Final Round Near for Toughman

By: Nichole Vrsansky
By: Nichole Vrsansky

A Winnebago County Judge delivers a tough blow for the Toughman competition in Rockford. He says because of the Governor's ban, the February show should not go on. Blagojevich banned the contest last month for safety reasons, but promoter Bob Johnston says he's not hanging up his gloves just yet.

"Especially when I’ve been working on the show for three months, Rockford looks forward to it," says Johnston.

Rockford banks on it as well. Toughman packs a big economic punch for the city. But state regulators say no amount of money is worth injury or death.

Twelve deaths have been linked to the brawls, though not in Illinois. State regulators say, since just about anyone can enter the ring; events are more like organized street fights.

“I think the expectation is that it's a well organized event, but with Toughman, that's just not the case. It’s not like in licensed boxing. There's a world of difference between the two,” says Patrick Hughes of the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation.

Johnston plans on filing another injunction this week. He argues his events are as safe as any amateur boxing match, but he agrees getting into the ring is a risk, yet one those who participate should be well aware of.

"We have a release form and they read that and it says subject to death, but just like professional football, you're taking somewhat of a chance," says Johnston.

But not a chance the governor and state regulators are willing to take.

The Toughman competition was scheduled for February 27 and 28 at the Metro Center.


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