CARSON CITY - With the state flush in funds from boxing matches, Assemblyman Harvey Munford plans to try again to win approval for a bill to help down-on-their-luck former boxers.
"Las Vegas is the boxing capital of the nation," Munford, D-Las Vegas, said Tuesday. "In no other sport do participants suffer as severe brain damage as boxers. Lawyers are going to begin alerting boxers to that fact, and there is money they can get (through lawsuits). The Athletic Commission is going to have to take steps to protect itself and to protect boxers."
Although his boxing bill received worldwide attention when it was introduced during the 2011 session, legislators never conducted a hearing on the proposal.
His vow to help boxers comes days after the Nevada Athletic Commission issued a news release that its revenues increased by 71 percent in the fiscal year that ended June 30. The $5.3 million in fees it collected is a record. Most of the money will be forwarded to the state general fund, where it will be spent on the general costs of government. But legislators could pass a bill next year that would place some of the money in a fund for boxers.
Munford said the state at least should provide sufficient insurance coverage to cover all of their health care expenses. He noted that a boxer's insurance ends once he is cleared after a fight, though he may later develop severe health problems from his fights.
But Keith Kizer, executive director of the Athletic Commission, spoke out last year against Munford's boxing plan, which would have raised ticket prices by $1 or $2 on fights grossing more than $500,000 and by less on smaller fights. Kizer said it would be impossible to tell whether the permanent injuries a boxer suffered came from a fight in Nevada or elsewhere.
As part of Munford's plan, a boxer's insurance coverage would increase to $200,000. Now promoters provide insurance to cover medical expenses of up to $50,000. Some Nevada boxers have suffered massive injuries and rung up medical bills of more than $600,000
Taking a break from a family reunion in Akron, Ohio, on Sunday, Munford said he visited with former heavyweight champion Michael Dokes, who suffers from cancer and is receiving hospice care.
"He suffers very badly," said Munford, a retired schoolteacher who played college basketball. "He doesn't have much time. The bill I introduce will be in honor of Michael Dokes."
Dokes, who turns 54 Friday, ended up indigent and did time in Nevada State Prison after his boxing career. Because he could not pay for medical care at University Medical Center in 2010, he was let out early, Munford said.
After speaking with Dokes two years ago, Munford first proposed a bill to help older boxers with their health care and living expenses.
Munford said something is wrong when other professional sports offer retirement pensions and health care protection for their athletes and boxing cannot even cover all of the fighters' medical expenses.
With the National Football League facing dozens of lawsuits from former players who suffered concessions and brain injuries, Munford warned that the Athletic Commission could face similar charges.
"No one takes as much of a pounding as boxers," Munford said.
Contact reporter Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901.