Toughman vs Tough Guy controversy
Toughman (Boxing) vs Tough Guy (MMA) 1979-1983
Toughman: Est. 1979 by Art Dore, Bay City Michigan (Ardore)
Tough Guy: Est. 1979 by Bill Viola & Frank Caliguri, Pittsburgh, PA (CV Productions Inc.)
In January 1981, Tough Guy Contests (mixed martial arts) were subject to persecution by the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission and arbitrarily banned by the State Attorney General’s office. In the interim, Bay City, Michigan Promoter Art Dore was permitted to host the First Annual Central Pennsylvania Toughman Contest, a strictly amateur boxing event (a sport that fell under state jurisdiction, regulations, and taxes).
On March 20, 1981, Ronald Miller, 23, was killed as a result of injuries sustained during the Adore Ltd sanctioned Toughman boxing competition in Johnstown, Pennsylvania at the Cambria County War Memorial. Weight classes were not implemented and head gear was not permitted. Miller, 169 pounds, was matched with a 250 pound opponent.
The year prior, May 20, 1980, CV Productions promoted one of their signature Tough Guy Contests at the same venue. The same location and similar name of competing companies caused confusion among the media and politicians, although the promotions had no association with each other. Tough Guy competitors were required Olympic-style headgear and adhere to mandatory weight classes. No serious or life-threatening injuries were reported.
Miller’s death sparked legislative efforts to ban Toughman (boxing), however The Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission advised the Senate to outlaw Tough Guy (mixed martial arts) instead. Mixed martial arts were suspended before the death of Miller happened. Boxing, which caused the tragedy, was not prosecuted.
The Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission has been criticized by some experts for protecting the boxing industry and unjustly banning mixed martial arts in 1983. Mixed martial arts would resurface in 1993 under the banner of the UFC and was relegalized in Pennsylvania in 2009.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania became the first state in history to outlaw the sport of mixed martial arts in 1983 with the passage of Senate Bill 632 aka the “Tough Guy Law.” The law set the first legal precedence for the sport.
Legislative action began in 1981 with the introduction of Senate Bill 742. The bill specifically targeted CV Productions’ mixed martial arts format. The specific language named their service marks and defined mixed martial arts competition as:
- “AS USED IN THIS SECTION THE PHRASE “TOUGH GUY CONTEST” OR “BATTLE OF THE BRAWLERS” MEANS ANY COMPETITION WHICH INVOLVES ANY PHYSICAL CONTACT BOUT BETWEEN TWO OR MORE INDIVIDUALS, WHO ATTEMPT TO KNOCK OUT THEIR OPPONENT BY EMPLOYING BOXING, WRESTLING, MARTIAL ARTS TACTICS OR ANY COMBINATION THEREOF AND BY USING TECHNIQUES INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PUNCHES, KICKS AND CHOKING.”
In 1981, Representative David Richardson referred to SB 742 as a “Tough Guy Bill,” calling it unconstitutional because it contained anti-abortion legislation. The “Tough Guy Bill” passed the Pennsylvania House and the Senate but was vetoed by Governor Dick Thornburgh December 23, 1981.
The Tough Guy Bill was amended, reintroduced, and signed into law by Governor Richard Thornburgh November 3rd, 1983 (Act 1983-62) becoming the “Tough Guy Law” effectively banning the sport of MMA in Pennsylvania until 2009.