promoters such as Arum and King was that many casinos were willing to place their own money on the line in return for a part of the profits, softening the investment blow that many promoters faced for decades.
During the 1980s in particular, the business in New York has faltered. MSG, once considered the crown jewel of Boxing, was slowly losing the gates that it brought in at a constant rate. For Boxing, MSG was never going to look as glamorous for promoters as would the casinos as the casinos were willing to dip into their pockets in the dual hope that they could both get a sizable gate/PPV buyrate and also attract a good amount of patrons to their casinos whereas MSG had no incentive to underwrite any fight deals. The only real asset MSG brought was the historical value, which is why there are still several big shows run a year nowadays (primarily the Puerto Rican day parade weekend show headlined by Miguel Cotto and promoted by Bob Arum).
The NYSAC, once the most influential commission in the country, has fallen towards the bottom of the reputable commissions (still considered better than the 'Wild' West states with little to no regulation) in recent years. Two particular scandals have rocked the NYSAC's reputation as compared to those of the NJSACB and NSAC: the death of Beethaeven Scottland and the Arturo Gatti-Joey Gamache debacle.
Beethaeven Scottland, a 20-6-2 journeyman who was simply trying to make a good living for himself, entered the ring against George Khalid Jones, an up and coming prospect on 5 days notice. What followed was one of the most horrific beatings ever televised, a mismatch that saw an outclassed opponent that getting crushed beyond the needed threshold for a reasonable person to scream 'Shout'. Max Kellerman, the TV analyst for ESPN 2 at the time, was literally begging someone from the commission to order the referee to halt the bout or to at least have the ring doctor check out Scottland.
As discussed in the Epilogue of The Life and Crimes of Don King: The Shame of Boxing in America by Jack Newfield, Kellerman began pointing out the dangerous nature of the contest as earlier as the fourth round (it was stopped in the tenth and last) and screamed "That's it!" in the fifth when Scottland took 25 unanswered power shots to the head. Scottland eventually collapsed into a coma in the tenth round from the incredible damage sustained. The aftermath was Scottland dying of his injuries 6 days later. Who was to blame?
The famous song "Who Killed Davey Moore?" by Bob Dylan points its fingers at the referee, crowd, manager (cornerman), gambler, writer and ultimately the fighter, although in this case given that the crowd (including said gamblers and writers) were all hoping the bout would have been stopped much earlier along with Mr. Kellerman. In addition, Jones could be blamed by virtue of hitting Scottland with those shots, but the fact that he was paid to punch and he was supposed to keep on punching unless the referee told him not to does ring true. The most likely suspects in this particular case are the referee, corner and commission.
The referee, Arthur Mercante Jr., had the power to halt the bout at any time, yet seemed hesitant to pulling the trigger throughout the contest. Mercante had no reason to not pull the trigger given that he had nearly two decades of experience at the time and should have been clearly able to see that Scottland was never going to make a serious comeback ala Archie Moore-Yvon Durelle I or Jorge Castro-John David Jackson I and should have stopped it around the fourth or fifth round. Scottland's corner had an even larger responsibility given that the person that they've been training with was getting massacred and there was no reason to expect a comeback given the almost lack of action on his part and the increasing amount of damage to the head he was receiving. As the second, it was their duty to protect their fighter if he wasn't going to win and was risking serious injury or death. Finally, the commission likely should have the most blame on this tragedy given that there was a reported 55 commission members present. Someone with authority (if not Mercante Jr.) should have stood up and told the ring doctors to check Scottland out or even tell Mercante Jr. to stop it. Instead, he was left to die with no ring doctor or official trying to see if Scottland was in serious danger of severe brain damage and/or death.
Mel Southard, the chairman at the time of the fight, was removed 2 months later by order of Governor George Pataki, who allegedly removed former Deputy Commissioner Tom Hoover in 1995 because (according to his interview in The Life and Crimes of Don King: The Shame of Boxing in America) he refused to switch to the GOP and promote Pataki. He claimed that the Pataki-elected cronies didn't know what they were supposed to do and didn't have a competent commissioner present at cards.
Another shocking debacle in New York State is the Arturo Gatti-Joey Gamache fight weigh-in. Gatti weighed in above the contracted limit and quickly jumped off the scaled as NYSAC executive director Tony Russo OKd him. Gamache, angered at the commissioner allowing Gatti to be above the weight limit, had his trainer demand Gatti get on the scale and prove he wasn't over the limit. Russo's response: "Shut up! Stop making a fuss!" and Gatti was allowed to come in nearly 15 pounds overweight, brutally knocking out Gamache and causing severe brain damage that forced him to retire. Gamache is (apparently) still under litigation with the NYSAC and Gatti's camp regarding the recklessly dangerous situation he was placed in and the violation of the contract stipulations/weight class regulations that was ignored.
The point of both stories? Cronyism has run rampant and left most Boxing writers disgusted with the status of the commission. While there has been re-shuffling in recent years, many people believe there must be checks to the appointees to the commissions (in general) or another Scottland or Gamache tragedy may follow. Of course, in order for real change to happen, there should be serious checks to the appointments made, which likely will never become a serious public issue as the industries primarily affected by the commissions (Boxing and MMA) are simply not large enough markets to capture the public eye. Just like the steroid horrors in Pro Wrestling that has left a trail of young (mostly under 40) bodies, the mainstream media will tend to ignore the incompetence of the athletic commissions because, hey, most of their constituents don't really care about the politics of the local commissions. While some commissions (such as the NJSACB) may get solid commissioners and appointees to staff their commissions, not all states are as careful about the quality of their appointees.
UFC's first foray into New York
As discussed in No Holds Barred by Clyde Gentry, the UFC at one point was about to ride into the Empire State. SB 7780 was signed into law on October 30, 1996, allowing all combat sports to be regulated by the NYSAC. Shortly after the allowance of the UFC in New York, Dan Barry of the New York Times wrote a now infamous article called "Outcast Gladiators Find a Home: New York", which showed how Bob Meyrowitz (the head of SEG and the UFC) had arrogantly 'won' the battle of gaining recognition in the former Mecca of combat sports and was flaunting his success against the state as the politicians in New York had openly advocated against the product and he had pointed out the loophole in the law which allowed him to strut in while they refused to deal with him.
The consequence was severe: a previously unused emergency repeal clause was used, banning the UFC from running the event in New York. The UFC was offered a set of ridiculous 'fighting rules' that essentially included headgear, no head kicks and several other rules which were essentially supposed to neuter the product completely. The UFC left to Alabama instead and New York has not seen an MMA product officially sanctioned by the state since the repeal of the law.
What does this mean?
After going through the history of New York, the NYSAC and its relationships with Boxing and MMA, I would suggest to Mr. Acunto that Boxing's path to acceptance and success in New York seems to be mirroring that of MMA. I would suggest that MMA is currently at the stage between the Frawley and Walker Laws and that Governor Eliot Spitzer and the state assembly will realize that with the gradual reduction of Boxing cards in New York and the fact that the MMA product has gradually become more and more accepted throughout the country (with a change in promotional techniques by Zuffa as well as the implementation of the unified rules). New York would be foolish not to reverse the repeal of SB 7780 and allow organizations such as the UFC and IFL to run cards, allowing the state to gain revenue from the gates and tourists that will come from all over to see MMA in the Empire State.
Corrections/Addendum: I made a mistake with regards to Mr. Russo's title, which was actually the NYSAC executive director, not commissioner. Credit to Mr. Alan Weintraub who wrote in with that mistake.
In addition, I have been asked to mention that the commission was absolved of legal liability in the Scottland death during the inquiries following the bout, which is a valid point that I probably should have mentioned in the article itself, although the fight description and analysis itself is more reflective of the impact of the prodigious beating to the image of the commission in the eyes of the public jury (myself included) even if legally they were not held culpable for his death.