When the Reagan Administration cut off U.S. aid to Nicaragua in April, it put itself very much in the company of former WBC super featherweight champion Alexis Arguello. Arguello, a Nicaraguan, expressed his disapproval of his country's regime by fleeing soon after Sandinista rebels overthrew President Anastasio Somoza in 1979. Now Arguello has less incentive than ever to return to his native land, because the Nicaraguan government recently became the only Western Hemisphere country besides Cuba to abolish professional boxing. That sport had ranked with baseball ( Baltimore Oriole Pitcher Dennis Martinez is also a Nicaraguan) in popularity among the nation's sports fans, with pro bouts long attracting rabid crowds in Managua.
The law banning pro boxing provides for jail sentences and fines for promoters and fighters who violate it, and two of the country's leading promoters recently followed Arguello into exile. Juan Navarro, sports editor of La Prensa, a Managua newspaper that has been critical of the Sandinista government, says of the new edict, "It was a negative decision because the families of boxers have been left without means of support. Instead of banning boxing, they should have tried to humanize the sport and given it a better set of rules to protect the fighters physically and economically."
One loophole in the new law, for now anyway, is that Nicaraguan boxers are not expressly forbidden to fight professionally outside the country. Thus, light flyweight Rudy Crawford met WBC champion Hilario Zapata of Panama in a title bout on April 24 in San Francisco. Crawford lost a 15-round decision but reportedly was allowed to retain his $15,000 purse after returning home. Whether or not this loophole is eventually closed, the ruling junta obviously considers professional boxing hopelessly corrupt and, as one source put it, "a capitalist venture that exploits the boxer." The government has made it known that it intends to channel more money into amateur sports, including boxing, to make them more readily available to the masses.
THE PGA CHOMPIONSHIP
Concerned that golf isn't attracting enough younger fans, the PGA Tour has come up with a promotional brainstorm. A line of bubble-gum cards is about to go on sale featuring golf's top 60 money leaders for 1980, five of whom will also appear on another group of cards honoring such statistical leaders as Lee Trevino, who had the lowest strokes-per-round average, and Dan Pohl, tops in average driving distance. Produced by Donruss, the cards will sell for 250 for a pack of seven, gum included. PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman hopes that youngsters soon will be trading a Gibby for a Fuzzy the same way they might swap a Reggie for a Yaz. Beman also hopes the cards will turn kids on to the pleasures of golf, at which point they'll learn a melancholy lesson: Never crack your bubble gum during the hushed silence of somebody's backswing.
Under a bill passed by the Idaho legislature and signed by Governor John Evans, taxpayers in that state will have the option next year of contributing up to $5 to the U.S. Olympic Committee by means of a checkoff box on their state-income-tax returns. The contribution is in addition to taxes; this distinguishes the checkoff from those on federal and certain state income-tax forms that citizens can use to earmark part of their taxes for political campaign funding. If a citizen has a tax refund coming, he can specify that up to $5 of it be directed to the USOC. If he owes taxes, he can add up to $5 to his payment. The bill's sponsor, State Senator Mike Mitchell, says that the measure is intended to help the U.S. field its strongest possible team at the 1984 Olympics. Though the scheme is expected to bring the USOC a relatively modest $40,000 a year from Idahoans, Mitchell hopes it will serve as a precedent to spur other states to adopt similar measures. "If one of those big ones pass it, we're talking about big bucks," Mitchell says.
Well intentioned though it certainly is, the Idaho law may be the kind of precedent lawmakers should think twice about. The problem is that fund raisers for many other worthy causes would dearly love to receive similar tax-return-checkoff privileges, which would involve little overhead for themselves and be relatively painless to contributors, many of whom may figure that as long as they're already paying so much in taxes, a few extra dollars for charity won't hurt. Oregon already has adopted a checkoff on its state income-tax form that citizens can use to contribute up to $5 to the State Department of Fish and Wildlife for non-game wildlife habitat protection. There has been a push in Congress to put checkoff boxes on federal tax returns to benefit the National Endowment for the Arts. In Idaho the legislature defeated amendments to Mitchell's bill benefiting the USOC that would have granted the same privileges to both the Special Olympics and public television.
As a fund-raising approach, use of tax-form checkoffs has the advantage of being voluntary. But David Keating, director of legislative policy for the National Taxpayers Union, warns, "Where would you draw the line once this gets under way? There are many good and qualified charities. But how much can you clutter up the tax form? It will just unravel into one big mess." Keating concludes: "If Idaho legislators want to raise funds for the Olympic Committee, there are other ways, such as speeches and banquets and fund raisers. You can get the people involved without giving the USOC a line on the tax form."
THEY SAID IT