ABC president reaches out to AR governor over boxer with HIV

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Boxing and mixed martial arts are regulated in North America by State, Tribal, Provincial, and Municipal government athletic commissions. Among the most fundamental commission responsibilities is ensuring that fighters are not competing with blood-borne communicable diseases like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV.

Michael Mazzulli, President of the Association of Boxing Commissions, recently reached out to the Governor of Arkansas, alleging that the Arkansas Athletic Commission knowingly allowed an HIV positive boxer to engage in a bout on or about November 11, 2017. Mazzulli understands that the boxer in question had been denied a license in the State of Florida due to a positive HIV test, with the license denial being noted on the suspension list kept under the auspices of the ABC pursuant to Federal Law.

Mazzulli further alleges that both he and the Florida Commission notified Arkansas through the managing agency, the Department of Health, of the HIV positive status of a boxer but he was allowed to fight anyway. This appears to be a direct violation of Federal Law and an egregious disregard for health and safety standards.

The boxer shall remain nameless to protect his right to privacy.

Nearly two weeks later, the name of the opponent remains unknown as the bout still had not been reported to the Boxing Registries, also a violation of the Federal Muhammad Ali Act, which requires that results be reported to the ABC official record keepers within 48 hours. While violative of Federal Law, the reporting delay pales in comparison to allowing an HIV positive boxer to engage in a match.

While Arkansas regulations, uniquely and most unfortunately, make it discretionary as to whether to require a blood test, the Arkansas license/application form has the following question of the fighter, “Have you ever tested positive (even if a 2nd test was negative) for HIV or Hepatitis or Staph infection.  If yes, please describe, including dates and name of doctor or medical provider.”  The application also includes a HIPPA release.  The implication is that an HIV positive finding will disqualify the fighter.  Further, while administration of a blood test is discretionary, according to the Arkansas regulations “a positive test for the presence of infectious diseases shall result in an immediate suspension of the licensee’s license.” (Regulation 2.7.15) Thus under the regulations, since Arkansas had actual knowledge of the HIV positive result, the fighter should not have been allowed to engage in a bout and his license should have been suspended.  Further, under Federal Law the action of Florida denying a license for medical reasons should have been honored.

This most flagrant health and safety violation may even be a violation of Arkansas’ statute § 5-14- 123 regarding immunodeficiency.

This set of allegations raises numerous issues:
1) Why was an HIV positive fighter allowed to compete?
2) Were the opponent, the referee, and corner men informed so they could make an informed choice as to whether to participate in the event?  Have they been informed to date?
3) Was the physician who cleared the boxer to fight informed of his HIV positive status?
4) Did the fighter lie on his license application?  (A secondary question, as the Commission reportedly had actual knowledge of his tests from Florida)

The Association of Boxing Commissions has almost 100 member Commissions and has access to all manner of advice and experts. Mazzulli asked that Gov. Hutchinson to please allow the ABC to assist Arkansas in ensuring such a violation does not ever happen again.