Outside the Ring: Mercedes Vázquez

By Jill Diamond on October 6, 2016
Outside the Ring: Mercedes Vázquez
"We need to help move the agenda. We can’t allow boxing to die out in New York State."

When Abraham Lincoln said, “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth,” I guess New York wasn’t included…

Sports and Philanthropy: A series of articles dedicated to those who’ve given their all and still give more. Each article will feature a different community champion; no belts, no medals, no ratings… just good people passing it on.

Mercedes Vázquez is a mid-sized promoter with a big agenda. When the new insurance rates leveled over the boxing industry in New York were put into effect, boxing in the city basically shut down. By coincidence these rates were initiated at the same time MMA was legalized.

In essence boxing is being held hostage by an ever-changing group of commissioners and government officials foreign to the needs of the sport. Mercedes took it upon herself to organize a group of dedicated people from our community to protest. No other state has been subjected to this escalation of costs, just the Apple, now rotting from the core. Boxers who found strict standards and medical assistance here may now flee to other places perhaps, with a lower bar. Thousands whose livelihoods were adjunct to the sport will suffer. As for the welfare of the boxers… nothing will change. And all this transpired with no input or discussion with those affected.

When Abraham Lincoln said, “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth,” I guess New York wasn’t included.

What brought you to boxing? 

I’ve been a lifelong fan of boxing. I recall the family gathering where we’d watch big fights: Hector Camacho, Muhammad Ali, Roberto Duran and others. My uncle was a local amateur champion in Puerto Rico and planned on making his pro debut. That plan was short-lived when he was drafted to serve in the US Army during the Vietnam War and was injured.  In 2000, I joined Rock Solid Management, the firm responsible for top world champions: Oscar De La Hoya, William Joppy and Hasim Rahman. My role with the firm varied from translating documents to organizing fight cards. I appreciate the experience I gained from working with the management team at Rock Solid. In 2010, I branched off and started Pretty Girl Promotions. Under the Pretty Girl banner, I had the opportunity of working with Hector Camacho, Melissa Hernandez along with many local fighters.

Tell us about your background?

I was born in Rochester, NY and the youngest of five children. My parents are from Puerto Rico and came to the US in the 60’s. My dad took on agriculture work until he landed/ retired from Eastman Kodak Company. My mother is a retired City School District employee and a community activist.

I hold a Bachelors and Masters degree in Business Administration from Medaille College and a Graduate business certificate from the Simon School-University of Rochester. I currently sit on several community boards and serve as President of nonprofit organization New York Referral Center for Immigration Rights. I’m President of Pretty Girl Promotions, a full service boxing and MMA promotion company and Carmen Basilio Training Facility, scheduled to open December 1, 2016.

Any awards or honors?

I was awarded 2014 City of Rochester Day (proclamation) 2014 Women of the Year – Bare Knuckle Boxing Hall of Fame, 2015 Latinas Unidas – Career Achievement Award, and 2016 Rochester Hispanic Chamber of Commerce – Business Person of the Year.

What do you have coming up?

I’ve teamed up with Nevada Hall of Famer and former WBC World Champion, Christy Martin to bring championship boxing to Charlotte, NC. Unfortunately, due to new regulations, all of my NY fights cards have been canceled until further notice.

Have you ever promoted a show in New York?

Yes, I’m a NYS licensed boxing promoter. I’ve worked on 20+ shows (promoter or co- promotion) and I’ve seen the commission through several administrators. The lack of urgency and transparency with the new administration is disconcerting.

Tell us about the situation in New York?

New regulations have crippled boxing in the Empire State, once hailed as the Mecca of Boxing and now in jeopardy of extinction. On September 1st, New York State Athletic Commission implemented new regulations to include: $1 million bonds per fighter; the original insurance requirement was $10,000 with an average cost to Promoter of $1,200 per show. Due to the high risk and exposure, we have been unsuccessful in finding an underwriter who would provide a quote. The estimated costs for the $1M dollar/per fighter can run $10,000+. In addition to the insurance increase, new medical costs previously absorbed by the state, are now put on the promoter to cover. That means an additional $5,000 tacked to the promoter’s tab. These new costs have made it impossible for small to midsize promoters to survive. Even large promotion firms have moved their shows to neighboring states where costs are in line with national average of $1200 and medical requirements are minimal.

Why do you think this has happened? 

It’s pure politics, no sense in sugarcoating it.  MMA was formally rolled out and applications for combat sport on the NYSAC website on September 1, 2016, the same day the new boxing regulations went into effect… Coincidence? New York was the last state to legalize MMA after years of failed attempts at the Assembly. I believe some concessions were made to accommodate UFC/MMA at the expense of the boxing industry. On April14, 2016 within moments of NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo putting pen to paper and legalizing MMA, UFC announced their fight at Madison Square Garden. No other promoter was granted a date. We were told we had to wait until the official roll-out scheduled for the end of the year. NYSAC posted Promoter and Fighter applications on their website on September 1, 2016. The commission will have you believe there’s an even playing field but I assure you that’s not the case.

What have you done to help change things? 

After months of calls and letters with minimal response, I decided to organize a call with all New York State promoters and constituents. I called the new initiative: Coalition against Unnecessary Boxing and MMA Regulations. I felt having a unified voice would have a greater impact. The group shared valuable information about their business to include YOY revenue for fight cards at MSG, Barclay and other venues. They also shared the impact of canceled shows during 4Q2016 +. The revenue impact is in the millions. I’ve also reached out to the Governor’s office and scheduled a meeting. I’ve contacted legislators and other key political groups to push our agenda. In addition, I’ve started on online petition where fighters and the general public can share their thoughts.

Petition: http://www.petitions24.com/call_of_action_against_excessive_requirements_for_nys_boxing_even

Who’s on your Team?

Joe Mesi – retired boxer Fighting advocate
Carlos Rodriguez, Retired New York State Assistant Attorney General
Josephine Basilio – Wife of Carmen Basilio, member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame and boxing advocate
Melissa Darling: President – Center City Boxing Club Inc.
Sandra Rosato: Center City Boxing Club Inc.
Marco Argunzoni – VP Pretty Girl Promotions
Hilda Eschart – President of Ibero American Action League

What inspires you to keep fighting?

The local NY fighters are the driving force behind my advocacy efforts. As a promoter, I can move my show to another state and use local talent, but this leaves the NYS fighter out in the dark. My local economy also feels the pinch. Local resources (hired hands), hotels, restaurants, photographers, transportation, radio, TV, the list goes on, but let’s not forget that the NYS Tax Department is missing out on the residual revenue. Coming from Upstate NY, we love boxing up here and we take pride in our local talent.

What makes you think you can make a difference?

I come from a family of community activists so I’m a strong believer that if you don’t fight the fight, things will remain the same. My goal is to educate the general public of the inequities and get them engaged.

What do you hope the outcome will be and why? 

My hope is that if NYSAC’s true objectives were to improve boxer safety, that they implement safety regulations that will help reduce the number of injuries. We’ve seen where safety policies have been successful. An example: the case of professional boxer William Classen. His unfortunate death in 1979 prompted new regulations that mandate ambulatory services for all boxing events. Read more about this: ESPN – The Fight that Killed. I’d also like to see insurance and medical requirements reduced to national standards.

What changes in the sport would you like to see?

I’d like to see more accountability from the training staff/corner. These are the folks that work intimately with the fighter. They know the fighter more than they know themselves and know when something is not right. I’d also like to see mandatory training and exams before license are issued to trainers and corner.

How can we help?

You can help by leveraging political contacts and media to get the word out. We need to apply pressure to help move the agenda. We can’t allow boxing to die out in New York State.

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  1. The Thresher 08:56am, 10/07/2016

    Holly is toast. Rousey is burnt toast.

  2. Eric 06:39am, 10/07/2016

    Holly Holm was on the top of the world and two losses later, she’ll have to regroup. Was very impressed with Valentina Shevchenko. What a tough little cookie. Rousey has been MIA, and like Fury, you have to wonder if she will ever fight again. Like to see her match up with the little Russian “Bullet.” MMA has far more talented female fighters than boxing IMO. Lots of interesting matchups to be made with the girls of MMA.

  3. The Thresher 12:01pm, 10/06/2016

    This is all about the Mago thing—period ker plunk!. It cost David Berlin his job even though it didn’t happen on his watch. He could not handle the NYSAC politics and got canned like tuna fish.

    BTW, California does NOT have the same issue yet. This is a NY thing that will cut off its nose to spit its face. Stupid and more stupid.

  4. nicolas 11:30am, 10/06/2016

    One of Jilll Diamond’s better articles. But I wonder then has MMA also suffered in this state despite being legalized? I believe even here in California, boxing has suffered as well due to insurance costs. Certainly these costs are hurting the smaller promoters across the country, and not the bigger promoters who also have maybe television behind them. Perhaps as some have suggested here, the owners have to take more responsibilities, and to realize, that they jeopardize future boxing shows if a fighter gets so badly injured or dies from those injuries. Certainly from the time of Benny Paret, to WIllie Classen, and the Russian fighter Mago, there has to be a reminder.

  5. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 09:06am, 10/06/2016

    Speaking of referees, check out Ted Sares’ Boxing.com article “The Betrayal of Holly Holm”. I firmly believe that former fighter Rocky Burke actually believed that he was helping Holly’s chances that night?!

  6. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:38am, 10/06/2016

    “More accountability from the corner” and the referees too you would think. When a true warrior like Mago is in his corner asking his brother and his corner people if his face is breaking up, you’d think they might get a Goddamned hint! Or maybe if Benjy Estevez was actually paying attention he could have given at least one warning when “Irish” Mike Perez was hammering Mago with those forearm shivers.

  7. The Thresher 07:37am, 10/06/2016

    Boxing will remain viable in Verona because it is run by Native Americans and it is not subject to the same rules and regulations as NYC area venues. Same in Connecticut.

  8. Eric 06:56am, 10/06/2016

    “Government of the people, by the people, for the people…” Funny thing, it was good ole Honest Abe himself who first turned on his own people. Afterwards, the list is too long to mention. Yep, Honest Abe introduced America to BIG BROTHER AND BIG GUBMINT.

  9. The Thresher 06:21am, 10/06/2016

    What an intelligent person. And so very articulate. I have taken some of her narrative for possible use in some of my future articles. Many thanks Jill for an especially fine interview—one of your best yet.

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