Why does boxing (and perhaps MMA) need to be sanctioned by state authorities like the Nevada Athletic Commission or New York State athletic commission?

Other sports like baseball require no such state license, nor does a contact sport like football or even a sport that includes actual physical fighting like hockey.

Why isn't engaging in a boxing match a form of protected free speech that the state cannot obstruct?

  • "Actual physical fighting" is very clearly and strictly against the rules of hockey. It merits a minimum of a major penalty in ice hockey, and is the only explicit cause mentioned in rules for field hockey. It is extremely rare in the latter and officials have acted to eliminate it from the former. The premise of your question is very poor, given the rules around contact in every kind of football (with enormous penalties for inappropriate or excessively dangerous contact).
    – user4657
    Feb 17, 2017 at 4:34
  • The premise of the question was "why do boxing fights need to be sanctioned by state authorities". Your comment has nothing to do with the premise of the question.
    – bcattle
    Feb 17, 2017 at 9:32
  • Your question is why boxing requires sanction given that other sports don't, and in particular other sports where fighting occurs. But those other sports are not comparable - any fighting is explicitly not acceptable and not part of the intended action, while boxing is the exact opposite. So using those as reasoning is a false premise.
    – user4657
    Feb 17, 2017 at 18:05
  • The title of the post states the question. It says nothing about other sports. I'm not sure these comments add to the quality of the discussion on this site.
    – bcattle
    Feb 17, 2017 at 20:29
  • No, the title of the post does not state the question. It is only a reference point, hence, it is called the title. The body of the question states the entire question, which is why questions which do not include the question in the body are (or should be) considered unclear, edited to fix, or rewritten.
    – user4657
    Feb 17, 2017 at 22:53

1 Answer 1


Boxing doesn't have to be regulated by a government agency, but it generally is regulated in this way (1) because states are concerned about regulating fighting with an intent to do physical harm to the other player (which is strictly speaking against the rules even in contact sports like hockey), which would otherwise violate criminal laws unless there was a statutory exception, and (2) because they want to regulate gambling associated with the events (which, again, they wouldn't have to do, but in practice, all states completely ban gambling subject to specific regulated gambling systems, or de minimis exceptions).

Historically, many boxing "leagues" were corrupt and manipulated both to punish people disliked by organized crime by forcing people to participate to cleanse what would otherwise be illegal gang vigilante activities and to cheat people betting on matches by fixing the results of fights. Dueling was also historically a major social problem among the political and economic elites in parts of the country.

States have the power to ban boxing, football, wrestling, judo, lacrosse, hockey, rugby, fencing, and any other contract sport if they wish to do so, under the U.S. Constitution. States allow contact sports because they choose to do so as a matter of policy, not because the right to engage in contact sports is protected by the First Amendment.

There is a constitutional right to have sex with other consenting adults under the U.S. Supreme Court's Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003) decision (which is not based primarily on the First Amendment right to free speech), but there is no constitutional right for consenting adults to authorize physical harm to each other in an agreed form of combat.

Free speech does not protect contract sports such as boxing because the protected conduct does not primarily exist to communicate ideas, and also because the state has a compelling state interest in preventing people from physically harming each other that goes back to the oldest political theory justifications for the existence of the state in the first place by scholars such as Locke and Hobbes.

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