The Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) held their annual convention this week in San Antonio, Texas. While much of the discussion is procedural, and of course much is on boxing, there was never the less several items of interest to the MMA fan.
ABC president Tim Lueckenhoff was elected to the presidency for a record seventh time. However, a term limits bylaw was passed, limiting the number of consecutive two-year terms to two. Thus, Lueckenhoff will be ineligible to run in 2015, when his current term expires.
The term limits were passed due to pressure from several powerful commissions, who, while not criticising Lueckenhoff, felt that some turn over in leadership would be positive as a matter of principle. Further, there was a sense by some that larger commissions were due a larger role in decision making, and that the ABC's current organizational structure did not reflect that.
Something functionally equivalent to the Big Five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council is envisioned, with Nevada, California, New York, etc playing the role of China, France, Russia, the UK, and the USA. It is not yet known who will run in 2015, but possibilties include Andy Foster, executive director of the California State Athletic Commission, Keith Kizer, executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, and Michael Mazulli, director of the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation. and Gregory Sirb, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission. All four commissioners are innovative and highly-respected.
The Association of Boxing Commissions, although mandated by US Federal law, is a toothless tiger- Federal law does not provide the ABC with any enforcement power. However, while it doesn't have teeth, Lueckenhoff has proven to be the bear it needed to get things done since he assumed the Presidency in 2002.
The period will be recognized historically as the one in which Mixed Martial Arts rose to prominence. While credit is widely given to the UFC and its president Dana White for the growth, White attributes the success of the sport to regulation. Watching the rise and fall of unregulated MMA in Japan lends credence to the stance.
The ABC was formed before the start of modern MMA, in 1986, by the Athletic Commisions for California, Indiana, Montana, Nevada, New York, Texas, and the District of Columbia. Centralized records keeping and setting minimum medical ringside safety standards were among the group's initial accomplishments.
The Federal Boxing Safety Act of 1996 and Muhammad Ali Act of 2000 made many of the groups functions mandatory, and it has since grown to over 70 separate State, Provinical, Tribal, and Municipal commissions from across the USA, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
When member Athletic Commissions began to regulate mixed martial arts in the early 2000s, the ABC put its expertise behind the new sport, which has now overtaken prize fighting for number of fighters, fights, and events.
The ABC established the Unified Rules of mixed martial arts, appointed an official MMA records keeper, and established committees that work tireless to bring improvement and unity to the citical issues, inlcuding rules changes, amateur MMA rules, officials training, and much more.
Lueckenhoff manages the day to day operations of the ABC, handling all the phone and email inquiries regarding events, problems, complaints and those who are just seeking information. Early in the week he receives reports of problems from the past weekend’s events which might include questionable decisions, or contestants being allowed to participate while on the national suspension list, among others. Further, he completes follow-up for those who have reported the information to the ABC.
It is a trying job.
A lot of people talk about doing things for the good of the sport, and not for personal gain. Lueckenhoff walks that walk, across the planet.
"The position of President of the Association of Boxing Commissions is a totally voluntary position without pay," he explains. "My full-time job is to administer the Missouri Office of Athletics, a position I have been in for 17 years."
In his home state of Missouri, Lueckenhoff oversees prefessional boxing and MMA, and also runs an investigative unit overseeing professional licensing of everyone from massage therapists ot barbers to embalmers.
During the Battle for Britain in WWII Sir Winston Churchill famously said of the Royal Air Force pilots "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few." Tim Lueckenhoff is a hero. Never in the field of human combat sports have so many owed so much to a man who has received so little compensation for it.
Whoever succeeds Lueckenhoff will inherit a sport in remarkably good shape, and boundless thanks are due Tim for that.
Also if interest to MMA fans is the grounded fighter rule.
While Pride Rules soccer kicks are never going to pass, the ABC did generate specific language that referees are directed to convey to fighters about the inadmissability of trying to touch the ground to avoid knees and kicks to the head.
Nick Lembo of New Jersey, Keith Kizer of Nevada, and Bernie Profato of Ohio provided the text for referees at rules meetings to stop fighters from self grounding to avoid the fight.
Referees should instruct the fighters that they may still be considered a standing fighter even if they have a finger or portion of the hand (or entire hand) on the canvas. In the discretion of the referee, a fighter who has a finger or hand on the canvas may still be legally struck in the head with knees and kicks. The referee may decide that the downed fighter is placing his or her finger or hand down without doing so for an offensive or countering maneuver in an attempt to advance or improve their position. The referee may decide that the downed fighter is instead simply trying to draw a foul. If the referee decides that the fighter is “touching down” simply to benefit from a foul, the referee may consider that fighter a standing fighter and decide that no foul has occurred. Additionally, a referee may penalize, via warning or point deduction, the offending fighter for timidity.
UFC Vice President for Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner provided support for the effort, including a video showing fighters abusing the letter of the law.
The change is a recommendation, rather than a change to the Unified Rules themselves. It is now incumbent on the members to initiate the clarification.
The convention began on Saturday and Sunday, with two days of officials training, for boxing and MMA. Kevin MacDonald of Massachusetts ran a day of training for MMA judges, and one for MMA referees.