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By Ron Borges, January 11, 2002

What's a distraction in boxing and what is not?

Apparently, that depends on who's being paid to distract whom with what.

This question comes to mind in the wake of the Nevada State Athletic Commission's decision this week to ban the body ads most recently worn by Bernard Hopkins and Leonard Dorin on their backs claiming they're a distraction.

To whom?

Commission head Marc Ratner says one's eye is drawn to the ads and thus it could distract Nevada judges from their jobs. I can think of a lot more distracting things than that in a Las Vegas casino and, more to the point, if that's all it takes to distract one of his judges he should get some new judges. Judging by some of the decisions coming out of Nevada lately, that would seem a wise course by the way, but that's a point for a different day.

Which brings us back to the point of just who is distracted - and attracted - to watching an ad on a fighter's back? Probably Las Vegas casinos since the ads were for an online gambling house called Golden and they were not attracted to the competition's ad.

The commission will allow advertising on trunks it says and body art like Johnny Tapia's back-long tattoo of the Virgin Mary is not considered a distraction, one assumes because of the unholy nature of the sport itself, but no ads on fighter's backs any more in Nevada.

I imagine the fact that the ad in question was for an online gambling house had nothing to do with Nevada's opposition to fighters making a few extra dollars renting human ad space, do you?

What is typical here is that it's a ruling that hurts fighters in a sport where they always seem to get hurt the most. Promoters are allowed to sell every inch of ring space to anyone who wants to put an add there, including the mat where on so many occasions painted ads for Budweiser turn into slippery spots in the ring when the painted area gets slick with sweat and blood.

No one has ever suggested that is a distraction to a fighter when his foot goes sliding one way and he another. Same is true of all the other ads on ringposts, ring ropes, gloves, etc. Yet the first time someone sells back space for ad space to an online casino Nevada says 'We can't have that.'

Ratner tried to defend the move by saying the ads could rub off and the ink might get into a fighter's eyes. Problem is that problem, which developed in the Hopkins fight, has already been solved and was not a factor when Dorin wore the same on-line gambling ad.

In a sport where bad decisions run rampant, corruption and shenanigans surface time and again in the ratings, referees and judges are paid by a fight's promoter rather than the government agency overseeing the sport and lopsided mismatches have become routine, this is what the most powerful boxing commission concerns itself with?

Little wonder boxing is in the state it's in, especially when you consider the best state it's in is Nevada.

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