They say politics make strange bedfellows, and what could be stranger than a military hero and navy pilot, hot-tempered, ex-POW and professional boxing? The first a shining light to all that’s right, the second, known since the 1920’s for underworld connections and crooked operations.
The Ex-POW was, of course, Senator John McCain. And he knew right from wrong. The fact that at 5-foot 7 inches and 127 pounds, he competed as a lightweight boxer for three years at the Naval Academy, where they say he lacked skills but was fearless and “didn’t have a reverse gear” might have been an influence in what he would do in Congress for boxing in the 1990’s and the early part of the following decade. Or perhaps it was the fact that, in his final year at the Academy, he managed the battalion boxing team to a brigade championship, which made him love the sport of boxing.
His sense of justice and fairness and his love of boxing led Senator McCain, who was then Chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, to introduce first the Professional Boxer Health and Safety Act, focused on boxer safety, and several years later to introduce the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act — “the Ali Act”– to improve professional boxing in the United States by, among other things, protecting boxers from exploitation, sanctioning organization integrity reforms, and requiring public interest disclosures to state boxing commissions. The Ali Act, required no federal or state funds, and established no bureaucracy. Senator Richard Bryan (D-NV) joined McCain in offering the legislation. “This proposal seeks to remedy many of the anti-competitive, oppressive, and unethical business practices which have cheated professional boxers and denied the public the benefits of a truly honest and legitimate sport,” McCain said. “It would be a fitting tribute to name an important new reform measure after Muhammad Ali. I feel it most appropriate for the Congress to pass a measure to protect the interests of boxers, encourage fair competition, and vastly improve the overall integrity of the boxing industry in his honor.”
The Association of Boxing Commissions, which was directly tasked in the Professional Boxing Safety Act of 1996 as responsible for creating a nationwide suspension list and then reinforced with the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act of 2000, will hold their 31st Annual Conference in Scottsdale, AZ July 26-July 31, 2019. It is a fitting tribute to designate the Association of Boxing Commissions’ 2019 Conference to be held in John McCain’s home state, in “Memory of the Honorable Senator John McCain.”