An Open Letter from David Berlin

By Boxing News on May 19, 2015
An Open Letter from David Berlin
What the boxers and their teams can expect in New York is transparency and consistency.

Nothing is more important than making sure that the boxer who earns the victory in the ring has his or her hand raised at the end of the fight…

May 19, 2015

To The Boxing Community,

May 1 marked my one-year anniversary at the New York State Athletic Commission. It has been a productive year for the Commission and a year that has witnessed the growth of professional boxing in New York.

New York is looking to have its busiest year in decades in 2015. Already, there have been 17 boxing cards in New York State, small and large, downstate and upstate. Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous boxing venue and the one most closely tied to boxing’s rich history, and the Barclays Center, one of the top modern venues for the sport, are each looking to host several important boxing events during the year, events that bring the energy and excitement of big-time boxing to New York.

Behind the scenes and out of the spotlight—a spotlight that rightfully belongs only to the men and women who climb into the ring to fight—the Commission has been hard at work. The Commission’s core functions are to regulate the sport, to oversee boxing events, and to make certain that medical and safety precautions are in place to protect the health of fighters. We have developed, and continue to develop, a competent and professional staff to undertake these functions. In the past year we have built a small but efficient office staff to handle the daily work of the Commission and we have added substantially to our event-day staff.  Inspectors received a pay increase for the first time in 25 years, putting their compensation in line with the high demands of the job; they are our eyes and ears in the dressing rooms and in the corners, making sure that regulations are followed, that the fighters are clean and that the sport is conducted in a fair and safe manner. In addition, several workshops were held for inspectors, and clear protocols were developed for both inspectors and ringside physicians. These protocols ensure that the Commission is consistent in its practices so that boxers and their teams will know what to expect when they come to New York to fight.

What the boxers and their teams can expect in New York is a transparency and consistency that ensures that the sport is run in an open, honest and fair manner. Toward that end, we have worked to make sure that the Commission website provides up-to-date information to the public, including a calendar of upcoming boxing shows, all forms that boxers and their teams require in New York, bulletins describing current Commission practices, and New York’s boxing rules. In addition, a Boxer Information Sheet is provided to boxers and their teams at weigh-ins so that they have easy access to New York’s basic rules and practices and will know what to expect on fight night.

With the boxer as our focal point, we have developed a new Bout Contract that uses clear, straightforward language to describe the agreement between boxer and promoter, and that puts boxers on notice of what, if any, deductions will be made from the fighter’s purse. This allows boxers to know, at the time a contract is signed, exactly what they can expect to earn for the fight, and it avoids the misunderstandings that stem naturally from finding out only after a fight is complete that money is being deducted. In a departure from past practice, we have also worked with promoters to conduct weigh-ins at or near the venue where the event will be taking place in order to save boxers from the burden of traveling to the Commission and allow them time to rest for the next day’s fight.

All of our new practices are developed with the fighter in mind, and there is nothing more important than making sure that the boxer who earns the victory in the ring has his or her hand raised at the end of the fight. That means having qualified, competent officials in place who will exercise proper judgment. We have held referee and judge seminars in order to make sure that our officials are following consistent standards. These seminars also give referees and judges an opportunity to share ideas and to compare approaches toward sometimes difficult situations; in this way, they are prepared for the many scenarios that may arise in the ring. In addition to seminars, I have frequent conversations with individual judges and referees to discuss their work in a particular fight as I believe that open and constructive dialog gives all of us a chance to grow as professionals.

Other new practices also serve our goals of clarity, transparency and fairness:

• We have put in place a selection process for referees and judges in world title fights that gives the boxer and his or her team a voice in who is selected.
• We have created a clear set of criteria defining who is eligible to fight for the New York State Championship title, criteria that are in keeping with the significance of the title.
• We have changed the boxer license application to provide for the possibility of drug testing at any time during the licensure period and not only on the night of a fight.
• We have developed a clear and consistent process for weigh-ins that makes the official scale available to the boxers prior to the official weigh-in but provides just one chance for boxers in non-title fights to step on the scale at the official weigh-in. In title fights, boxers who weigh in heavy are given two hours to make weight.
• We have required that promoters provide the same brand and model of gloves to both boxers in a bout. If a boxer wants to wear a different brand or model, then the boxer or his team must supply two pairs of the gloves (or four in a title bout) so that the other boxer will have the option of wearing either the gloves provided by the promoter or the same gloves that his or her opponent is wearing.
• We encourage the boxer’s trainer to have a representative watch the opponent wrap and glove up prior to a bout.

In addition to our efforts to create a professional environment that protects boxers and advances the integrity of the sport, I am particularly proud of our program to promote boxer health through the NYSAC Health Insurance Initiative. Through a series of open houses at the Commission, at boxing gyms and at weigh-ins, the Commission has arranged for boxers to receive one-on-one assistance in enrolling in health insurance plans through the New York State of Health Marketplace. Our success is measured in the number of enrollees. Sixty-nine boxers and other boxing people who did not previously have health coverage (and 90 individuals in total when family members are included) are now enrolled in health insurance plans. Boxers who are injured in the gym can now go to a doctor and know that they will be covered, and they can maintain their good health by going for an annual check-up.

There is, of course, much work to be done, work that includes updating and modernizing New York’s boxing rules to bring them in line with current accepted practices in boxing. Toward that end, New York has abolished the three-knockdown rule, properly leaving the appropriate moment of a stoppage to the judgment of qualified referees. Continued work on New York’s rules is a project that we plan to move forward on in the coming year. 

Just as we will work on the rules to bring them in line, where appropriate, with other jurisdictions, New York is committed to working with our fellow Commissions in order to bring uniformity to the sport in many other areas. This shared goal of bringing uniformity to the sport will help to ensure the long term health of boxing and will benefit the boxers who will be able to compete according to the same rules and practices wherever they ply their trade.

We have made great progress in the past year but of course the work continues. I look forward to the challenges ahead as we do our part to make sure that boxers are protected, that the integrity of the sport is maintained, and that boxing continues to thrive in New York State.


David Berlin
Executive Director, New York State Athletic Commission

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  1. kb 08:28am, 05/23/2016

    Hmm. I see where David Berlin has been “forced out.” Perhaps someone can enlighten us on what happened. And is the rumor true that he is suing the NYSAC?


  2. bikermike 07:39pm, 05/21/2015

    Another excellent article from ‘Da Bull’.......and I enjoyed Irish Frankie’s remarks….
    Hey Frankie…..don’t sugar coat it like that…...Tell us straight !!

  3. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 09:06pm, 05/20/2015

    That fatass garden gnome almost got Tapia killed…..seminars?!.....on what?!.....slow reacting and incompetent in the extreme when breaking the fighters to finally stop the slaughter, his technique was so piss poor he literally teed up Tapia’s chin for a brutal, undefended free shot from Kirkland.

  4. Mike Silver 06:47pm, 05/20/2015

    True, a major overhaul cannot come overnight when dealing with a leaden bureaucracy.  But we are not talking about that.  What can be done overnight is making sure the right person is the third man in the ring. It is the referees and doctors I am concerned about. Choosing the right referees by knowing who is competent or not (and properly educating those who need it) has nothing to do with reforming a monolithic bureaucracy. This does not involve storming the gates. What it does involve is for someone in charge to understand what the hell is really going on when you watch a boxing match. Sadly, I think that aspect is very weak today.

  5. Robert Ecksel 05:34pm, 05/20/2015

    The problem as I see it is one of idealism versus real world action. David Berlin was brought in to restore credibility to a commission in trouble. Knowing what is right is one thing. Being able to effectively nudge a monolithic governmental structure into implementing what needs to be implemented is another. The state’s approach is top down, not the other way around. David Berlin isn’t a cog in the machine. He has a position of enormous responsibility. But he has to perform, as best he can, within a rigid hierarchy. He can’t storm in Governor Cuomo’s office wielding an ax with smoke coming out of his ears, demanding that this or person be canned, in an attempt to right the wrongs of a system that is ultimately ambivalent about boxing. A light touch is what’s required. All David Berlin can do, all anyone in his position can do is responsibly shift the focus. That’s not going to happen overnight. That’s not going to happen in a year. I say give him time. He’s well aware of the issues being discussed on this thread.

  6. Kid Blast 04:11pm, 05/20/2015

    Thanks Mike. Much appreciated

  7. Mike Silver 03:35pm, 05/20/2015

    It does no one any good to criticize Kid Blast’s intelligent comments. They are cogent and based on knowledge and understanding of boxers and boxing. I applaud Mr. Berlin’s efforts at transparency and his sincere effort at improvement but I still see things going on at fights that indicate more is needed in terms of protecting the boxer. Doctors used to visit the corner if a fighter took a bad beating in a round or was cut (not just stand outside as they do now trying to get a good look over a second’s shoulder). They almost seem reluctant to get involved. That is ridiculous and dangerous). Who are the doctors? What is their specialty and background? A ringside doctor is a type of specialist. Just having an M.D. is not enough. Are those incompetent doctors at the Mago fight still used by the Commission?  Just And who are the Inspectors? What is their background in boxing? The most important aspect in a match is the competence of referees. And they are, with rare exception, incompetent and inconsistent and overly fearful of stopping a bout too soon. Smoger at a referee seminar? I hope not. He always stopped fights too late and it’s amazing no fighter was killed under his watch. Referees have to be told they will not be criticized if it appears to some they stopped a fight too soon. The referee actually has the life of these fighters in his hands.

  8. Kid Blast 06:11am, 05/20/2015

    Hmm. I thought I was being serious about raising these issues. After all, you put yourself out there, you no longer are immune to questions.

    As for old “bugaboos,” please explain. Moreover. I will stand 100% behind anything I have said including the use of referees, drug reforms, and the questions as to whether those involved in the GGG-Geale fiasco were disciplined. Nothing hostile in any of that. Nothing whatsoever.

  9. Bob Mladinich 02:28am, 05/20/2015

    It is difficult to imagine a more honest or committed public servant than David Berlin. He genuinely cares about the sport of boxing, as well as the fighters themselves. I have the utmost respect for him as a person, an attorney and athletic commissioner. I applaud him for his efforts and wish him and his staff all the best.

  10. Robert Ecksel 08:23pm, 05/19/2015

    If you knew David Berlin as I know David Berlin you might not be so hostile. He and I go way back, at least a dozen years. We met before he was Executive Director of the NYSAC, before he was a bureaucrat facing bureaucratic hurdles. He was managing James Butler (yes, that James Butler) at the time, about whom I wrote several features for the New York Sports Express. David impressed me then, as he impresses me now, as one of the most intelligent, levelheaded, soulful, selfless and compassionate men I had ever met. That hasn’t changed. One day we were casually talking about the dismal state of boxing and I told him that if a national commission were to ever be established, there’s no one I’d rather see at the helm than him. That too hasn’t changed. We can critique another’s performance to our heart’s content, but if one wants to be taken seriously, the old bugaboos ought to first be pushed aside.

  11. Ted Sares 08:38am, 05/19/2015

    It seems many non-New York referees (even including Michael Griffin from Canada) are getting plenty of assignments in New York on a continuous basis and this is somewhat troubling—at least to me.

    Also, the fact that the first round of the Gennady Golovkin vs. Daniel Geale fight went an embarrassingly four minutes only added to the amateurish aura of that evening, but when Geale tripped over the gear of a careless and clueless cameramen, this was no laughing matter as it could have had serious ramifications had Geale been injured.

    If you have not yet suspended the time keeper and the witless cameraman, you should. And you might reconsider the need for Steve Smoger to conduct seminars for New York referees. After all, this isn’t Panama, St, Martin or Aruba where Steve also conducts seminars and where a need might exist.

    Also, the family of terribly damaged Russian heavyweight boxer Magomed Abdusalamov has filed a lawsuit against multiple parties — including five New York State Athletic Commission doctors — alleging recklessness, gross negligence and medical malpractice. This, of course, did not occur on your watch, but you will now have to include it in your goal to restore the public’s trust in the NYSAC. Up dating us would help.

    Ironically, one of your former clients, the “esteemed” Thomas Hauser, has written a lengthy and highly critical report on that tragedy. See:—71949

    You have built a “small but efficient office staff to handle the daily work of the Commission and we have added substantially to our event-day staff.: Great, Who are these people?

    Finally, Nevada has recently put into place plans re drug penalties. Can you do something like this? I think it would help NY as well..•

    Sedatives/muscle relaxants/sleep aids/anxiolytics/opiates/cannabis, 1st offense: 18 month suspension, 30-40% of purse; 2nd offense: 2 year suspension, 40-50% of purse; 3rd offense: 3 year suspension, 60-75% of purse; 4th offense: life suspension, 100% of purse

    •Diuretics, 1st offense: 1 year suspension, 30-40% of purse; 2nd offense: 2 year suspension, 40-50% of purse; 3rd offense: life suspension, 100% of purse

    •Stimulants (amphetamines, cocaine, etc.), 1st offense: 3 year suspension, 50-75% of purse; 2nd offense: 4 year suspension, 75-100% of purse; 3rd offense: life suspension, 100% of purse

    •Anabolic steroids/testosterone/HGH, 1st offense: 3 year suspension, 50-70% of purse; 2nd offense: 4 year suspension, 75-100% of purse; 3rd offense: life suspension, 100% of purse

    •Testing avoidance/cheating, 1st offense: 4 year suspension, 75% of purse; 2nd offense: life suspension, 100% of purse

    I wish you well in your job and hope to see many reforms put into place,

    Thank you

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