Less than a year after a 30-year-old Bradenton mother of two died from injuries she received during a Toughman fight, the Florida Legislature passed a bill Friday that requires such contests to meet state safety standards.
The Stacy Young Act would prohibit staging amateur fights unless the match is sanctioned and supervised by an organization approved by the Florida Boxing Commission. Previously, many amateur fights were unregulated. Doctors might not be present, referees had little or no training, and contestants typically weren't warned about the risks. Those practices would be barred under the bill.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, and Rep. Donna Clarke, R-Sarasota, and now will go to Gov. Jeb Bush.
At least 13 people have died in Toughman competitions around the nation since 1979. The competitions have been banned in five states, and Sarasota County has passed an ordinance governing amateur boxing, kickboxing and other fighting contests.
It was at Sarasota's Robards Arena last June that Young, who had never been in a boxing ring, tried to defend herself against Sarah Kobie, a Sarasota cake baker who was 10 years younger, 50 pounds lighter and had seven victories in seven fights since June 2002.
Seconds before the three-round fight was to end, Kobie landed several punches to the back and side of Young's head. Young collapsed and died two days later. After a two-month investigation that ended Aug. 10, Sarasota police concluded no laws had been broken. It also agreed with the Pinellas Medical Examiner's Office that Young's death was accidental.
But the investigation also noted that Kobie had an unbeaten record, and that the ring doctor was a physician's assistant. Jodie and Don Meyers, Stacy Young's sister and brother-in-law, helped spearhead the legislation. The law would bring a sense of relief, Jodie Meyers said Thursday, but not a sense of justice.
"To me, a moral victory is charges being pressed against Toughman," she said. "This (law) closes loopholes and makes it more difficult for them to do it again. But they still walk away scot-free, with blood on their hands."
Last September, Young's family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Toughman founder Art Dore, his promotions company, the Sarasota County Fair Association and the referee for the fight.
Chris Meffert, executive director of the Florida Boxing Commission, said he is comfortable with the new law.
"The legislation is designed to make boxing as safe as it can be, whether amateur or professional," he said. Toughman has a contest scheduled for Sept. 24-25 at the TECO Arena in Fort Myers. Meffert said the event will have to be approved by an organization sanctioned by the Florida Boxing Commission, or by the commission.