New Rules Threaten 'White-Collar Boxing'

In New York City, high-powered attorneys are climbing into the boxing ring to scrap with other white-collar opponents, such as accountants and stock brokers. But new regulations threaten to end this popular pastime. Charles Lane of member station WSHU reports.

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In New York, boxing is a popular hobby for some white-collar workers who want to blow off steam. They're finding it hard to do, though, because regulations meant for big-time boxers are tripping them up.

Charles Lane of member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut reports.

CHARLES LANE reporting:

The world-famous Gleason's Boxing Gym sits under the Brooklyn Bridge in an unassuming building, wafting with the odor of sweaty canvas. Once home to champs like Jake LaMotta and Mohammed Ali, a new kind of boxer climbs through the ropes. Financial analyst Ron Ferrara steps into the ring for only the second time in his life.

Mr. RON FERRARA (Financial Analyst): And I always wanted to box, but I never really had the money or the time. But now I just got out of college, I got my job now, so I got a little extra money. I figure, keep me in shape, definitely.

(Soundbite of boxing)

LANE: Starting in the mid '90s, lots of people like Ron started joining boxing gyms and fighting in occasional semi-competitive events. The name White-Collar Boxing describes not only who's boxing, but also the situation. Gleason's owner Bruce Silverglade says these exhibitions are strictly for fun.

Mr. BRUCE SILVERGLADE (Owner, Gleason's Boxing Gym): The rules of White-Collar Boxing are that there is no winner or loser. If there's no decision, I can give it a short round when I have to, if somebody takes a punch that they shouldn't take, or if somebody is tired. If have a 75 year old fellow that wants to compete, I can put him into a White-Collar show and give him a 15 second round or a 20 second round, and let him have some fun and go in and yeah, I did it.

LANE: The problem is, even though most of Silverglade's White-Collar fighters are sub-amateur at best, according to current New York State law, they all must box under the same advanced rules designed for those training for the Olympics, or may be even the pros. Previously, White-Collar was just small enough to go unnoticed by regulators. But that changed last November, when a White-Collar charity fight raised more than $100,000. The size of the event prompted an anonymous call to the state's boxing commission, effectively shutting down all White-Collar shows.

A lot of people think that call came from USA Boxing, who wants White-Collar boxers to register with them.

Mr. JOE HIGGINS (President, USA Boxing): That's a damn lie. I never sent nobody down there to shut down their show.

LANE: Joe Higgins is the president of USA boxing in New York.

Mr. HIGGINS: We're protecting them so they can continue to have White-Collar programs, but be protected by a national governing body that's watching them to make sure nobody gets injured, because they don't know what they're doing.

LANE: Silverglade agrees that White-Collar Boxing needs to be safe. But USA Boxing doesn't have a category for boxers who aren't necessarily trying to win, rather than just to have fun. So Silverglade wants to change the law. He wants to create a new entity called U.S. White-Collar Boxing Incorporated. He says it will be a separate sanctioning body that won't have winners and losers, giving the referee the flexibility to keep fights safe.

Mr. SILVERGLADE: Check a person's shoelace. Check a person's headgear. Check the laces on their glove, which is part of what we do in White-Collar Boxing to hold down the steam level. If you don't have a winner or loser, you can't cheat by giving a guy a helping hand.

Mr. FERRARA: It was tough. Because he's coming. And when he hits, it hurts. His punches definitely hurt.

LANE: For sluggers like Ron, a helping hand is exactly what he needs. And if Bruce's plan works out, he should be boxing under the new rules by early summer.

For NPR News, I'm Charles Lane.

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