State agency wants to shut down bikini boxing in Oklahoma
The state agency that regulates boxing matches wants to shut down an upcoming Oklahoma City event that promises to feature women in bikinis punching it out in the ring.
The Oklahoma State Athletic Commission is asking an Oklahoma County judge for a court order to halt an event called Bikini Boxing 9, scheduled for June 17 at the Bricktown nightclub Level E, 315 E Sheridan.
The state agency, which regulates professional boxing, kickboxing and wrestling events in Oklahoma, filed a lawsuit May 19 in Oklahoma County District Court in an attempt to stop the bikini boxing event here.
But James Hollimon, co-owner and vice president of the promoter Bikini Boxing Association, said the Oklahoma City event will essentially be theater, with no real punches thrown.
"We've made sure our participants know you cannot throw a punch with full force — this is basically a pretend match for entertainment," Hollimon said.
Bikini Boxing Association events feature amateur, untrained female participants wearing headgear, boxing gloves and revealing pink and black bikinis.
The participants are unpaid amateurs that discover bikini boxing through word of mouth and social media. The Oklahoma City event is already generating buzz, Hollimon said.
"We have a long list of ladies who have signed up to participate — there's some excitement going on," he said.
Bikini Boxing Association LLC, the Nebraska-based promoter that is organizing the local event, has held similar matches in Omaha, Lincoln and Dallas. Bikini boxing is also scheduled for August in Wichita, Kansas.
The Oklahoma City event is for entertainment only and the intent is not for the participants to harm each other, said Eric Cotton, an attorney for the Bikini Boxing Association.
"There's local musicians performing, a DJ playing music and ring girls wearing bikinis," Cotton said.
"They have had these events in Nebraska and Texas, but the laws are very different in Oklahoma," Cotton said. "The Oklahoma State Athletic Commission has said these are clearly combative sporting events under our statutes."
The Bikini Boxing Association has made all of its participants sign a contract stating that they will deliver no blows that are likely to cause injury during the upcoming Oklahoma City event.
"We've taken steps to ensure we are in compliance and we're waiting on a response from the commission," Cotton said.
In a court affidavit, Joe Miller, administrator for the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission, said he reviewed videos posted online of the Bikini Boxing Association's past events that showed participants exchanging dangerous blows, including punches to the back of the head and back.
"The video shows a participant knocked on the ground, punched while on the ground and receiving numerous punches to the back of the head, which is the most dangerous blow a fighter can receive," Miller said in the affidavit.
"Knocked her brains undone," a master of ceremonies proclaimed in one of the videos after a bikini-clad boxer was knocked to the mat, according to Miller's affidavit.
Sanctioned boxing events include a trained and certified referee as well as a medical doctor and ambulance on standby. Fight participants are required to undergo a pre-fight physical, which includes a pregnancy test for women, the affidavit states.
"Boxing is an inherently dangerous sport," Miller said in the court affidavit. "If defendant is allowed to promote and hold an unsanctioned boxing event, the participants and public will be put at risk."
Hollimon said videos of bikini boxing bouts in Texas and Nebraska do not give an accurate portrayal of what the Oklahoma City event will be like because of Oklahoma's differing law.
The Bikini Boxing Association typically either has a ringside doctor or an ambulance present at its events, Hollimon said. The promoter has organized eight successful events in other cities over the past two years without incident, he said.
"Safety is our top priority for our participants and for everyone in attendance," Hollimon said.
Oklahoma requires all amateur boxing events to be sanctioned by USA Boxing, a national governing body for Olympic-style amateur boxing.
In a statement, USA Boxing executive director Mike McAtee said the organization does not sanction bikini boxing events.
“We would not sanction this type of event because it is outside our mission and/or jurisdiction,” McAtee said.
USA Boxing requires all participants be certified to meet "specific levels of expertise by USA Boxing," he said. Coaches, officials and physicians must also pass a background check.
In 2011, former Tulsa Golden Hurricane football player George Clinkscale died after participating in an unsanctioned amateur boxing event at a church in Tulsa.
Clinkscale's family later filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Tulsa-based Guts Church, which hosted the boxing event. Guts Church settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum in 2014, according to court records.