Florida has its share of under-the-radar “combat sports,” including “fighting” matches involving strippers, backyard brawls and unlicensed boxing events.
One of those events involved celebrity boxing promoter Damon Feldman, who was banned from holding an unlicensed celebrity fight in a Fort Lauderdale hotel in 2011. Feldman was recently in the news for planning a controversial boxing match pitting George Zimmerman, acquited in the death of Trayvon Martin, and rap star DMX, expected to take place in March in Philadelphia, if it actually happens. The hype alone has prompted a groundswell of opposition.
Unlicensed combat sports are often undetected until someone files a complaint or gets hurt, so the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation has issued a cautionary note to warn consumers and amateur athletes about the dangers of these events, whether you're a participant or bystander.
“If they’re not following rules, there are obvious safety violations that could occur,’’ said Beth Frady, deputy communications director of the DBPR. Equipment could be substandard and these types of unlicensed events often attract unscrupulous spectators, she said.
Combat sports licensed and regulated in Florida include boxing, kickboxing and mixed martial arts (unarmed combat that includes grappling, kicking and striking).
Professional events are sanctioned by the Florida State Boxing Commission. Amateur events must be sanctioned by a licensed Amateur Sanctioning Organization.
Violators are subject to fines of $1,000 and higher for multiple offenses and possible criminal charges, depending on the circumstances.
Cases are widely varied. In one case, for instance, students from Lehigh Acres, west of Fort Myers, were involved in unlicensed boxing matches, fighting with “full head contact” and recruiting fellow teens to compete in these unregulated brawls. Law enforcment was involved in this case, with detectives getting help in finding the participants through videos on Facebook.
In another case, a West Palm Beach club, Cream, said its boxing events were staged “with girls” and not real boxing but the club was ordered to stop holding the matches.