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ABC president says Arkansas commission illegally allowed HIV-positive boxer to fight

In doing so the commission is accused of violating federal law and basic safety standards.

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Wil Esco is an assistant editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2014.

According to a report by ESPN, the Arkansas State Athletic Commission has been accused of illegally allowing an HIV-positive boxer fight on a Nov. 11th card and has since received a stern calling-out from Mike Mazzulli, the president of the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC).

The Nov. 11 card took place at a Boys & Girls Club in Camden, Arkansas, which featured a few low-level fights, and one of those fights included an boxer who had tested positive for HIV — their name has not been made public for the sake of the individual’s privacy.

Mazzuli says he had personally made a call to the Department of Health to make his concerns known about the dangers of allowing an HIV-positive boxer compete before the card, but that apparently didn’t do much good.

"They said to me, 'The fighters on the card will be tested.' My assumption was that they were not tested because the individual fought. This individual is suspended in Florida because of a positive HIV test and it was submitted to [official boxing record-keeper] Fight Fax, our federal registry, which is required by federal law."

A general council for the Arkansas Department of Public Health, Robert Brech, said that the local commission requested and obtained blood work from all fighters on the card and that they all tested negative for HIV, although he did admit that the incident is currently under investigation.

The real catch here is that even if the individual in question had tested negative in the blood work in Arkansas, allowing them to fight was still a violation of federal law as the fighter was already suspended in Florida for testing positive for HIV. Federal law requires local commissions to check the Fight Fax suspension list before licensing any fighter. Additionally, once a person is on the suspension list from any particular state, only that state can have them removed.

Mazzuli has since gone on to write a letter to the Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson about the situation, which in part read:

"It has come to my attention, as the President of the Association of Boxing Commissions, that the State of Arkansas Athletic Commission knowingly allowed an HIV positive fighter to engage in a bout," Mazzulli wrote. "It is further my understanding that the boxer in question had been denied a license in the State of Florida due to a positive HIV test, the license denial being noted on the suspension list kept under the auspices of the ABC pursuant to federal law. Both the Florida commission and I notified Arkansas through the managing agency, the Department of Health, of the HIV positive status of a boxer but he was allowed to fight anyway. This appears to be a direct violation of federal law and an egregious disregard for health and safety standards."

It is not yet clear on what kind of repercussions Arkansas officials could face for this apparent infraction, which, if true, is exceptionally negligent at best.

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