(AP) - A match may be over in 10 or 12 rounds, but injuries from professional boxing can last a lifetime, and Nevada lawmakers want to make sure the fighters who entertain so many are taken care of once they're no longer able to fight.
A bill before the Legislature would attach fees to fight tickets and funnel the money to pay for medical expenses for retired boxers, who are often forgotten by their promoters, said bill sponsor Harvey Munford, D-Las Vegas.
"The boxers are almost like meat," Munford told the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Monday. "You use them and get whatever you can out of them."
Some boxers suffer brain injuries, missing teeth, hemorrhaging and blindness for the rest of their lives.
An amendment to the bill, proposed by Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, would require promoters to provide $200,000 in catastrophic injury insurance coverage for fighters, up from the existing $50,000 requirement. Segerblom said the new figure keeps up with the rising cost of health care and updates a coverage cap that has remained unchanged since 1993.
Proponents said the policy would benefit fighters such as Filipino boxer Zeta Gorres, who was injured in a Las Vegas fight against Luis Melendez Nov. 13, 2009.
After winning the fight, he collapsed, was wheeled from the ring and underwent brain surgery. Gorres' medical bills spiraled to hundreds of thousands of dollars, exceeding his catastrophic injury protection.
The Nevada Athletic Commission, which regulates the industry, said imposing the additional fees and requiring additional insurance is unrealistic and could quash boxing in Nevada.
Injuries like Gorres' almost never happen, said commission Executive Director Keith Kizer, and insurers have expressed unwillingness to cover boxers so extensively.
"We'd love to have comprehensive coverage," Kizer said. "I don't know who's going to underwrite it."
The $50,000 coverage is already "the highest in the land," he said.
Boxers and mixed martial arts fighters historically have emerged from rough neighborhoods and minority or immigrant communities. They're often exploited, Munford said, and then become a burden on taxpayers.
AB178 is an attempt to help those fighters.
"There's a little bit of humanity in it," Munford said of the bill. When a prizefighter suffers a debilitating injury, there's "something that has to touch you and affect you in some way."