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Government should not regulate fights

Sept. 3, 2003

Staff editorial

The unalienable rights - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - are at the cornerstone of contemporary American culture. But what if the pursuit of happiness causes harm to oneself or others?

Toughman competitions have become the latest recreational craze. Competitors sign waivers to fight in a series of three one-minute rounds against an opponent of the same gender. Fighters wear gloves and in most cases are limited to punching, but no other rules exist. And unlike traditional boxing, where fighters are paired through weight classes, a competitor can battle someone up to three times his or her body weight.

At least four people have died during Toughman competitions this year, including a Florida mother whose daughters were in the audience when she fell to the ground and began having seizures during a match. State and federal lawmakers are trying to regulate the sport, which is not sanctioned by any professional or amateur boxing associations.

Although Toughman fights are brutal and deadly, the government should not step in and force sanctions on the activity. The participants are consenting adults who are aware of the potential consequences of their actions. The government cannot regulate an individual's activities simply because the person may hurt himself or herself. Mountain biking, skydiving, drag racing and a host of other leisure activities also are potentially deadly, some even more so than Toughman.

Toughman may not be the cleanest, friendliest or most humane of activities, but short of outlawing the competitions in individual states, the government cannot take any other regulating action. Doing so would infringe on the most basic of American rights - the pursuit of happiness.