BILOXI, Miss. (NewsNation Now) — One of the biggest promoters in all of boxing says a fighter who died Monday “should be alive,” but a lack of regulations in combat sports failed him.
“That fight never should have been sanctioned.” Lou DiBella said on Dan Abrams Live.
Justin Thornton was knocked out in the first round of a “bare-knuckle” boxing match in a fight in Biloxi, Mississippi, on Aug. 20. The knockout blow sent him crashing headfirst to the canvas, where he lay motionless. He spent the last six weeks paralyzed, and ultimately died from his injuries.
“He was licensed by the state of Mississippi, basically to show up and get concussed and knocked out again,” DiBella said. “This time he didn’t survive it. It’s unconscionable. It’s barbaric.”
Thornton, who was 38 years old, competed not just in boxing but in mixed martial arts as well. In his last five fights, he was knocked out in the very first round of all five. In three of the five, he didn’t even last a full minute. He hadn’t won a mixed martial arts fight in five years. He had a lifetime record of 6-18.
“State regulation is completely unacceptable right now in its current form,” DiBella said. “Part of the problem is that we don’t have any federal guidelines that the states have to meet minimally.”
In combat sports, fighters must be licensed ahead of time by the State Athletic Commission where the match is taking place. There are no uniform rules across all jurisdictions. There’s no national commission.
A high-profile example of this inconsistency among states happened recently with former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield. California regulators refused to approve a fight involving the 58-year-old last month owing to what it called his diminished skills. Florida granted him a license to fight.
“We’re basically the Wild West of sports,” DiBella said.
When asked why someone tasked with promoting the sport would call for this type of regulation, DiBella said “because I am a human being.”
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