Iowa City City Council considers approving amateur boxing match in liquor establishments after decade

The city council unanimously passed an amendment to an ordinance that previously barred any amateur boxing events from taking place in liquor-licensed establishments.


Shuntaro Kawasaki

City council members communicate during an Iowa City City Council meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023.

Isabelle Foland, News Reporter

After over a decade of being prohibited, Iowa City may allow an amateur boxing match at the Graduate Hotel following the Iowa City City Council’s approval of an amendment to a city ordinance that banned amateur boxing in liquor-licensed establishments.

The ordinance was introduced in 2007 following an incident at a “Fight Night” at The Union Bar. It was revealed that experienced fighters fought against inexperienced and possibly intoxicated fighters, the meeting’s agenda states.

The proposed amendment would add an exception for amateur boxing matches that are sanctioned by USA Boxing.

The first consideration of this ordinance passed unanimously. The ordinance will officially go into effect after it has passed a second consideration and a final vote.

The amendment was proposed following a recent American Rescue Plan Act grant awarded to Think Iowa City by the City of Iowa City to bring the Golden Gloves State Championship boxing tournament to the Graduate Hotel.

Golden Gloves is a program that runs regulated amateur boxing matches and tournaments in the U.S.

Because the Graduate Hotel has a liquor license, they would only be able to host the event if they changed the stipulations of the ordinance, which bans all amateur boxing in any liquor-licensed establishment. 

This is not the type of event intended to be prohibited by the city’s 2007 ban on amateur fights,” the agenda states. “Golden Gloves events are highly regulated and well run, and unlikely to result in the negative externalities seen in the earlier ‘Fight Night’ events.”

This amendment was brought to the attention of Iowa City staff by Clifton Johnson, who is the owner of the Iowa City gym ICOR Boxing, vice president of Iowa Golden Gloves, and a member of the Iowa City Ad Hoc Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

City Councilor Pauline Taylor spoke highly of Johnson and the opportunities the event will bring to Iowa City.

“I have great regard for Cliff, and what he has done for the youth and young men in this community, so from a health and safety standpoint, I don’t see a problem,” Taylor said.

Mayor Bruce Teague agreed with this sentiment and hopes this event will spark more like it in the future.

“I would agree that young folks here will benefit from this on many levels, but there’s also older individuals as well that partake in boxing activities, and I think this would be great,” Teague said. “Hopefully, there’ll be more opportunities where some light in this arena will be shone here in Iowa City.”

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