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Competitor walked away, but punches kept coming

A video shows Young was clearly the underdog in the Toughman bout. She died two days later.

TOM ZUCCO
Published June 25, 2003

At the end of the first and last fight of her life, Stacy Young tried to walk away.

After taking a beating for most of three rounds during a June 14 Toughman amateur boxing competition in Sarasota, Young turned her back on her opponent and headed on wobbly legs to the safety of her corner.

The 30-year-old, 240-pound mother of two may have thought the fight was over. Or she simply may have had enough.

But the fight wasn't over, and Young's opponent, 20-year-old Sarah Kobie, knew that. A videotape of the fight shows she followed Young, came up behind her, and threw three solid punches to Young's head - a move that would not be allowed in a sanctioned amateur boxing match.

Young's head snapped from side to side, and her hair flew across her face. She crumpled to the canvas and didn't get up, even as the fighters for the next bout began to climb into the ring.

The videotape of the fight at Robarts Arena appears to add support to the contention of several witnesses: that the bout should have been stopped before the final round.

Instead, Young, who entered the competition at the urging of her husband, was knocked out and died two days later at Bayfront Medical Center from hemorrhaging in her brain.

A reporter and a photographer from the St. Petersburg Times viewed the videotape Monday. Sarasota police, who are investigating Young's death, Tuesday confirmed they have a copy of the tape. No criminal charges have been filed.

From the opening moments, the tape reveals a bout between two women with little in common. Kobie, who works at a Bradenton Publix bakery, appears to be in good shape and not afraid to trade punches; Young looks out of shape and bewildered.

The tape shows that initially Young tried gamely to fight back. But most of her punches fell harmlessly short or lacked any steam.

At the sound of the opening bell, Kobie rushed across the ring, unleashed punches like a pinwheel and sent Young staggering into the corner. Stunned and disoriented, Young tried to slap and paw her way out of range. That made Kobie more determined.

With every looping left and right that found its mark, the crowd responded.

"Ooooh!"

Toward the end of the first round, someone shouted, "She is (expletive) her up bad."

Young was punched into a corner again in the second round. But she managed to cling to Kobie and push her away. As the round ended, the two women fell to the canvas near the ropes. Kobie got up first and, as she did, snuck in a right uppercut that caught Young flush on chin.

Standing a few feet away, the referee shrugged.

"A real cat fight!" ring announcer Art Dore, the founder of the Toughman competition, yelled over the public address system. "Nasty women. Nasty women."

The third round found Young caught in a corner again, gasping for air, with Kobie raining more punches to her head. Young stumbled away, with Kobie close behind, still throwing punches.

"Somebody's got to stop this (expletive)," shouted someone in the crowd.

The women met again in the center of the ring. Young could no longer keep her hands up to defend herself.

"Only a few seconds to go ladies," Dore warned.

Moments later, Young turned and started toward her corner. A cardinal mistake in boxing, because the fight wasn't over.

But the referee didn't intervene, and Kobie rushed in behind Young. She threw three hooks - two rights and a left - that landed squarely on the side of Young's head.

After the third punch, Young collapsed. The referee looked down, waved his hands over her and signaled a knockout.

As Young lay on the canvas, Kobie climbed the ropes and raised her fists in victory. The crowd roared.

Kobie couldn't be reached for comment, and a spokeswoman for AdoreAble Promotions, which puts on the Toughman competitions, declined to identify the referee.

In a fax sent to reporters last week, the company said that all safety precautions were taken and that Young passed an on-site physical before the fight.

According to Young's family, one of the central issues in her death is why the referee didn't stop the fight.

Chris Meffert, executive director of the Florida Boxing Commission, said state-regulated boxing matches are stopped for a variety of reasons - including if the participant indicates he or she doesn't want to continue, or if the competitors are unable or unwilling to defend themselves.

"If the referee observes a fighter taking a pummeling and not throwing punches back, the referee will stop the fight," Meffert said.

"What we tell our referees is that it's better to stop the fight two punches too soon rather than one punch too late."

But Toughman competitions don't have the same strict requirements for referees that state boxing organizations have. According to a recent report in the Detroit News, Toughman referees are often unlicensed, and ring doctors are often inexperienced. At two events where fatal injuries occurred, the ringside doctors were chiropractors.

And during a January Toughman match, the News reported that a fighter asked twice to give up, but was urged to continue by a referee. The fighter later died from injuries suffered in the ring.

Young is at least the 10th person to die in a Toughman match since the events began in 1979. Florida has attempted to ban the competitions and has a statute on the books to that effect, but promoters get around the law by limiting prize money and entrance fees.

Toughman bouts in Florida are on hold until an investigation into Young's death is completed.

An average of 100 contests are held each year in the 44 states that allow it, and matches are seen on Showtime and Fox networks. Dore, who dresses in tuxedos and cowboy boots, has become a millionaire many times over.

Meffert doesn't blame Kobie or any fighters; he faults Dore.

"What he does is promote a Toughman contest and hold amateur boxing," Meffert said. "These things are an abomination."

Jodie Meyers, Young's sister, said legislation proposed last week by state Rep. Donna Clarke, R-Sarasota, to close the loopholes in state boxing laws may be referred to as the Stacy Young Act.

"That fight should've been stopped," Meyers said. "Where were the safeguards? Stacy gave up, and she was still attacked.

"Even people in the stands were calling for the fight to stop."

First round

Sarah Kobie rushes across the ring, and lands the first three punches of the fight. Stacy Young stumbles backward into a corner. Someone in the crowd shouts, "She (Kobie) is (expletive) her up bad."

Second round

Young is punched into a corner again. Both women fall to the canvas. With Young down, Kobie lands a right uppercut as she gets up. The referee stands by. "A real cat fight," says ring announcer Art Dore.

Third round

Kobie continues to deliver more punches to Young's head. "Somebody's got to stop this (expletive)," shouts someone in the crowd. With about 10 seconds left, Young turns and starts for her corner. Kobie rushes in, lands three solid blows to Young's head. Young drops to the canvas.

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