Too Tough?

By: Erica Hurtt
By: Erica Hurtt

Each spring, the Toughman Contest comes to Rockford's Metro Center. But in recent months several U.S. cities have banned the contests over safety and liability concerns.

Earlier this month, Evansville became the third Indiana city to temporarily cancel Toughman Contests, a competition linked to eight deaths and dozens of life-threatening injuries.

It's usually a sell out event; competitors walk off the street to fight for money in a Toughman Contest.

"These guys have been in the bar. Some of them go to the YMCA for a month or so to train and some have no training at all. Half the guys are out back smoking in between rounds," said Tim Mazurkiewkz, former Toughman champion.

Former Toughman champion Tim Mazurkiewkz is now a professional kick boxer and referee for Toughman events. He says the competition is more an entry-level event so there's little chance of injury.

"It's very limited training that these guys have if any at all. So it's a lot less likely that they'll get injured than at a more competitive level," Mazurkiewkz said.

But some cities have banning or temporarily halted Toughman competitions over concerns about competitors' safety and risk of lawsuits.

Just last fall a Texas man died fighting in a Toughman match. But Mazurkiewkz says promoters, not cities, are at risk.

"The promoters take the largest risks financially and legally with all of the liabilities. It's their butts on the line," said Mazurkiewkz.

And Rockford leaders say they have no concerns with the event.

"As far as what I've seen over the years, those are all things they've accounted for very well," said Mayor Doug Scott, Rockford.

Rockford Toughman promoter Bob Johnston says many safety changes have been made over the years including the use of protective head gear and gloves, reducing bout time from two minutes to one and requiring physicals for competitors over 35.

The Toughman contest comes to Rockford April 4 and 5. Contestant signup begins March 1. For more information call 399-7628. For tickets call 968-5222 or go to www.centreevents.com.


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