Pataki vetoes boxing bills

New York State Govenor, George Pataki, knocked out two bills designed by state legislators to restore some respectability to boxing in the wake of the controversial draw between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis.

New York State Govenor, George Pataki, knocked out two bills designed by state legislators to restore some respectability to boxing in the wake of the controversial draw between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis.

Pataki on Wednesday vetoed measures to require judges' scorecards to be publicly posted after each round and to make boxing judges prove they are "financially responsible" before being licensed by the state Athletic Commission.

Both bills were in response to the controversial draw declared at New York's Madison Square Garden on March 13 between Holyfield and Lewis in a fight most observers felt Lewis clearly won. The judging of the bout was condemned afterward, especially the scoring of IBF-selected Judge Eugenia Williams of New Jersey, who had Holyfield winning the fight.

Pataki referred to the decision in his veto message on Wednesday as "disgraceful."

The sponsors of the bill calling for the public posting of scorecards said both spectators and boxers are shortchanged by the current way judges' scorecards are kept secret until bouts are over. Fighters could change their tactics according to whether the scoring is in their favor or going against them, they said.

But Pataki countered that no other state uses an open scoring system and that the District of Columbia abandoned it after a short trial.

The governor said drawbacks with the system include boxers who would stop being aggressive if they are way ahead on all the cards, the possible intimidation of judges by spectators who don't agree with their scoring, and "a diminution of the element of suspense which is integral to the sport of boxing."

The other bill vetoed by Pataki would have required prospective fight judges to meet various criteria to be certified as financially responsible. They include total indebtedness of less than 40 percent of a judge's gross annual income and a stipulation that judges not have filed for personal bankruptcy in the past seven years.

That bill emerged after it was revealed Williams, the IBF's judge at the Holyfield-Lewis fight, filed for bankruptcy weeks before the bout. She testified before a state legislative committee earlier this year that her personal finances had nothing to do with the way she saw the fight.

Pataki said he agreed that financial difficulties "can affect both the ability of a judge to impartially score a match and public confidence in the judge's impartiality." But he said the legislation he vetoed was "too inflexible."

The measure might make it too hard to find judges for club fights and exhibitions, Pataki said.

Lewis unified the IBF, WBC and WBA heavyweight titles by outpointing Holyfield in a rematch on 13 November in Las Vegas.

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