Ted Sares fought as an amateur boxer in the Chicago area in the 50's. He has since become a boxing historian and member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He specializes in articles that capture the pathos of the sport. His works have been featured on a number of boxing sites and magazines including East Side Boxing, Fightkings, WAIL Magazine, IBRO Journal, Saddoboxing.com, and many others

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hector Camacho in the Hall

By Ted Sares

Personalities should not be included among the criteria for getting into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Let's get through that knothole at the outset. Hector Luis "Macho" Camacho can be very obnoxious, but so what? It's what happens in the ring that counts (unless, of course, a boxer's life style impact his abilities), so let's break down his chances of getting into the Hall once he retires...if he hasn't already....and let's do it on the basis of what he has accomplished in the ring

1) Record: W 78 (37 ko's) L 5 D 2 Total 85 That's a lot of fights in todays boxing world, but "The Macho Man" spaced his fights carefully and paced himself well over his long career. Back in the pre '80's, he was a multiple N.Y. Golden Gloves Champion. Born in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, he became the first Puerto Rican to have won the World Boxing Championship (WBC) and World Boxing Organization (WBO) championships in the lightweight division.

2) Quality of opposition: Outstanding. He defeated Ray Mancini, Roberto Duran (twice), Sugar Ray Leonard, Tony Menefee, Heath Todd, Gary Kirkland, Luis Maysonet, Jorge Vaca, Todd Foster, Pat Lawlor, Reyes Antonio Cruz, Greg Haugen, Tony Baltazar, Ken Sigurani, Howard Davis, Jr, Cornelius Boza Edwards, Freddie Roach, Vinny Paz, Edwin Rosario, Jose Luis Ramirez ( a member of the World Boxing Hall of Fame), Rafael Limon, John Montes, Greg Conversion, Melvin Paul, and Louis Burke. He was defeated by Julio Cesar Chavez, 108-6-2, Felix Trinidad, 42-2, Greg Haugen, 40-10-1(he lost by an extremely controversial decision when, inexplicitly, he was penalized for not touching gloves before the last round; he won the rematch), Oscar De La Hoya, 38-4, and Chris Walsh, 19-7-1 by TD. He didn't fight either Chacon or Pernell Whitaker, but not from his own doing. Bobby Chacon chose to fight Ray Mancini, and the Duvas never made the match with Whitaker.

3) Era: 1980-2005...multiple eras over a 25 year boxing career. Camacho has been fighting for 25 years. When you consider that Archie Moore's career spanned 27 years, you get a better perspective....though Hector's fight have been far and few between in recent years. Nevertheless, he fought at or near the top of his divisions during eras that included great fighters. The list of his opponents reads like a "whose who" of tough fighters; it includes an astounding fourteen world champions including Hall of Famers, Sugar Ray Leonard and Edwin Rosario, and at least four future inductees (De La Hoya, Duran, Chavez, and Trinidad). And to Camacho's credit, he has never been stopped and has been down arguably only once. In 1989, when he met former world lightweight champion Ray "Boom Boom " Mancini (who was 29-3 with 23 knockouts coming into the fight), Camacho won a unanimous decision for the vacant WBO Junior Welterweight title. In so doing, he joined an exclusive "club" of world champions boxers who have become three-time world champions

4) Style: An imitator of Muhammad Ali's controversial and flashy style and flair, few could out finesse or out speed him. Boxing experts and fans were enthusiastic about him in his early career. Indeed, Ali and Camacho's style was adopted by Roy Jones, Jr and Naseem Hamed, to name a few, and it brought excitement to their fights, but then he met tough Edwin Rosario in1986. He dominated the early rounds, but had to hang on in rounds five, six and seven when he caught the fury and power of Rosario. He came back to take rounds eight and nine, but Rosario came on late. Camacho won the title fight by split decision, but afterwards his style changed into a more defensive one that seemed more safety first, avoiding punishment rather than engaging his opponents. After the fight, his face busted up, he kiddingly said, "Hey, if this is macho, I don't want no part of it."

With his more conservative, albeit less crowd pleasing style in place, he then fought a long list to top contenders and former champions. In 1994, he seemed to change his style once more using flat footed power to score some impressive ko's. Included among his stoppage victims were contenders Luis Maysonet and Todd Foster. He drew with rugged Jorge Vaca in 1999 and then cut back on the frequency of his fights, His last fight was in July 2005 when he beat the limited Raul Munoz by UD in Tuscon. Whether he fights again remains to be seen, but he has become a regular at the Hall's induction ceremonies in upstate New York and I would not be surprised to see him fight one more time.

At the end of the fight, what counts most is whose hand the referee raises. In the case of the Macho Man, his hand was raised 78 times and that's not bad. Whether he gets into the Hall or not is not my decision, but I believe a compelling case can be made for his induction. Great opposition, three-time world champion, a long career....that's enough for me. Either way, and with his considerable business acumen, he will likely leave the game on his own terms.

Ted Sares is a boxing historian and writer who can be reached at

Thursday, September 14, 2006

What's in a Name? Exclusive for WAIL , A CBZ Journal

By Ted Sares

Here we go again. Two undefeated, free-swinging heavyweights with several fights under their belts ready to rumble in Convention Center in Atlantic City on December 14, 1996, and I was there. A month prior to this fight, Courage "No Limit" Tshabalala fought Jessie Henry (5-12) and Brian "Bam Bam" Scott fought Brian Yates (13-86-3). Not what one might call the best competition out there. "Bam Bam" Scott started out with an unbeaten streak of 15 before stepping up in March 1994 and getting iced by Tommy Morrison in the second round. Leading up to that fight, Scott's opponents included the immortal Andre Smiley, (0-25-1) whom he beat twice, and John Basil Jackson (4-75-2), whom he also beat twice. He then went on a seven-fight unbeaten streak before losing to limited Derrick Roddy and a streaking (at least then) Jorge Luis Gonzalez, both by second round KO. One of Bam Bam's other opponents was Alan Jamison (0-20). He also fought Mike Smith (4-14-1) twice. Most of his opponents had losing records, and many had never won a professional fight. But this was about hype, and the South African, Tshabalala, had far more than the overweight (278 pounds) heavyweight out of the unlikely boxing state of Kansas.

On the other side of the ledger, this man named Courage was a shooting star from 1993 to 1996, winning 19 in a row with 12 first-round KOs and three second-round KOs. Only three fights went the distance. But there were warning signs, albeit subtle at first. He claimed to have had something like a 70-1 amateur record, but to my knowledge it has never been verified. Then commentator Larry Merchant termed Tshabalala one of the saviors of boxing and "the best heavyweight since Mike Tyson." Merchant, who in my opinion isn't the greatest researcher, forgot to mention that many of his opponents leading up to the Scott fight had atrocious if not unverifiable records. Indeed, after this and a few other fights, Tshabalala would even take on legendary Danny Wofford (17-101-2).But back to December 14, 1996. The highly touted Tshabalala was a huge favorite and we all anticipated an early knockout, a la Tommy Morrison.

We were not disappointed. Only one problem. It was Tshabalala who got blown away by a sneaky, sharp and surprisingly fast Scott right in the second round. As we left the venue in semi-amazement, we wondered out loud whether this was just a fluke and whether Tshabalala would bounce back. Was Scott that good or was Tshabalala that bad? The consensus was that he would come back.

He next fought Stanley Hughey (7-16) in January 1997 and won by first-round KO. His next big fight was scheduled for June 3, 1997, at the legendary Blue Horizon in Philadelphia against Darroll "Doin' Damage" Wilson. After being down in the first and engaging in an ebb-and-flow second, Wilson used his superior skills to out-box Tshabalala in the third. Suddenly, however, he was caught by a big winging right hook. Wilson went down like he was shot and just barely got up and then fell down again, but he made it up just before the referee got to 10. Lou Duva (Tshabalala's manager and trainer) protested the referee's call in his usual hyper fashion but to no avail. Wilson held off the South African in the fourth when Tshabalala came in for the kill. Wilson then fought back (like he did against Shannon Briggs) and began to take the heart out of Courage. He soon drew Tshabalala into fierce exchanges, and Tshabalala, exposing a stamina problem, tired badly. Finally, Wilson used combinations and put Tshabalala down. Tshabalala spit out his mouthpiece and stayed down as referee Rudy Battle stopped the fight. The battle was hailed as one of the most exciting heavyweight fights of the year.

In just two years, Tshabalala had participated in one of the upsets of the year and one of the most exciting fights of the year. If nothing else, he was on everyone's radar.Tshabalala then stopped three inferior opponents, including the aforementioned Danny Wofford and journeyman Tony LaRosa. The Chicagoan had lost seven in a row coming into the fight but actually hurt "No Limit," perhaps revealing still another warning sign. He was then booked to fight Oleg Maskaev in June 1998. Besides moving up significantly in class, the fight would be in Maskaev's hometown of Moscow. Tshabalala, a big underdog, was given a puncher's chance and nothing else. He did not disappoint; he was KO'd in the ninth.

A discouraged Courage would then take five years off to ponder his future. He returned to fight Lenzie Morgan (14-29-3) winning by spilt decision in a six-rounder in Cape Cod in July 2003. His next two fights were won by early stoppage and he seemed to be getting a bit of grounding.Stepping up once again, he signed to fight mediocre but sometimes dangerous Robert Wiggins on July 1, 2005, in Plymouth, Massachusettes. It would be his fourth fight of his comeback and his first semi-serious test as a force in the division. At only 34, he could conceivably line himself up for bigger paydays with a strong showing. To his credit, he weighed under 235 pounds, the lowest weight of his comeback efforts thus far. He seem ready to make a statement.

Wiggins (19-4-1, 11 KOs), out of Providence, Rhode Island, was a hot-and-cold fighter who had fought decent competition and could make the fight a slugfest or a snoozefest depending on which Robert Wiggins showed up. At any rate, the bout sized up to be a classic crossroads fight -- and also a toss-up. But this time, I thought the likable Courage just might pull it off, since Wiggins had lost three of his last five fights.

The two heavyweights went to war on the co-feature of ESPN2's Friday Night Fights. And one again, Tshabalala failed to live up to his first name as Wiggins scored a TKO in the fifth when Tshabalala could not come out of his corner. Both fighters were throwing heavy punches early, but Wiggins was landing the cleaner shots. Incredibly, Tshabalala landed three low blows on Wiggins and was deducted two points for them. After the fight, Tshabalala's handlers stated that he'd broken his hand in the first round thus causing him to quit on his stool, but those of us watching this fight felt that his suspicious stamina once again played a bigger part in the stoppage. I also wondered why he would throw three low blows, and visions of Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield quickly passed by.

I don't mean to be harsh, but anyone named Courage should not have let a fighter off the hook when he had him down twice and almost out; anyone named Courage should not be knocked out by an overweight fighter out of Kansas; anyone named Courage should train so stamina never becomes an issue in a five-round fight. And above all, anyone named Courage should never, ever concede a fight by retiring on his stool. Courage Tshabalala has not fought since this debacle in Plymouth, and I suspect the career of this former prospect is now over. Despite his so-called great amateur record and quick professional start of 19 straight wins, most by early stoppage, Courage simply never lived up to his name.

"Sammy Peter has loads of raw talent and potential. But he has fought such low-level opposition it's hard to know where he's going. It's a crapshoot. Maybe he'll be champ. Maybe he'll be the next Courage Tshabalala." --Dan Rafael (April 9, 2004).

What is it about Jamaica?

By Ted Sares

Jamaica is known for great reggae singers, wonderful and hard working people, fantastic food, beautiful beaches, and an interesting bob sledding team. While boxing is not actively participated in, the tiny island nation has had a hand in producing (either by birth or by parentage) a disproportionate number of very tough boxers. But you'd never know it because many fight under the flags of the countries to which they immigrated. As Jamaican boxing expert and essayist Scott Neufville puts it, "The world has seen many great Jamaican fighters. The world has watched as they have pummeled champions, broken gladiators and stood proud above fallen warriors. But the world has not known they were Jamaican."

Two such fighters went to war recently at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, FL and when the dust settled, road warrior Glen Johnson, who was born in Jamaica, had been crowned the new International Boxing Association champion, but his opponent, Richard "The Destroyer" Hall had earned considerable respect for a competitive and gutty showing. Johnson, 44-10-2, 29 KOs, Ring Magazine's Fighter of the Year two years ago and IBF IBA Light Heavyweight champion (but just lost a closely fought battle with Clinton Woods in England). Giving the night a distinctive Jamaican flavor, Hall entered the ring to Jr. Gong Marley's "Welcome to Jamrock." Yha Mon.

There are many other fighters who can trace their origins to Jamaica one way or another. One of my favorites and one of best ever is the "Body Snatcher," Mike McCallum, 49-5-1, 36 KO's and World Champion at 154, 160, 175 lbs who, as a fearless road warrior, fought just about anyone who was anybody from 1981 to 1997. He remains Jamaica's most popular fighter and has achieved legendary status on the island nation. But hey, Lennox Lewis, former world heavyweight champion, who was born in London but traces his connection through his mother, was pretty darn good as well. He retired with a fine record of 42-2-1 and like Hall, frequently entered the ring to reggae music. Mike Tyson, after being knocked out by Lewis, had this to say, "He [Lewis] was splendid, a masterful boxer.......he's a magnificent, prolific fighter." Mike McCallum is in the Hall of Fame; Lennox Lewis, for his great achievements, will soon be. And who could forget the great Simon "Mantequilla" Brown, WBC and IBF Welterweight title holder who ko'd Terry Norris in1993 for the WBC Light Middleweight Title in Ring Magazine's "Upset of the Year."

Other notable Jamaican fighters of the past include the heavy handed Alex Stewart, 43-10 with 40 big ko's. Stewart waged war with Evander Holyfield and almost ruined Geroge Foreman's comeback. Still others were troubled Trevor Berbick who came onto the scene with a stunning ko of Big John Tate and who beat an aging Ali in his (Ali's) last fight, Richard "Shrimpy" Clarke ( the much-loved 'Shrimpy' came close to winning the world flyweight title against Thailand's great Sot Chitalada), Michael Bentt, former WBO heavyweight champ who knocked out heavily favored Tommy Morrison in a monster first round upset, Lloyd "Jabba" Bryan, 22-13, Maurice Core, 15-2-1, the popular Bunny Grant (a promising fighter who lost a decision to Eddie Perkins, welterweight boxing champion in 1964), Uriah Grant who beat an aging Tommy Hearns for something called the IBO Cruiserweight Title in 2000, Anthony Logan, 18-4-1, who fought both Benn and Eubanks and won the WBC Continental Americas Middleweight Title in 19990, Percy Hayles (who fought but lost to Carlos Hernandez for a super-lightweight championship in 1965), leading contender Donovan "Razor" Ruddock who fought Mike Tyson twice and many other top contenders, Boston area light middleweight Marshall Simpson who retired with a fine 25-1 record, Bunny Sterling, and the immortal Cuban amateur and multiple Olmpic champion, Teofilo Stevenson.

Of particular note, British and Canadian boxers of Caribbean descent have dominated the national boxing scene since the early 1980s. In 1995 Frank Bruno, whose mother was a lay preacher from Jamaica, became Britain's first heavyweight boxing champion in the century. His reign was shortly followed by Lennox Lewis who became, of course, the world's premier heavyweight during the late 1990s. Middleweights Chris Eubanks, 45-5-2, (who spent his early years in Jamaica) and fierce warrior Nigel Benn, 42-5-1, (of Barbadian descent) both claimed world titles and fought a series of brutal battles in the early 1990s. In the 2000 Olympics, Audley Harrison (who has Jamaican heritage) became Britain's first heavyweight gold medalist. Other fighters from the British African-Caribbean community include the Welterweight champion Lloyd Honeyghan nicknamed "Ragamuffin" due to his Jamaican roots. He defeated heavily favored Donald Curry in 1986 and in an equally stunning upset, welterweight Kirkland Laing, 43-12-1, beat Roberto Duran in1982. Others were Journeymen Oscar Angus and George Walker (both Jamaican-born), former British and European champ Henry Rhiney, British champ Des Morrison and Commowealth champ Donovan Boucher (all Jamaican-born), former contender Adrian "The Predator" Stone, 35-5-2, and heavyweight Rupert Thomas, 10-1-1.

On the current boxing landscape, O'Neil Bell, 26-1-1, who recently iced Jean Marc Mormeck to become WBC, WBA and IBF Cruiserweight Champion comes to mind as does current cruiserweight Chris Johnson, 26-3-1, hard punching middleweight Teddy Reid, 23-8-2, current heavyweight contender Owen Beck, 25-3, and Otis Grant, 38-3-1, former WBC International Super Middleweight and WBO Middleweight champ. Light Heavyweight Lloyd "Jabba" Bryan, 22-13 remains active as well.

Also out there is Richard Grant, 19-13-1, who beat to tough James "The Harlem Hammer" Butler in 2001. Curiously, after the fight, Grant approached Butler to hug him but was instead sucker-punched in the jaw by Butler, who was then arrested, convicted, and sent to jail for his trouble. Grant suffered a broken jaw.

As an aside, Livingston Bramble, frequently taken for a Jamaican, is from the Virgin Islands as are the great Julian Jackson and Emile Griffith......and Guyana produced such notables as Reggie Ford, Terrence Ali, Wayne Braithwaite, "Six Heads" Lewis, and Vivian Harris

But despite this rich and proud heritage, it appears boxing will be limited to television viewing in Jamaica. One of the problems is that when there are prospects, they leave the Island for the U.S or the U.K. Most of the gyms are either closed or ramshackle and few youngsters really want to get involved in boxing. There are no programs nor is there any regular competition so there is little incentive for boxers to train, not to mention the absence of someone to teach them the fundamentals of competitive boxing. So for now, these Jamaican gladiators will continue to stand proud over other warriors, but likely under another flag.

"So as sure as the sun will shine I'm gonna get my share now what is mine - And then the harder they comeThe harder they fall" Lyrics from the "Harder They Come" by Jimmy Cliff

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Pension for Boxers: Let's Get It On!

By Ted Sares
"Feel Good" stories are nice to write and hopefully nicer to read. This is not such an article. This is one that indicts and condemns the boxing establishment, politicians and government officials for failing to address in a decisive manner an issue that has been neglected far too long.

Too many boxing stories seem to end wrong. Great fighters who have thrilled us over the years, whether fighting for a championship belt or at a local club, face retirement without any kind of financial assistance or access to medical care. Many suffer from depression, alcohol and substance abuse, rage disorders, homelessness or being indigent, bankruptcy (even the great Joe Louis died penniless), and a total lack of financial awareness. Few even know how to engage basic investment vehicles or where to go for help. Some suffer from the terrible effects of boxer’s syndrome (pugilistic dementia). In this connection, Bobby Chacon, about whom I have written in the past, Willie Pep, Jimmy Ellis, Wilfredo Benitez and the late Jimmy Young come to mind. When he died in June at age 55 in an assisted living center in California, Mike Quarry tragically followed his brother. Jerry, who was 53 when he passed away in January1999 in a hospital in Templeton, Calif. Among their afflictions, both suffered from the dreadful pugilistica dementia. Jimmy Lester just passed away. Some, like Greg Page or Gerald McClellan, have been injured in the ring; something that can occur in a split second. For many ex-fighters, a combination of these factors can make for a dismal outlook.

Of course, there are many stories that end the other way....Harry Arroyo, Jerry Cooney, John Scully, Larry Holmes, Dana Rosenblatt , Alex Ramos and Virgil Hill, to name a few and I have written about many of them.

That said, my message here is a stinging indictment of the boxing establishment, particularly those promoters and officials who seem to remain unmoved in their single minded quest to make money from the sport without giving back to those who generated the money in the first place. Professional hockey players, baseball players, football players and soccer players, to name just a few, all have great benefit packages including pension features. In a word, boxers have none, and it's been that way too long. But it doesn't have to be.

How difficult can it be to set up a plan similar to a 401k scheme in which a small percentage of each purchased ticket (including PPV) is transferred into a central fund and matched in some equitable manner by fight promoters? I submit that with the appropriate expertise and financial assistance, this would not be difficult at all. But it is not my purpose here to define the specifics (I.e., eligibility, trustees, pay-out features, annuities, matching's, lump sum conversions, etc) of how such a plan could be structured (though I believe I could do that without too much difficulty). Suffice to say translating the concept to reality is long overdue and each day that boxers go without such needed assistance is a shameful day for boxing. As Jack Newfield states in his article entitled, "The Shame of Boxing" (posted on the web in October 25, 2001, "I have known a lot of fighters and liked almost all of them. They have no pension, no union, no health insurance, no voice. For every George Foreman who gets rich, there are 1,000 you never hear of who end up with slurred speech, failing memory and an empty bank account."

Sure, there are other extremely important variables that come into play such as the possible role of unions (the Teamster affiliated Joint Association of Boxers), the Professional Boxing Safety Act of 1996, the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, the Professional Boxing Amendments Act of 2003, and, of course, the possibility of a national boxing commission, but these should not become red hearings that impede the immediate need for a pension plan. On the contrary, they should become enablers to help make it happen. But wait, someone had already thought of about this, although in a way that needs some major improvements.


The Mission Statement of the former California State Athletic Commission was to make California the model state for the welfare of boxers and other licensees, with worldwide respect from the public and the industry. In line with this it established a Professional Boxers Pension Plan the concept of which could easily be the model for all other states to build on. The plan is as follows:


1. General Information About the Plan

The name of the plan is the Professional Boxers' Pension Plan. The entire plan is set out in the California Business and Professions Code ("Code") and in Title 4 of the California Code of Regulations section 400 through 416 ("Regulations"). This summary is provided so that one can understand how the plan works. If there are any conflicts between the plan as written in the Code and Regulations and the description of the plan in this summary, the Code and Regulations will control. The plan was changed in 1996. Now only promoters make contributions to the fund. The plan was also changed to make job training early retirement benefits available to some boxers. The job training early retirement benefits are described in section seven (7). The plan is administered by the California State Athletic Commission ("commission"). The plan has a public purpose because it helps eligible boxers have some benefits when they retire.

2. Who Contributes to the Plan?

Before June 17, 1997, the boxer, manager and the promoter each contributed to the pension fund; now only the promoter does so. The promoter's contribution is based on the number of tickets sold and comped per event, up to a maximum contribution of $4,600 per show. The law states that a licensed California boxer has to participate in the pension plan.

3. Who is Eligible for Benefits?

Any professional boxer who is licensed in and fights in California ("boxer") after July 1, 1981 may be eligible to receive benefits. You are eligible to receive benefits as a "covered" boxer if you:

(a) fought in 10 scheduled rounds per calendar year during each of four calendar years after July 1, 1981 without an intervening break in service; and

(B) fought in 75 scheduled rounds after July 1, 1981 without a break in service.
If you fought in at least 20 scheduled rounds between July 1, 1981 and June 30, 1984, you will also receive credit for rounds you fought between June 30, 1978 and July 1, 1981.

A "break in service" means that you did not fight at least 10 scheduled rounds in California during any 36 months in a row after July 1, 1981 and before you turned 55 years old.

If you are eligible for benefits and you die before age 55, the benefits can be paid to a person you choose (the "beneficiary"). If you have not chosen anyone, then the commission will choose the person who will receive your benefits, in the order named in the California Probate Code. The commission's choice is final.

4. When Can I Get Benefits?

A boxer who has vested can receive benefits when he or she:

Reaches the age of 55;
Becomes medically retired or suffers an injury provable by a physician after the age of 36;
Reaches the age of 36, becomes retired from boxing and requests a vocational education benefit that would be paid directly to the school; or
Dies before the age of 55, with benefits to be paid to your beneficiary.

5. What Benefits Are Available?

The commission decides how it will pay benefits to you. The commission will usually buy an insurance contract that pays money to you in equal amounts over a period of years. There will be at least one payment per year.


You can ask the commission in writing to pay you in a different way. You must give the commission good reasons for changing the way it pays benefits. Good reasons include that you are dying or retired because of a disability. You can ask to be paid in one of the following ways:

A. single payment in cash.

B. Equal cash payments every three months, or a specific percent of your pension account to be paid over no more than five (5) years.

C. Job training early retirement benefits. If you are at least 36 years old and retired from boxing, you can ask the commission to have all or part of your pension benefit paid for school or job training to help you prepare for a different career. If the commission approves your request, it will pay the money directly to the school that you attend. The school has to show the commission that you are actually going to class.

6. What Goes into My Account?

Money contributed by you, managers and promoters before June 17, 1997, as well as by promoters after June 17, 1997 goes into your pension account. The amount placed in your pension account depends upon the number of rounds you fought and the amount of purses paid to you. One-half of the money contributed by promoters is divided among boxers based on the number of scheduled rounds fought in California by each boxer as a percent of the total number of scheduled rounds fought by all boxers in California during a year. The other half is divided based upon the amount of purses received by boxers for fights in California during a year.

For example, if you fought 20 of the total 2,000 rounds of scheduled boxing fought in California during one year, your part is 1% of the amount contributed for total rounds. If you were paid $30,000 in purses out of a total purse amount in California during one year of $900,000, your part would be 3% of the amount contributed for total purses. In addition, money may be added to your pension account from forfeiture of pension accounts of boxers who fail to become eligible for benefits. See "break in service" below.

7. What Happens if I Have a Break in Service?

A break in service means that you failed to fight at least 10 scheduled rounds in California during any 36 months in a row and before you turned 55.

If you have a break in service before you are eligible to receive benefits, then the money in your pension account is taken out and divided among the other boxers. This is called a "forfeiture".

If you have a break in service after you are eligible to receive benefits, then your pension account is put on inactive status. This means you will not continue to share in the division of promoter contributions, but money will still be added to your account from forfeitures, if there are any.

8. Can I Give My Benefits to Someone Else?

You cannot sell, transfer, pledge or in any way give away your benefits to anyone else before they are paid to you. In addition, your benefits cannot be taken from the plan by anyone else to pay for debts, contracts, liabilities or any wrongs you committed. You can, however, choose someone else to receive your benefits upon your death.

9. How Do I Apply for Benefits?

You or your beneficiary can ask the commission for information about rights and benefits and the commission will provide you with a reply in writing within 30 days.

You or your beneficiary must file a written claim for benefits with the commission. The commission must say in writing within 30 days whether the claim is complete. The commission has 60 days after receiving a complete claim to make a decision in writing and provide it to the claimant. If the commission denies your claim for benefits, it must give you the reasons it denied the claim and state the specific parts of the plan on which it based its denial. The commission must also explain how it reviews denied claims.

11. How Do I Ask for Review if a Claim is Denied?

If the commission denies a claim for benefits, you or your beneficiary can ask the commission in writing to review the denial. This request has to be made within 90 days after you receive the denial. The commission must notify the claimant in writing that it has received the request for review and that the person has 30 days to give the commission a written statement and any documents that he or she feels support the claim. The commission must look at the whole record and make a decision no later than 30 days after the person's deadline to give information to the commission. If the commission again denies the claim, its written decision will give you or your beneficiary the same kind of information it gave you the first time the claim was denied.

12. Who Do I Contact for More Information?

You can obtain more information about this pension plan from the California State Athletic Commission. The address and telephone number is: 1424 Howe Avenue, Suite 33Sacramento, CA 95825-3217(916) 263-2195

In an inevitable bureaucratic debacle, a Joint Committee recommended on April 12th, 2005 that the State Athletic Commission should sunset (i.e., disband) and its functions and duties be transferred to the Department of Consumer Affairs. There was plenty of warning, but with no Executive Director in place, too many political appointees, and the Commission seemingly asleep at the switch, it failed to heed the warnings. Perhaps too many of the appointees viewed their four-year appointments as invitations to hobnob with boxing figures and celebrities rather than attend to the business at hand. At any rate, the Joint Committee determined that the Commission had not dealt with certain financial and personnel issues to an acceptable level and had resisted recommendations for needed accounting improvements. Thus, the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) has now become the Athletic Commission Program (ACP), with its functions and duties transferred to the California Department of Consumer Affairs.
(See ESB article entitled, "California State Athletic Commission turns over the Governance of Boxing to the DOC," 10.05.05).

Without the State Athletic Commission, much of the governance that existed was taken away from the people, as the new arrangement deprives boxers, the promoters, fans, and boxing activist from participating in the decision making process. “It takes away our voice and our knowledge of the sport and turns it over to a bunch of government workers,” asserts Alex Ramos, President and Founder of the Retired Boxers Foundation (RBF). Meantime, there is growing support for a bill championed by Rep. Don Perata, D-Oakland, that would establish a new commission with new standards on Jan. 1, 2007. Let's hope so.

But California DOES have the aforementioned Boxers Pension Plan, and if improved, monitored and administered properly, it could be the conceptual model to place the professional boxer at the same level as other professional athletes. In fact, if the California Boxers Pension Plan was initiated in every state, boxers would retire with a pension they actually might be able to live on. The Boxers Pension is basically financed by the fans--$.89 a ticket—and pays the retired boxer $2 for each round fought in California. For example, the aforementioned Alex Ramos, who often fought in California, is eligible for $154 a month at retirement. Clearly not enough to really help, but if the same were true of New Jersey and New York, states in which he also often fought, he would have a much better retirement indeed.

Along similar lines, an Abstract of Pension Plans for Professional Boxers: A Study Prepared by The Segal Company for the Secretary of Labor as Mandated by Congress (Published in 1998) can be accessed on the web. In brief, this study concluded:

"...... that the individual - rather than team-oriented - nature of the sport, its socioeconomic climate and existing federal laws have operated to inhibit the development of a comprehensive pension plan for professional boxers. The study recommends the establishment of four separate but complementary plans to provide pensions for active and now-retired boxers:

1. A charitable trust designed to help the neediest boxers immediately.

2. A defined contribution plan funded by a percentage of each boxer's purse from each qualifying bout, potentially combined with promoter-paid matching contributions and additional voluntary contributions by the boxer.

3. A defined benefit plan covering all present and former boxers who meet preset minimum participation requirements. This type of plan would guarantee a minimum benefit amount even for boxers who never had a realistic opportunity to plan for their retirement.

4. A disability income/survivors' benefit program to fill in gaps left by the first three plans.

.......because pensions for boxers are now virtually nonexistent, congressional action or collective bargaining will likely be necessary to bring a comprehensive program into existence."


So much for studies or what can be accessed on the Internet or what can be found through simple research. So much for politics and bureaucratic obstacles. Let's focus on providing a dignified retirement for those who thrilled us by risking so much. Think what a breakthrough it would be If every state embraced the kind of program California adopted. How difficult can that be? What's standing in the way? Is anyone out there hearing this? How difficult would it be to research what California has done and then build on it? That other states have not followed suit, at least conceptually, is egregious, if not disgraceful. That his fellow senators have not embraced John McCain's efforts is disgraceful.

If governmental action or collective bargaining seem necessary to bring a comprehensive program into existence, then the focus manifestly should be on Congressional action and the formation of a national boxing commission...as I see little progress being made by the fledgling union known as the Joint Association of Boxers (JAB), an apparent subordinate body of the International Brotherhood of the Teamsters. Recognizing that to establish a national commission is easier said then done, I suspect there are plenty of people out there with the qualifications to sit on such a commission, people like Teddy Atlas, Dr. Flip Homansky and former fighter Dave Tiberi. Atlas and Senator John McCain are strong advocates, and McCain might just be able to pull it off. If so, it will be the fighters who win.

In the meantime, people like Alex Ramos and Jacquie Richardson (the Executive Director of the Retired Boxers Foundation) and Gerry Cooney, who started the F.I.S.T. Foundation (Fighter's Initiative for Support and Transition) are filling some important gaps for needy retired fighters,

Let's just get it on!

"All of the sports have a safety net, but boxing is the only sport that has none. So when the fighter is through, he is through. While he was fighting his management was very excited for him, but now that he is done, that management team is moving on.......by the time you're 30 years old, you can be on a nowhere street, if you're not careful." Gerry Cooney

Ted Sares is a Boxing Historian and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at tedsares@adelphia.net.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Alex Ramos: One of the Good Guys (Exclusive for Saddoboxing.com; not to be reprinted without author's permission)

By Ted Sares

Too many boxing stories seem to end the wrong way. Many great fighters who have thrilled us over the years, whether fighting for a championship belt or at a local club, face retirement without any kind of financial assistance or access to medical care. Many suffer from depression, alcohol and substance abuse, rage disorders, homelessness or being indigent, bankruptcy, a total lack of financial awareness (few even know how to set up a traditional IRA plan or other basic investment vehicles), and the terrible effects of pugilistic dementia. Bobby Chacon, about whom I have written in the past, Willie Pep and Wilfredo Benitez, come to mind. Even the great Joe Louis died penniless. Some, like Greg Page or Gerald McClellan, have been injured in the ring. It can occur in a split second. For many ex-fighters, a combination of these factors can make for a dismal outlook.

Of course, many stories end the other way....Harry Arroyo, Jerry Cooney, Larry Holmes, George Foreman, Dana Rosenblatt and Virgil Hill, to name a few. One story, however, stand heads and shoulders above the rest, and that is the one about Alex Ramos. Why Ramos? Well It isn't so much about what he did in the ring, though he was a very good fighter. No, it's what he did after his ring career that is so special. Let's track his amazing story.


Alex "The Bronx Bomber" Ramos was a native of Manhattan and a truly great amateur fighter who won four New York state golden gloves championships, and with almost two hundred amateur fights under his belt, won several additional amateur titles, a National Championship, and was a member of Team USA from 1978-1980. En route to compiling an amazing amateur record of 180-9 (132 by knockout), he was a sure bet for a gold medal at the 1980 Olympics, but President Jimmy Carter, by opting to boycott the Summer Games in Moscow, destroyed his and the dreams of many others.

As an amateur, he fought, among others, many future champions including Jose Gomez, a Cuban world amateur and Olympic champion, Duane Thomas, J.B. Williamson and Mike "The Body Snatcher" McCallum (a three-time world champion and Hall of Fame member ) whom he beat him in the New York Golden Gloves semi-finals. He also fought rugged Tony Ayala twice as an amateur, winning one and losing one, and Juan Roldan, whom he knocked unconscious in round one.

Ramos finally turned professional in 1980 and won his first five fights by ko. In March 1981, Dan Snyder became the first boxer to go the distance with Ramos, and in May, he had his first professional fight abroad when he beat Donnie Long by decision in San Remo, Italy. His next fight in June marked the first of many he would fight Atlantic City when he defeated Mike Sacchetti by decision.

Alex, a road warrior type, won six more fights, including a victory over tough Norberto Sabater, before suffering his first loss, an 8th round knock out to underdog Teddy Sanders in a shocking upset in August 1982. He then fought rugged Tony Cerda to a ten round draw four months later. After these setbacks, however, Ramos regrouped and became a ranked Middleweight as a result of three straight victories, including a decision over future world Light-Heavyweight champion J.B. Williamson. Despite losing his next fight, against future world Super Middleweight champion Murray Sutherland by a ten round controversial decision, Ramos was considered one of the toughest Middleweights of the era, one that featured such fighters as John "The Beast" Mugabi, Juan Roldan and Curtis Parker and many others.

After knocking out Wilbur Henderson in February 1984, Alex challenged Parker for the regional USBA Middleweight championship. In one of the high points of his ring career, he beat Parker over twelve rounds by a unanimous decision in April of that year. A world title fight against Marvin Hagler loomed, but a ten round draw against Chicago fringe contender John Collins, 34-2-1, proved to be a frustrating obstacle. The fight was held in Chicago and many thought Alex had been "robbed." Affirming this notion, Ramos had broken Collins's jaw, cheek bone, possibly some ribs and rendered his face a bloody mess. A bigger roadblock for Ramos occurred in Stateline, NV when he lost his USBA Middleweight title, on November 24, by devastating knockout in round nine against James Kinchen in a fight that was nationally televised.

After losing to Kinchen, Ramos got back on the contender's list by winning four out of his next five bouts, including a victory over J.J. Cotrell and one over Fred Hutchings whom he ko'd in August 1986, in Stockton, California.This victory positioned him for the California state Middleweight title, held by future world champion Michael Nunn. The two boxers met on November 21 in California with a "running" Nunn gaining the twelve round decision.

Alex then won two of his three next fights, and after Nunn had vacated the belt, he got a second opportunity to win the California State Middleweight Title, but was knocked out in eight rounds by Tim Williams. After another victory, Ramos got still a third crack at the California title, but was outpointed by Alphonso Long after twelve rounds in February 1988. He would win ten of his next twelve bouts (one ending in a technical draw) over the next several years. Finally, in 1994, he fought Jorge Fernando Castro in Santa Cruz, Argentina for the WBA world Middleweight title, but was defeated in two rounds after which he retired for good. He finished with a fine professional record of 39-10-2. Eventually, he would be inducted into the New Jersey Boxing Hall Of Fame.


Thus, after fourteen sometimes frustrating years fighting professionally in which he was top middleweight contender, Alex Ramos, 33, who had spent his entire life (or at least since age 11) as a boxer faced the harsh reality of the real world, one without fan adulation or glory, however fleeting. He was not prepared and was suddenly alone and, in addition, had to deal with the physical and mental problems brought on by the brutal and unforgiving years of a long amateur career, training, sparring sessions, and often savage fights. All of this took a heavy toll and things turned in the wrong direction for him.

He moved to Simi Valley, California, where he struggled with the co-demons of drugs and alcohol. Despite his ring glory, he became a substance abuser, an alcoholic, and even at times al alone and homeless. Unlike his ring days, he lacked a support structure to offer encouragement. Finally, facing the reality of his lifestyle, Alex Ramos woke up one day alone and scared and began the process of healing his self-inflicted wounds. As he says, with God's help, he overcame his addictions. Now over six years sober, he pledges, “I am going to die sober!” He then moved back to New York to begin another phase in his life, one that would far exceed that of his ring career in terms of accomplishments and making a difference.


He was now looking for new directions....a new career and a new way to live. Actress Sharon Stone, of all people, and her sister had a nonprofit called "Planet Hope" which is for homeless mothers with children triggered the inspiration for a dream. Alex was asked to work on a fundraiser in Las Vegas for this charity and it turned out that he was very good at it. This made him realize that he might be able to do something similar for his many retired brothers in boxing, particularly those who, like him, had transitioned badly from the sport.

Working with Sharon gave him the idea (and along with God's strength), he set out to do what he considered was the right thing. He said to himself, ".....If I can do it, anybody can! I love talking to fighters who are struggling to overcome addictions because I can show them the way and I can encourage them. I ain't no social worker—I am their brother. I do not judge them and I do not push them, but I let them know that when they are ready for the fight, I am in their corner. I also know that anything is possible if you believe and I mean that. There is nothing I can't do if someone needs help. It might be the Salvation Army instead of Betty Ford for rehab, and if they need medical help, I can promise them the very best care possible. I can promise them that the people and resources we have are all people who love boxing and care about the fighters...." RETIRED BOXERS FOUNDATION (RBF)

The dream came to fruition in 1998 when his concept of helping retired fighters transition from their active career to a new and dignified direction was incorporated into an IRS 501 @ 3 non-profit organization. The organization is known as the Retired Boxers Foundation (RBF)and among the celebrities who became involved in the organizations were and are Bo Derek, Mickey Rooney, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Lolita Davidovich, Col. Bob Sheridan, Ron Shelton, James Carville and many others. Among many others who became involved are former boxers Larry Holmes, Fernando Vargas, Bernard Hopkins, Juan Laporte and Micky Ward, who recently said, "I never was stopped in a fight...I lost on cuts, but I never got knocked out and I never stopped fighting. I won't stop fighting for this great cause either, more fighters should be helping the RBF!"

The mission of the RBF is to assist retired professional boxers in the transition from their glorious days in the ring to a dignified retirement. In short, it helps to provide a supportive bridge between the time a boxer leaves the ring and when he begins the next direction in his life. Helping hundreds of fighters annually, the "RBF," with the motto "Fighters Helping Fighters,"has been able to secure medical services, housing, rehabilitation and emergency assistance for many former athletes. Without a clear plan or direction for life after the ring, the "new" world can be a cold, hopeless, humiliating and scary place for the unprepared. Alex, Jacquie Richardson (the tireless Executive Director of RBF) and all the many miracle worker volunteers are dedicated to restore and/or fill these gaps. No ex-professional fighter who is in dire need of assistance is turned away. The RBF never turns its back on a fighter in need. “We manage on rather miniscule funds annually, yet we always are there for the fighters” says Executive Director Jacquie Richardson, adding “much has to do with our networking and resources.”

The program is run by many selfless individuals who offer assistance in financial services, rehabilitation, housing services, youth services and services designed for senior citizen services. If they need medical assistance or either physical or drug/alcohol rehabilitation, housing, financial assistance, etc, RFB endeavors to locate the needed resource. It has helped retired boxers get Supplemental Social Security and has access to an expert on Veteran’s Benefits, who is on the Board. As well, it has an extensive list of people and agencies that are available to help the fighters. It includes lawyers, doctors, accountants, housing specialists and government assistance resources with whom RFB has excellent relationships. As such, it provides an emergency bridge offering crisis assistance while it seeks longer term assistance. What make this truly remarkable is that no one is paid a salary by the RBF. The effort is reflective of a labor of love.RFB has helped Hall of Fame member Bobby "School Boy" Chacon with some basic needs like the microwave when he got in trouble for using a hot plate at his skid row hotel. We gave him clothes and some cash and groceries. Alex says, "I remember when we [Jacquie Richardson, and I] bought a microwave for Bobby and we delivered it to his little apartment on Skid Row. We went back two weeks later with some clothing and things he needed, and he was gone. We spent two days tracking him down before we found him. We never give up!"

RFB also paid for Juan Antonio Lopez’s chemotherapy for nearly 8 months until the WBC took over. It helped Andrew Maynard—1988 Olympic Gold Medalist, get Veterans Benefits so that his children could go to college. It helped Genaro Hernandez get eye surgery by connecting him with the WBC, who paid for the surgery. Genaro is now on RFB"s Honorary Board. It also helped Greg Page when there was no one out there to help him. One of RFB's dedicated Representatives, Brad Cooney (no relation to Jerry), helped him process his Supplemental Social Security red tape, which resulted in Greg getting benefits in record time. Not only did this provide a monthly disability check, but it also provided medical benefits. RFB also raised $3,000 for his family. RFB was the first to send a check for Bee Scotland when he died, and it sent a check for the Tybius Flowers family, which was delivered to his family by Lt. Indri, RFB East Coast Representative, and the list goes on.

Now, with a a Medical Advisory Board that consists of the top neurologists, neurosurgeons, psychiatrists; a national medical registry that is a work in progress; some great people who became RFB representatives.... .people like Lt. Mike Indri, who is the East Coast Rep, Avi Levy, an Attorney in Montreal and Sam Bearman in Florida (both of whom provide guidance to the foundation and also help the fighters), and go-to guys James Carville, Col. Bob Sheridan, and Gary Litchfield; and a cadre of wonderful volunteers, RFB is poised to move to the next level. Micky Ward is on the Honorary Board, along with Ron Shelton who wrote and directed White Men Can’t Jump and Play it to the Bone, but more importantly, who in 2000 donated $50,000 ($10,000 a year for 5 years) to cover operating costs. All of this money went to the fighters, as RFB runs a lean organization. But even small donations are more than welcome. Dignity Bags, which consist of a canvas bag, toiletries, underwear, sweats, socks, etc., cost about $75 to put together. If three people in some office sent $25 a piece, RFB could help one fighter have a little dignity on the streets.

RFB calls itself “The Undisputed Champions for Dignity." I have no argument with that. Last year Alex Ramos, along with Harold Lederman was awarded the Marvin Kohn Good Guy Award by the Boxing Writers Association of America and I have no argument with that either. Alex may never have won a world title in boxing but his stature as a champion in life is assured. He is a man who is dedicated to making a difference.....to do something for others

As an aside, since many of Alex's fights were in California and since that state is the only one with a boxers's pension plan, though one badly in need of improvement, he is eligible for $154 a month at retirement. Clearly not enough to really help, but if the same were true of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, he would have a substantial retirement indeed. Indeed, if the California Boxers Pension Plan was conceptually embraced in every state, eligible boxers could retire with a dignified pension.......and this is a subject I will treat in a different piece.
So much, then, for the amazing tale of Alex Ramos and his dream which continues to be garner support. People like Alex and Jacquie Richardson are filling some important gaps, and if you would like to help the Retired Boxers Foundation (all donations are 100% tax deductible), please give them a call at (805) 583-5890 or you can access RFB via the Internet at its site at
www.retiredboxers.org Attention is also called to an article by Jack Newfield entitled, "The Shame of Boxing" posted on October 25, 2001 which can be accessed at www.thenation.com

"All of the sports have a safety net, but boxing is the only sport that has none. So when the fighter is through, he is through. While he was fighting his management was very excited for him, but now that he is done, that management team is moving on.......by the time you're 30 years old, you can be on a nowhere street, if you're not careful." Gerry Cooney who has started the FIST Foundation, an organization which has helped retired boxers find jobs.

Ted Sares is a Boxing Historian and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Unsolicited Review of Teddy Atlas' new book

An unsolicited Book Review by Ted Sares: "From the Streets to the Ring: A Son's Struggle to Become a Man," Harper Collins, 2006, By Teddy Atlas, Peter Alson.

The best way to start this review is to recite those lyrics from a famous Sinatra tune, ".........I'll do it my way.........," and that's what this book is really about. Teddy Atlas doing it his way, even when it meant emotionally draining confrontations and walking away from big paydays. Though borderline "feel good" in certain chapters, I found this book to be an excellent and, at times, even riveting read that makes you anxious to watch Teddy analyze his next fight because now you have a much better foundation for understanding his complex persona.

The book reveals more about the fiber and makeup of the author than it does about the activity in which he made his living for thirty years. The exception was when he discussed his complex relationship with Michael Moorer where both his compassion and his well documented stubbornness revealed itself, as well as his great technical grasp of boxing. While Teddy was being honest with himself when he walked away from Moorer after the Vaughn Bean fight, he also walked away from a Hugh payday, one that might have "taken him over the top." But more to the point, it would have taken his family over the top and it at least plants a seed of doubt as to the wisdom Teddy's priorities.

While I could have done without the chapter devoted to Sammy "The Bull" Gravano (whose place in infamy is cemented), the chapters that deal with his relationship with Cus D'Amato in the Catskill and his interactions with a young Mike Tyson are particularly interesting..............and to his credit, the author avoid vilifying or demonizing Tyson the way some might have expected. The impression, and a correct one, is that this book is not about Tyson; it's about Teddy Atlas' "struggle" to become a man............but herein lies the rub. Teddy's rough early life on the streets was his doing and he has to be accountable for it. If helping young people find a better direction in their lives though boxing is an outgrowth of that early life, then he has indeed resolved that accountability.

The author Is a pretty unforgiving, albeit emotional, chap and I sometimes wondered, as I read through the chapters, whether he really understood that life sometimes involves compromise and that sometimes winning the war means losing a few battles. On the other hand, who can argue with his successes and, as much of the narrative discloses, he achieved much personal gratification from wanting and meeting the challenge of getting somebody to become the best they can become or overcoming themselves to get to a spot where they can be effective. Indeed, describing his relationship with the Shamrock Express, Chris Reid, is nothing short of poignant. It's clear that Teddy has left a bridge for the next chapters in his life........and the hints as to where he might go next are intriguing to say the least, though it's also clear that he has fallen in love with being a color analyst and as he says, " I'll stand behind the microphone right now, where nobody can talk back, at least not too much!"

In sum, Teddy Atlas comes off in this book as a person who is very aggressive and opinionated, but also very honest and with great personal integrity. Whatever he says, he does not sugarcoat it and, above all, the fact he is acting in the best interests of both his fighters and boxing itself is manifest. More importantly, the book makes it crystal clear that he did it his way. Bottom line, the book is well worth the price.

Ted Sares is a boxing historian and a syndicated writer. He can be reached at tedsares@adelphia.net