We usually save commentary on events that take place in the sporting world for the sports pages. That seems logical. But when sports intersects with other, more universal issues, we’ll sometimes take a crack at them. So here goes.

Why does the state of New York, or any other state for that matter, regulate boxing? Sure, it’s a vicious, savage sport; perhaps the most basic kind of contest devised by man. Put two people in a roped-off square and let them beat the hell out of one another. They try to knock each other down, hoping to keep their opponent down for a count of ten. It’s simple, basic and ruthless.

What brought on this train of thought is the situation faced by the Town of Tonawanda’s Baby Joe Mesi. For the non-sports fan, Mesi is an undefeated heavyweight boxer who appeared to be on the road toward a shot at at least one of the number of heavyweight championships out there. Then, a few years ago, he suffered bleeding on the brain at the end of one of his matches.

Suddenly, everything changed. The Nevada (where that fight took place) Boxing Commission no longer allowed Mesi to fight there. Under federal law, being banned by one state for a medical condition disqualifies one for a license in all states. Mesi sued and eventually won. He has since fought in places such as West Virginia, Arkansas and on various Indian reservations.

Now, Mesi has a chance to fight former heavyweight champion Hashim Rahman, who has strong ties to the Rochester area. The two go as far back as opponents during their amateur careers. It’s a matchup that has the potential of selling out either Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena or the HSBC Arena in Buffalo.

But it will never happen, at least not in New York. Why? Because the state’s boxing commission will cite Mesi’s medical history and refuse to grant him a license to fight in New York.

This is where sports intersects with the rest of us. The state refusing to let Baby Joe fight is simply an unacceptable exercise of government power.

We’ve said it here before and this is a perfect time to repeat it. Government has three legitimate functions; protect us from our enemies, protect us from each other and provide public goods, such as highways and bridges. Anything else is an unwarranted intrusion into individual civil liberties and free-market economics.

The regulating of boxing falls into none of those catagories. In fact, it falls into one of the worst rationales for the expansion of government authority ever: Protecting us from ourselves. No one would be forcing Mesi or Rahman into the ring. They would reach an agreement to stage the match and then go at it.

As for the argument that Mesi’s injury leaves him open to permanent brain damage or even death? Not to be crass but, so what? That’s for Mesi to decide. He and his manager-father, Jack, know the risks. They claim the injury is fully healed. Other medical experts say that type of injury never fully heals. As far as the issue of licensing and regulations goes, that argument is immaterial. It’s Mesi’s career. It’s Mesi’s life. Let him fight.

More importantly, as long as the combatants are two consenting adults, let anyone fight. It’s none of Albany’s business.

Dick Lucinski is managing editor of the Niagara Gazette. His columns appear on Wednesdays and Sundays.

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