Tuesday, January 20, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Senators seek to ban extreme fighting matches

The Associated Press

TACOMA — Saying they're afraid someone will get killed, a pair of state senators want to end "extreme fighting" events like the Toughman Contest that will be held this week at the Tacoma Dome.

Sens. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, and Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, propose banning so-called "extreme fighting," including Toughman competitions and no-holds-barred fights that can involve bare-fisted contestants engaging in a mix of boxing and martial arts combat.

"People are dying or walking away with brain injuries," Keiser said. "What kind of society are we becoming? It's almost as if we're throwing people to the tigers in the amphitheater in Rome."

Promoters for the Tacoma Dome event say they are being unfairly singled out, and that Toughman competitions are less dangerous that other sports.

"I'm very proud of the shows we have put on in Washington," said Marv Treadwell, a Puyallup sports promoter who has been associated with eight Toughman shows in the past three years.

AdorAble Promotions Inc. and Treadwell's K. O. Sports Promotions and Entertainment are sponsoring a Toughman Contest on Friday and Saturday at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall.

Steve Copler, president of AdorAble Productions Inc., said in 26 years of Toughman Contests, five fighters have died in Toughman or similar events.

During the same time, at least 24 amateur and 23 professional boxers have died in the United States, he said.

"Any death is too much, but there have been deaths in every sport in some way — football, basketball," Treadwell said.

To lessen the risk, Toughman contestants wear gloves, mouthpieces, and protective gear for their heads and groins.

"We also have a state-licensed physician at ringside," Treadwell said.

Keiser said she agreed to co-sponsor the bill after she was contacted by the Florida family of a woman who was killed after she jumped into the ring at a no-holds-barred event that allows bare-fisted fighting combined with martial arts.

Copler said his company promotes those kinds of "ultimate combat" fights, too, but not in Washington state.

Zarelli said he was approached by constituents in Cowlitz County who were concerned about injuries after an event held last fall in Longview.

"When kids do the same thing behind the school house, it's illegal," Zarelli said. "At a minimum, we need some level of regulation. You might have a guy get into the ring who's a candidate for a heart attack. We don't know."

Treadwell said he has lined up 40 fighters for this week's Toughman Contest at the Tacoma Dome. There will be 20 fights on Friday. The winners then advance to fight each other on Saturday for the championship.

"They're strictly fighting for bragging rights," Treadwell said. "The winners win a satin jacket."

Participants pay a $50 entry fee and don't receive a cash prize or pay, Copler said. That allows promoters to call the event a nonprofit exhibition of amateurs and avoid the jurisdiction of the state Department of Licensing.

Copler said his company would welcome regulation of Toughman events, rather than trying to ban them entirely.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company


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