The Way I See It

Pat Bigold

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, February 2, 1999

Pro brawling just
won’t go away

IT outdraws boxing in this state by 4 to 1.

That's probably because it promises a lot more spontaneous action and more colorful performers than boxing offers.

But as people pay $25 to $50 to watch T. Jay Thompson's ''Super Brawl XI" tonight at the Blaisdell Arena, I have to wonder if they're getting their money's worth.

Punching, kneeing and kicking the head are legal. So are takedowns, throws, chokes and joint locks.

But striking the throat, attacking the spine, eye gouging, biting, head butting, and groin strikes are all illegal.

Dude, they've taken all the fun out of it.

Thompson has put together a 10-bout card that even includes a women's match. He's doing his best to capitalize on the fight void in this community.

Boxing is at a low ebb of popularity and kickboxer Dennis Alexio (the man of a million nicknames) is retired.

WWF has gone a long way towards satiating the appetite for contrived violence, but Thompson's Super Brawl tantalizes its public with its unpredictability.

IT'S that unpredictability that has landed his event and others like it in trouble over the years.

One of Thompson's former champions, Jay R. Palmer, was seen in a tape made in Honolulu a few years ago stomping on a downed opponent's head. In a post-fight interview, conducted by Thompson, Palmer said he tried to break that opponent's jaw or nose.

Thompson assures me that Palmer has retired and there are no more like him to muddy up his event's rep. Uh-huh.

Nonetheless, Gov. Cayetano signed a bill in 1997 aimed at curbing the exhibition of no-holds-barred combat in Hawaii. It prohibits blows that place the opponent at an unreasonably high risk of bodily injury.

Problem is that it places enforcement of the law in the hands of the Department of Consumer Affairs, much to the chagrin of the people who work there.

That department's job is to ''regulate professional and vocational licensing," which means they make sure that contractors, doctors, accountants and people like that comply with their licenses.

So what are they doing regulating professional brawling?

Well, the answer is that the people who should be handling it, don't want to handle it.

HENRY Lee, Hawaii State Boxing Commission chairman, said during a 1997 hearing before the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and Information Technology committee that high-risk combat should be made a criminal offense. But he said the boxing commission wanted no part in enforcing such a law.

Boxing commission executive officer Mike Machado said he doesn't think it should be banned but he wants no part of it either.

I disagree with Lee and Machado. I think any arena combat that involves humans ought to be properly regulated for the safety of the participants.

Consumer Affairs regulators don't have the expertise to regulate Thompson's activities. He is frankly too smart to ever be nailed for a violation.

Thompson said his Super Brawls follow ''Modified Greek Pankration Rules." He calls his fighters ''martial artists."

There's a $10,000 fine and a ban on doing business in Hawaii for three years for anybody convicted of violating the law against submission combat.

But I put my money on Thompson to evade that law forever, as long as Consumer Affairs is in charge of enforcement.

Some states make violation of the law against brutal combat a felony. That's a direct approach. In 1997, the Palmer video certainly was the ammunition needed to ban the event altogether here.

But no one wanted the responsibility of enforcing it as a felony and Thompson regrouped brilliantly for another assault on the local market.

Now, no one can lay a glove, foot, elbow or knee on him.

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

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