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When are boxing matches illegal?

On Behalf of | Oct 31, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

The sport of boxing is probably the closest modern man will get to recreating the violent gladiatorial fights of ancient Rome. It’s a sport with two fighters trading blows with their fists until one knocks out the other – and it can get visceral quickly. While boxing can lead to severe injuries for both fighters, it’s a heavily regulated sport that puts safety above all else.

The same can’t be said of unregulated boxing matches. Whether it’s a back-alley brawl or an underground prizefight, these events aren’t just very dangerous for participants but also illegal in California.

State law on illegal boxing matches

According to California rules, it’s illegal for any person within the state to participate, engage in, instigate or encourage an unregulated fight, sparring or boxing exhibition. Illegal fights may or may not involve gloves, referees, trainers, surgeons, assistants or even a ring – for as long as no regulations or permits are involved, a fight is illegal under the law.

A violation of this law is a criminal misdemeanor. On conviction, a person faces up to a year in county jail and as much as $1,000 in fines.

It’s also illegal for people to spectate at an underground fight. Like participating in an illegal punch-out, those convicted of spectating face a criminal misdemeanor charge.

Exemptions for amateur boxing

State law, however, makes an exception for amateur boxing matches, for as long as they meet certain requirements. These requirements include:

  • Maximum of four rounds, three minutes each
  • One-minute intervals in between rounds
  • Gloves worn at the event must have soft padding that’s evenly distributed
  • No contestant must receive any money or cash prize for taking part or winning
  • A medal or trophy may be awarded to the winner, but its value mustn’t exceed $35

The law also has a provision that states that any peace officer has the right to stop an amateur boxing exhibition if it appears to the officer that the contestants are unevenly matched, or if either of them is in danger or is seriously injured.

In summary, ordinary folks should leave boxing to the professionals – because state law prohibits underground boxing. Fighting in an illegal prizefight is very dangerous, and anyone caught participating may end up fighting for their case in court instead.

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