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Pay-per-view tax would boost boxing

Any boxing enthusiast knows it's an expensive sport to follow.

If you want to see a major fight card in the comfort of your living room, you've got to plunk down $30 or $40, on average, to purchase the pay-per-view telecast.You can get a half-dozen buddies together, split the cost and maybe have enough left for pizza and cold beverages. But when the challenger goes down in the first round, before you've even made it to your chair, you wonder if it was really worth it.

The next time you purchase a pay-per-view fight, you might have to pay another nickel for every dollar you spend.

But Sen. Pete Suazo, D-Salt Lake City, is betting you'll be willing to pay the extra fee - $2 for a $40 fight - if the proceeds are used to promote boxing in Utah and bring major prize fights to the Beehive state.

Suazo's SB48, which may get its first Senate committee hearing next week, would impose a 5-percent excise tax on pay-per-view matches.

Half of the money collected would go to Utah amateur boxing clubs for equipment, travel and other expenses.

The rest would go to the Utah Boxing Commission, which could use the money for travel, athlete drug-testing and to bring high-profile professional title bouts to Utah, possibly at the West Valley Event Center. Suazo said several local promoters are interested in that prospect.

"We have a stable of young pros here, and they all have to leave" the state to compete, he said. He wants them to be able to fight in their own backyard, in front of their friends, family and supporters.

Suazo, who three years ago passed a bill setting up the state boxing commission, is as enthused about this bill as any he's advanced. He envisions a return to Utah's boxing heyday of the 1950s and '60s, when West Jordan fighter Gene Fullmer held the middleweight crown. Fullmer has been invited by Suazo to speak to lawmakers in support of the bill.

The states of Arizona, Florida, Iowa and New Mexico, among others, tax pay-per-view boxing matches to promote the sport, Suazo said. The New Mexico tax generated $70,000 a year ago, he said.

"There is no other way to promote boxing in this state," said Suazo, a former amateur fighter who has worked as a boxing referee throughout the country and for bouts featured on ESPN.

"Believe me, there is a lot of support for this in the fight crowd because they understand."

Cable television executives don't.

They fear the proposed law would lead to taxation on other pay-per-view events, including movies, and could be the deciding factor in a customer's thinking on whether to buy a pay-per-view show.

"That's part of our concern, that we're going to lose the substantial base on pay-per-view events," said Dan Sutton, a general manager for Insight Communications.