Promoter finds out pro boxing illegal in Maine

LEWISTON — Boxing promoter Joe Gamache Sr. is reluctantly throwing in the towel and calling off his June 19 fights — for now — to avoid going a few rounds with the law.

Gamache Boxing
Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Joe Gamache Sr., right, works with Matt Sherburne on Tuesday at the Gamache Boxing Club in the basement of the Lewiston Armory. Gamache had planned to present professional boxing matches in Lewiston in June, but recently discovered professional boxing has been illegal in Maine since 2007.

Gamache Boxing
Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Matt Cedergren, left, of Lewiston listens to Joe Gamache Sr. before warming up at the Gamache Boxing Club in Lewiston on Tuesday.

Gamache Boxing
Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

Matt Sherburne works with Joe Gamache Sr. at the Gamache Boxing Club in Lewiston on Tuesday night. Gamache was hopeful that he could present professional boxing matches scheduled for June. "I'm not saying the fight is canceled at this point, but it's on the brink of being canceled," he said.

Gamache Boxing
Amber Waterman/Sun Journal

"What a shame," said Jon Webster, left, of Portland as he looked over a poster promoting the boxing match that Joe Gamache Sr. had planned for June but now may be canceled. Webster, who turned pro in 1992 under Joey Gamache's ticket, had driven to the Gamache Boxing Club on Tuesday seeking more tickets to sell.

Last week, Norman Croteau, district attorney for Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties,  sat down with Gamache Sr. and informed the veteran promoter that holding the fights in Maine would be illegal due to a change in state law. Croteau suggested that Gamache immediately stop promoting the fights and cancel the event.

Gamache was surprised to learn that his show could not go on in June because the law had been changed in 2007. Stephen Gamache, retired boxer Joey Gamache Jr.'s son, was to make his professional debut at the Lewiston Multi-Purpose Center.

"Right now, if it's wrong, we are not going to do it," Gamache Sr. said. "We are not going to do something that's wrong.

"It hurts us," he said. "The whole thing is a mess. I am getting all kinds of calls for tickets. If this, right now, doesn't go off, I am going to give back every sponsor's money. I am hoping we can find some kind of loophole."

Croteau was contacted last week by the state Attorney General's Office to handle the matter because the issue came under his jurisdiction.

"I think the AG's Office had been contacted by a legislator who had simply read about the fight in the paper and had simply contacted the AG's Office and said just, well, who is going to be regulating the fight schedule for June, and frankly what is all this about?" Croteau said. "He was probably aware of the change in the statute. So I don't think it was someone who was necessarily contacting to complain about it or did not support it, (but) was just wondering who was going to regulate it."

Old as the hills

That statute, which criminalized prizefighting in Maine, has been on the books since 1873, and states that "unlawful prizefighting is a Class E crime." Gamache and anyone associated with the fight, including boxers, could have been prosecuted by Croteau's office.

But there were two exceptions that allowed prizefighting to be legally held in the Pine Tree State. One was oversight by the Maine Boxing Commission, which later became the Maine Athletic Commission. The other was that an event's proceeds must go to a nonprofit organization.

In 2007, however, the Athletic Commission was abolished by the Maine Legislature as a cost-saving measure, making it impossible to hold professional fights in Maine, unless the 1873 statute is amended.

Croteau wasn't sure why the Athletic Commission was abolished.

"It could be at that time, there wasn't that much prizefighting going on in the state," he said. "I think at that time there was a concern that the commission was running a deficit and there were fewer and fewer fights and that as a cost-saving matter, it probably made more sense to abolish it. Probably at that time, the Legislature wasn't all that aware of what the commission did in terms of promoting the health and the safety issues that went along with the commission's work as it was originally put together, so it was eliminated."

New game in town

Gamache Sr. was stunned to discover that mixed martial arts competitions could be held in Maine: The same statute that made boxing illegal was amended on March 1, 2010, and the Mixed Martial Arts Authority of Maine was formed.

"I say mixed martial arts is part of boxing," said a frustrated Gamache Sr. "You get in there and throw punches and get knocked down. It is boxing. That's part of boxing when you knock a guy down."

But Assistant Attorney General Andrew Black said a mixed martial arts event cannot be held until the Mixed Martial Arts Authority adopts its own rules, which has not been done, yet.

But pro boxing still has no leg to stand on with the abolition of the Maine Athletic Commission. Gamache Sr. is trying to work around the statute. He is exploring other ways to hold the fight — such as bringing in another boxing commission, but it appears that is wishful thinking.

"Not in Maine," Black said. "It would still be illegal under the statute."

Gamache approached Greg Sirb, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission, and requested that his commission regulate the Maine event. But Sirb said he would abide by Maine law and stay out of the matter.

"The state prevails in those matters," Sirb said. "I always defer to the states."

Croteau said some people may be under the impression that even though the Maine Boxing Commission is gone, they could get a sponsorship under the National Boxing Commission Association, "that somehow that would satisfy the state's concern about who is going to regulate it. The criminal statute doesn't say that."

Gamache, however, went ahead with his fight promotion because he was under the impression that if another boxing commission was brought to Maine to regulate the event, there would be no problem.

Croteau said he didn't want anybody being charged with a criminal violation over an issue that could easily be resolved.

"They can engage the next legislative session to make appropriate changes to the law so that they can become promoters and do all this stuff that so many people have done for so many years," Croteau said.

Innocent inquiry

State Rep. Matthew Peterson, D-Rumford, said he got curious when he read about the upcoming boxing matches in Lewiston and sent an e-mail to the Attorney General's Office, asking who would be regulating the fights.

Peterson wasn't aware of the 1873 statute and was amazed that his e-mail had stirred up controversy.

"I asked the question," he said. "It was a simple and innocent question. It was a curious thing."

Peterson believes there must be a way to include prizefighting in a new amendment.

"In hindsight, it’s a shame that the boxing community didn’t get involved two years ago when the Mixed Martial Arts Authority was discussed and created by the Legislature," he said. "We could have made the authority more inclusive then — but there was just no interest expressed.  I hope we can find a good way to sanction boxing in Maine again, and I would love to work with the Gamaches or anyone else to get the changes in law to accomplish that."

Bill Condon, the last head of the Maine Athletic Commission, was disappointed that the Gamaches won't be allowed to put on a fight in Maine. He said pro fighters — despite the 1873 statute in Maine, have been stepping into the ring for years thanks to the Maine Boxing Commission. He believes federal laws should supersede state laws when it comes to boxing in Maine.

"I think (Joe Gamache Sr.) is getting raked," Condon said.

tblasi@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

Shame Shame Shame

Give the government a few more years and Maine will be devoid of any thing worth having.

- No smoking in bars

- Boxing as a sport illegal

- Dead inner city life

- No public transportation

What would our grandfathers say!!!

 's picture

Clay-Liston Fight

I wonder if the infamous Clay-Liston fight was, in fact, illegal?  Looks like someone was looking the other way.

 's picture

Ah... the childish name

Ah... the childish name calling. The ironic thing is that you were a city councilor for Lewiston, which just so happens to have one of the highest percentages of people on welfare. Nice to know that now you aren't in office you turn your back on them and spit on em. And yet you want to "crap" on Democrats, Republicans at their finest. Also if you think you can do better Mr. Reed why haven't you run for State Representative, State Senate or better yet Governor? Just a thought.

 's picture

Another exapmle of stupidity in Augusta

Once again, the state legislature has taken action, without understanding the consequences. I'm neither for or against boxing, doesn't matter to me whether it happens or not. However, this points out a very obvious question, how many times to we have to put up with action from our elected lawmakers that brings on unintended and damaging results. Remember the law against parking RV's for free in WalMart parking lots? That one gave the state a nice black eye with the million of money spending RV'ers in the nation, how much money did that bad impression cost our state in tourism dollars? What about the wine tasting law? The legislature all but put small independently owned wine stores out of business because of one law maker's fear that a child might see their mom or dad participating in a wine sampling.

We have twice as many legislators as we need in this state, maybe that's why we get a bunch who's favorite thing to do is write and approve "yes dear" legislation, that appeases one constituent's fears, but is never researched enough to find if it has unitnended consequences.

One vote to abolish the Maine Athleitc Commission, all the legislature had to do was answer the question, "what does the commission do?" and this problem for an otherwise legal business would have ben avoided

IDIOTS!!!!!!

 's picture

Boxing

This State has so many Idiotic Rules that should be all changed ASAP,  If Mixed Martial Arts can be done here in Maine, then Boxing should be approved.  

If Mixed Martial Arts is done here in this State, then Gamache  ought to hit them with a Law Suit that will make their heads  really spin, nothing like be discriminated against in my opinion. 

Here we have a man that is from this State and Representing this State and you might as well say he is getting a slap in the Face for Representing the State.   I think it is wrong and changes should take place to make this  happen. 

                                                                              Bruce Bourget

                                                                              

 's picture

About Time

Reason told you that fighting was an adult form of bullying and should be discouraged.  Now Sr. wants to bring the dead issue claiming foul... ha ha, if he had really been interested in fighting he would have known about these issues and opposed them with the rest of his family members by his side.  Training for fighting in Maine is not illegal, so train here and a go somewhere else and fight.  We said earlier that our opinion was it brought the city image down and Lewiston's image doesn't need any help to go down further. 

However, we do agree with Sr. on one fact.  IF they allow the Mixed Martial Arts to take place for profit, then it is wrong to exclude boxing.  Mixed Martial Arts has replaced boxing as the sport of choice by the American public.  It is rare to ever see a boxing match on any form of cable, dish, etc. network today, but they allow the more violent Mixed Martial Arts.  The answer to why is obvious.   Society today is violent and this form of combat is the most violent and resembles computer games today.  We also agree with Sr. that what today is called wrestling is far from the true form.  It is very violent and people hit each other with tables, metal chairs, etc.  Well, Reason for one believes this is not an event that should be allowed.  However, again it has a large base of followers who are nearly as brain dead, if they believe it is real,  as those who participate in it.

Reason says that all these violent sports should be banned.  However, it is NOT FAIR for some to continue while others remain excluded.  Yes, the law should be amended.  Either ban them all or allow them all INCLUDING BOXING which when you put it into prospective is the least violent of them all.  Sadly, that may be why it is no longer as popular.  Best of Luck in your quest for fairness.  Reason hopes that you will be allowed to box if the others continue to perform their events.  Perhaps one commission to oversee all these violent sports is the best answer and it makes budget sense if there are enough events and people participating in them.  We suggest to the state that they could add on a fee to each ticket to support this omni commission as everything else is taxed in Maine one more thing would not even be noticed.

Best of Luck, Sr.

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