LAS VEGAS – By the time his contract ends in 2019, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will earn $20 million a year. There are reports that NBA commissioner David Stern already makes $23 million a year.
Boxing desperately needs a powerful, Goodell-style commissioner, but in order to attract a person of that caliber, it's going to take that kind of money.
The sport is a quagmire from a regulatory standpoint and there are no easy fixes to the problems. Nor is the money there to find someone who can do it. Would you want your taxes increased so Congress can appoint a $20-million-a-year bureaucrat to oversee boxing?
Of course you wouldn't.
That's only one of many reasons the idea of a federal boxing commission in the U.S. is flawed. There isn't enough money in the budget to build roads, fix our crumbling infrastructure and to fund education let alone to spend on boxing.
Have no doubt, though, that boxing would benefit tremendously from having a centralized authority with the power to discipline, to organize and to regulate.
As it stands now, boxing is the Wild West of the sporting world. Nothing in boxing – nothing – is ever done for the common good and to improve the sport's position in the global landscape.
Rather, the sport has long adhered to an every-man-for-himself philosophy, which has been much to its detriment.
Mixed martial arts has made inroads in the last 10 years and stolen many boxing fans largely because UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta and UFC president Dana White created a league with White serving as de facto commissioner.
White is far from universally popular, but he's the central authority in MMA that boxing lacks.
Eddie Mustafa Muhammad wants to be to boxing what White is to MMA. Muhammad is a noted boxing trainer, former world champion and fighter advocate who is desperate to save the sport that once helped save him.
And so, when the outrageous scoring decision that favored Timothy Bradley over Manny Pacquiao led Sens. Harry Reid and John McCain to renew efforts to create a federal boxing commission, Muhammad was immediately on the phone.
He called the offices of both Reid and McCain to express interest in serving on what the senators are referring to as the U.S. Boxing Commission.
"We need better judges," Muhammad said. "Why isn't there a union representing fighters? Why don't fighters have health care benefits? Why isn't there a pension, or some retirement savings plan? Why are these sanctioning bodies able to take money away from the fighters who spill their blood and guts in the ring?
"I want answers to those questions. The higher ups in boxing are eating our sport alive, from the inside out. We're lower than whale [expletive] right now. It's getting worse and worse and worse."
If he headed a federal commission, Muhammad would outlaw sanctioning bodies such as the World Boxing Council, the World Boxing Association and the International Boxing Federation. They charge fighters money to fight for their belts, but they put nothing back into the sport.
Worse, they allow politics, not performance, to influence their rankings, which are critical to deciding who gets to fight for a championship.
He also said he would create a school to train and develop new officials so that there is an infusion of young talent in the sport.
"We're the biggest, best country in the world, and you mean to tell me we can't come up with a way to find new referees and new judges who know how to do a fight?" Muhammad said. "We don't need guys in their 70s judging fights. What happened in [the Pacquiao-Bradley] fight was the worst decision I've seen in my life. Ninety percent of the HBO viewers saw that. The judges, who are paid good money to see that, couldn't see it."
The likelihood of Congress passing a federal boxing bill is very low, but there is a place for a guy such as Muhammad. He doesn't have all the answers, clearly, but he's a guy not afraid to ask the difficult questions.
In the U.S., regulation of boxing is left to the states, and ex-fighters and trainers such as Muhammad should be used by the states to serve on boards that oversee the sport.
Nevada would benefit greatly from Muhammad's more than four decades in the sport and his concern for the sport's well-being.
There are other fighters around the country whose wisdom and knowledge would benefit their states and who would be willing to give their time.
Federal regulation of boxing sounds good, until you think about who's actually going to be doing the regulating.
But states can and should strengthen their athletic commissions. To do that, they should take advantage of honest and knowledgeable men such as Muhammad, who have given their lives to the sport and want to continue to make an impact.
Having former fighters and trainers in regulatory positions can only be a positive for the future of the sport.
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