Boxing commission rule may ring down curtain on fights in Miami
By Zachary S. Fagenson
The Florida State Boxing Commission on Monday shot down the World Series of Boxing's request for fighters on the Miami Gallos to be considered amateurs, which would have freed the team of the commission's oversight and fees.
Now owners of the series must decide whether to fight the decision in court, in Tallahassee or leave Florida altogether.
"We have to make a decision on what we want to do," said Gallos General Manager and Miami-Dade Sports Commission Executive Director Mike Sophia. The team had to "exhaust all administrative remedies" before having the option to take the commission to court, now an option
"World Series of Boxing's petition was based on [its] assertion that it was exempt under Florida law under an exception for official Olympic events. However, the exemption for official Olympic events was removed from Florida law in 2004, and the expressed intent of the legislature in removing this exemption was to bring these types of events under the regulation and oversight of the commission," Sandi Copes, spokesperson for the state's Department of Business and Professional Regulation, wrote in an e-mail. The "petition… was denied."
Mr. Sophia and his outfit were hired by the World Series of Boxing late last year to manage the team for about $350,000 annually.
The move gave him a second job as the team's general manager but offered the sports commission more resources and manpower than it's had in recent years
Mr. Sophia said he and World Series of Boxing representatives have yet to discuss their next move. Representatives of the World Series of Boxing could not be reached Tuesday.
Denial of a permit application for a Feb. 5 match seemed to be the culmination of longstanding dispute among the sports commission, partner World Series of Boxing and the state's boxing commission. At issue is whether the Gallos' fighters are classified as amateur or professional boxers, which would determine whether matches are subject to state rules and regulations.
The boxing commission said the permit was rejected because the application "did not include the name of the matchmaker and contact phone number, nor did it contain the name of the weigh in facility and facility contact phone number," Ms. Copes wrote in a previous e-mail.
Mr. Sophia said when he first called to inquire about the rejection he was told it was because the executive director was on vacation.
The Gallos' remaining matches for the season — slated for Feb. 27 and March 17 at the Solare Coliseum in Doral — seem to have the commission's nod.
The commission's approval comes, however, at a cost.
Each match requires an $1,800 permit fee, requires anyone involved with the team to buy a license costing $25 to $250, mandates a 5% tax on anything sold in relation to the team or its matches and forces payment for boxing commission officials and staff.
Such costs, Mr. Sophia said, make promoting matches — such as the first one when most tickets were given away — difficult and costly.
The World Series of Boxing was designed so that boxers could earn a small salary while remaining amateurs, thus retaining Olympic eligibility.
The series is sanctioned by the International Boxing Association, the international body in charge of determining Olympic eligibility. The series is also governed by the USA Olympic Committee, which was formed by the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act and was given sole jurisdiction over what constitutes an amateur athlete.
The back and forth seems to also be weighing heavily on World Series of Boxing's decision whether to keep the team in Miami for a second season.
"Where we go from here [for] next season is completely dependent on what ultimate resolution we come up with," Mr. Sophia said. "World Series of Boxing has made it reasonably clear they're not going to be in Miami if they continue to have issues with the boxing commission."
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