State ends fight against 'beatdowns'
ST. PETERSBURG - The Florida Boxing Commission has dropped a cease-and-desist order issued in April against the Shefights.net website that features women pummeling homeless men and other male volunteers. A spokesperson for the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation said investigators determined the "pugilistic events" depicted on the website do not fall under the commission's jurisdiction because they don't meet the definition of a boxing match. The commission originally was in the corner of attorneys suing the site's creator, J.P. Florida Productions LLC, on behalf of two homeless men in St. Petersburg who were paid $50 for submitting to "12 minute beatdowns" by women trained in mixed martial arts. The beatings, which took place in the garage of a condominium near Tropicana Field this year, involved punching, kicking and whipping.Attorneys from Southern Legal Counsel Inc. representing the homeless men allege one of them was hogtied and suffered broken ribs and a dislocated jaw. The website's attorney described the bouts as a form of sadomasochistic expression. "This is not a boxing match by any imagination," said attorney Luke Lirot, who represents Shefights founder Jeffrey Williams. "One of the complaints is that they didn't go through the proper review process, they didn't have the accreditations or the medical crew you need for a boxing match," Lirot said. Lirot told WFLA that when he inquired about the approval process, the commission couldn't supply answers. "My argument was if they can't get approved by anyone, you can't complain they haven't got permission to do this." The boxing commission might be out of the fight, but the legal challenge continues in the form of a pending civil suit alleging hate crimes against the homeless. Lirot said both sides are beginning to take sworn statements. He said the homeless men's story of painful exploitation soon will unravel. "My information shows me that these people wanted to participate in this and, in fact, came back time after time," Lirot said. "Not because they're desperate, but because they actually liked the activity." Attorney Gabriela Ruiz, who represents the homeless men, said she was surprised by the boxing commission's decision to drop its cease-and-desist order. Ruiz did not want to comment further before directly confirming the commission's action.
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