The Toughman Contest, founded in 1979 in Bay City, Michigan by boxing promoter Art Dore, is a chance for the novice amateur fighters (those with no more than 5 sanctioned wins in the past 5 years) to test themselves in the ring.
Using standard boxing rules, 16 oz. gloves, headgear,and 3 rounds of 1 minute with a 45-second rest period, The Original Toughman Contest plays across the US in between 75 and 100 cities each year and culminates with the World Championship which in 2008 was held at Sam's Town Casino in Tunica, MS.
Tournaments feature the local residents of a particular city (generally, participants must live within 100-150 mile radius of where the event is to be held) who are at least 18 years of age, pass a standard boxing physical, and meet any other requirements of the State's Boxing Commissions' regulations, and also sign a waiver freeing the parent company from liability. Some states, like Florida and Missouri do not sanction Toughman but do license mixed martial arts, an event many people confuse with the Original Toughman Contest.
The Original Toughman Contest is often mistaken with other elimination tournaments and therefore bears the media brunt for those contests which sometimes illegally use the trademarked name, or derivatives of it. Toughman holds events only in states that have rules or state code permitting the format.
Toughman made Art Dore a celebrity and generated a Twentieth Century Fox movie called Tough Enough which starred Dennis Quaid and was about Dore and the boxing phenomenon he conceived after finding the crowds wanted to see ordinary people fight. Toughman alumni include Mr. T; Tommy Morrison; Eric "Butterbean" Esch; and from the fall of 2006, the winner of the "Contender Television Series," the former Lawton, OK Toughman Contest Champion, Grady "Bad Boy" Brewer.In 1983 Macon Georgia was surprised by a lightweight named Glynn Eubanks, Among them is also former Maine State Representative Chris Greeley, who fought in 1996, and who also completed his 8th year in the Maine House of Representatives in 2010. Mike Raver the 1993 Columbus Ohio Toughman. Eric "Chicago" Herrholz the 1992 Houston Ship Channel Toughman "Stevedores vs Longshoremen".
One special group of celebs are the "fighting Brown family from Tennessee." The only family in Toughman's three decades of shows, to have three sons win championships: Melvin "Lawdawg" Brown, Josh "Downtown" Brown, and little brother, "Bushido" Brown. Father Mel Brown also held a Toughman Contest for soldiers in Iraq.
Deaths and Controversy
National attention was drawn to the risks of the Toughman bouts following the death of thirty-year-old Stacy Young in a "Toughwoman" bout staged as part of a Toughman competition in Sarasota FL in 2003. Twenty-year-old Sara Kobie pummeled Young, a last-minute entry, resulting in Young's death from brain injuries. Art Dore's company was sued by Ms. Young's husband, but Dore was able to stall the litigation by getting part of the case venue moved from Florida to his home state of Michigan. The following year, Florida enacted the Stacy Young Act into law, requiring such competitions be sanctioned by the Florida State Boxing Commission. A 2007 review of boxing deaths documented six fatalities in "Original Toughman" competitions since 1979, and another ten in "Toughman-style" bouts.
2005 World Championship Results
Aubrey Bickerstaff (14-0 5 ko's) is the 2005 World Toughman Light-Heavyweight Champion by defeating Ryan Carroll (13-3 9 ko's). Glen Sovich (record unknown) is the 2005 World Toughman Heavyweight Champion by defeating Ray Carpenter
2006 World Championship Results
Josh"Downtown"Brown (38-3) is the 2006 World Light-Heavyweight Toughman Champion by defeating Mike Tufariello (record unknown) via Unanimous Decision. Lee McGinnis (15-1) is the 2006 World Heavyweight Toughman Champion by defeating Devo Devuono (30-4) via KO in the 2nd round.
Lee McGinnis (20-1) is the 2008 World Heavyweight Toughman Champion by defeating Darrell Ellis of Little Rock, AR (record unknown) via Unanimous decision.This is Lee McGinnis second straight World Heavyweight Toughman Championship.
1996 World Championship Results
Craig "The Irish Commando" Cullen (18-0) from Massena,New York light heavyweight Champion. Never fought again after winning the Championship in Massena NY. Craig "The Irish Commando" Cullen went on to earn a Masters of Education at the State University of New York Potsdam.
- Grady Brewer
- Eric "Butterbean" Esch
- Chris Greeley
- Forrest Griffin
- Mighty Mo
- Tommy Morrison
- Joe Schilling
- Mr. T
- Matt Serra
- "Death under the Spotlight: The Manuel Velazquez Collection", Journal of Combative Sport.
- Hewitt, Bill. "Death in the Ring". December 08, 2003 Vol. 60 No. 23. People Magazine.
- "How Does An Event Police Itself?". June 30th, 2003. ikf.
- "11 deaths attributed to Toughman boxing". April 18, 2008. Good Morning America.