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Legislator takes up fight against Toughman bouts

Rep. Donna Clarke is proposing a bill to better regulate events like the one that caused the death of a Bradenton woman.

Associated Press
Published June 21, 2003

A legislator will offer a bill to tighten the state's ban on extreme fighting, aimed at preventing more Toughman boxing bouts like the one that led to the death of a 30-year-old mother of two from Bradenton.

Rep. Donna Clarke, R-Sarasota, said Friday that her bill would make it a third-degree felony to stage Toughman events like the one in which Stacy Young was fatally injured Saturday night at Robarts Arena in Sarasota. Under current law, anyone participating in or promoting extreme competition is committing a second-degree misdemeanor.

The bill also would require that amateur boxing matches be sanctioned by organizations recognized by the Florida Boxing Commission, such as Golden Gloves.

"What I keep hearing over and over from the (Young) family is she thought it was a sanctioned event," Clarke said.

A valid ringside doctor and a qualified referee would have to be present, Clarke told the Bradenton Herald Thursday. "That would be a way to make sure that these amateur events are in fact as safe as they should be."

At Toughman events, participants pay an entry fee to sign up on the spot, then get into the ring after having their blood pressure and heart rate checked by a doctor. They must not have had a professional fight.

Each bout consists of three one-minute rounds, with the fighters wearing headgear, kidney protectors and 16-ounce gloves.

Young, who had never fought in a ring before, signed up on a lark. She fell into a coma after she was pummeled by her opponent, Sarah Kobie, 20, of Bradenton. She was taken off life support in Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, having lost all vital signs of life.

She was the fourth Toughman fatality nationwide in the past year.

Toughman promoter Art Dore did not return a call Friday for comment. The bouts are staged by a foundation Dore owns. He has been criticized for using inexperienced referees and undertrained medical personnel at the fights.

The attorney for Young's family says the doctor at her fight was taking photos and was not paying attention as Young, clearly outmatched, took blow after blow and fell down several times.

An existing Florida statute outlaws competitions that include "any contest or exhibition where participants compete by using a combination of skills," including boxing, wrestling, kicking and martial arts. But Dore says his bouts are legal because participants are limited to boxing.

Toughman events also don't come under Florida regulations for professional boxing because Dore pays less than $50 in prize money, said Chris Meffert, executive director of the Florida State Boxing Commission.

Clarke said she intends to file the bill to fill those loopholes when the Legislature resumes its special session on medical malpractice insurance rates. Getting it considered requires a two-thirds vote in each house.

Young's brother-in-law Don Meyers said Thursday: "The biggest thing to do is to stop this from happening again. No one should have to go through what we're going through.

"... I'm not necessarily against boxing. It's a matter of protecting the participants. The participants should not be going in there naively. They should know exactly what they're getting into."

- The Bradenton Herald contributed to this report.

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