Mixed martial arts has dealt a serious blow to Brooklyn boxing, pugilists and promoters say.
New regulations have effectively put a four-month freeze on fights across the state — and it’s shaking professional undercard boxers like Gerritsen Beach native Heather Hardy, a World Boxing Council super bantamweight international titleholder, more than any punch she has ever taken.
The state recently upped per-fighter insurance requirements since legalizing mixed martial arts over the summer, and now small-time promoters are postponing long-planned bouts because they cannot come up with the newly required insurance money on such short notice. No fights means no paychecks for boxers, and professional prizefighters are reeling, Hardy said.
“It cut off my last quarter paycheck. And as any parent knows, I’m not even wondering what I’m going to do for Christmas, but how am I going to pay my last month’s rent?” she said. “I think oftentimes legislators don’t attach a face to their choices. They think boxing and they think professional athletes and lots of money, but this is affecting real people.”
New York became the 50th state to sanction mixed martial arts earlier this year — Ultimate Fighting Championship made its Madison Square Garden debut on Nov. 12 — and lawmakers put in a provision requiring promoters of boxing and mixed martial arts post new insurance policies guarding fighters against traumatic brain injury.
Promoters hoping to put on events may now have to cut undercard fights — often matches between local talent — so they can afford to insure boxers higher on the card who may be travelling from outside New York, which means local scrappers looking to jumpstart their careers will have fewer opportunities, another Brooklyn fighter said.
“These people that are the local talent are going to get affected because they might not get the chance to fight at all,” said Bensonhurst native Paulie Malignaggi — a former two-weight world champion and analyst for Showtime Boxing.
The New York State Athletic Commission did not return a call requesting comment.
Hardy is slated to get back in the ring in March, but first she’s set to make her mixed martial arts debut early next year. She’s doing it because she needs the paycheck.
“People are really hurting,” Hardy said. “This is our livelihood.”