Tough Gloves, Tough Call

Art Dore, promoter of the Toughman amateur boxing event, has returned to Michigan with a similar product two years after the state banned his fights.

Tough Gloves attracted more than 30 amateur boxers in Traverse City May 24th, and the first card featured a guy nicknamed “Ham Bone” who was reportedly demolished by his opponent soon after the two touched gloves.

Dore’s original competition has been under scrutiny over the past two years. The events feature weekend warriors, wearing oversized gloves, doing battle for bragging rights at the local watering hole. Michigan shut down the bouts by requiring promoters to carry unlimited insurance for participants. Last year, Dore acknowledged eight people have died from Toughman injuries since 1981.

Tough Gloves is sanctioned by USA Boxing, which governs Olympic-style boxing. Because of that, the fighters use 12-ounce gloves rather than Toughman’s 14-ounce gloves and will be checked out by a doctor before and after bouts.

That still didn’t sit well with Brad Wright, chairman of the Michigan Boxing Commission. He said Dore is “on the up-and-up in one way but, in another, he’s just disguising Toughman.”

“It looks like, tastes like, smells like Toughman boxing, but they have lived up to all the rules of USA Boxing, which is legitimate.”

He also complained that the Tough Gloves Web site includes photos of officials posing with bikini-clad ring girls and a poster promoting a fight as a grudge match.

“Unfortunately, advertising it like that makes it very similar to the Toughman; they’re appealing to the same crowd, saying that anyone can enter,” Wright said. “It doesn’t do anything for our image as a legitimate industry.”

Because Tough Gloves is neither a professional nor an elimination tournament, it apparently cannot be regulated by the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth’s bureau of commercial services.

“Boxing is boxing, you know. Put two people in the ring, and the bell rings, and the object is to beat each other up,” Dore told the Traverse City Record-Eagle.