image
image
image



Alex Ramos: One Last Fight
by Bernie McCoy  -August 15, 2011


Calling boxing a contact sport is much like calling the atomic bomb an explosive device. Professional boxing, along with pro football, easily surpasses the definition of a contact sport; they are both, simply stated, collision sports. Key differences between boxing and football are that football players wear quite a bit more equipment and they are considerably better equipped for their post career lives. Pro football players have the benefit of a union which, provides, upon retirement, basic financial and medical benefits designed to smooth the transition to life after the game. No such union or benefits or smooth transition exist in the sport of boxing for athletes who devote their prime years to the sport. It has always been thus and one man and the organization he founded has spent years attempting to change that situation. Not surprisingly, the task is as tough as any bout this former boxer had in a long and distinguished career in the ring.

The first thing that struck me when I reached Alex Ramos on the phone last week, at his home in Simi Valley, CA, is that he sounds older than his fifty years. Fourteen years in the professional boxing ring will do that to you. And yet, it doesn't take long for passion to seep into his voice and his words; it arrives naturally once he begins to talk about his sport, the boxers he fought, the people he met, the places he traveled. And, for me, listening to this metamorphosis, what came to mind is an "up and coming," "can't miss," 21 year old Bronx middleweight, undefeated in 12 fights, about to make it 13 with an eight round KO in the main event inside the venerable Westchester County Center in White Plains in early 1982.

I vividly recall the large contingent of fans who made the short train trip, northward, from the Bronx and how they, literally, shook the walls of the County Center, a hallowed boxing venue from the era of St. Nicks, Sunnyside Gardens and Eastern Parkway Arena. It's even easy to remember that I thought, on that night, I was sitting through a scene from a familiar Hollywood story of the tough kid from the mean streets of the city climbing his way to the top of the boxing world. But in the crystal clear reflection of retrospect, I was actually watching an even more familiar boxing story unfold, the one that affirms that the sport moves to no Hollywood script.

Following the County Center bout, future success was still in the Alex Ramos script; there were some wins in major boxing venues across the country and around the world against the top middleweights of the 1980s. There were TV appearances, fights in Las Vegas and Atlantic City casinos, bouts in the "Mecca of boxing," in Alex Ramos' hometown. But this boxing story ended agonizingly short of the top of the sport. And when it ended, Alex Ramos didn't bother to look around for a supportive union to guide him into the afterlife of boxing. It wasn't there for Alex Ramos in 1994. It still isn't.

"Union is a dirty word in our sport," Ramos states unequivocally. "Nobody wants anything to do with a union; not the promoters, not the managers, nobody. Fighters got no team, they're independent contractors. We're all alone in our sport, we're all alone in the ring and we're all alone when we're done fighting." Alex Ramos fought 51 times in the most lethal weight division in the sport.

Middleweights are small enough to move quickly and big enough to hit hard. Ramos, who answered a round bell 360 times during those 51 fights admits he now depends on heavy daily doses of prescribed medication to maintain his day to day existence. Ramos also knows, as well as anyone ever will, that's he's not alone as a casualty of a brutal sport, he's only one of many. But he's one of the few who is trying to do something about and for those other fighters, by doing exactly what he did for 14 years in professional boxing. Alex Ramos is answering the bell.

Ramos is the Founder and President of the Retired Boxers Foundation, an organization whose stated mission is to assist retired professional boxers with their transition to retirement. And he quickly puts the task in perspective, "It's been estimated that 87% of boxers leave the sport damaged in some way. And who's there to help them when they retire? No one! Not one of the groups who have profited and continue to profit from the sport have stepped up to help. Not the promoters, not the boxing federations, not the TV networks, not the hotels and casinos who use the sport to draw customers to their rooms and gambling tables. None of these groups seem to give a s***, once those fighters stop fighting and can use a little assistance. Instead the people who've made all the money simply move on to the next younger crop of fighters. That's where the Retired Boxers Foundation is trying to play a part. This isn't a new problem. As far back as 1960, the year before I was born, Jack Dempsey was talking about the need to provide help for fighters once they left the ring. It's just a problem no one seems to think a lot about. We're trying to change that."

Alex Ramos thinks about the problem and he cares. He cares in the way only someone who has been there, done that, cares. "I've always been a fighter, my whole life and I'm going to die a fighter trying to help other fighters." That's the type of passion Alex Ramos brought to his sport and it's the kind of passion he now brings to the Retired Boxers Foundation. He's had help over the years, from well known entertainment personalities, prominent medical practitioners and some in the boxing community like Col. Bob Sheridan, among others. He's also aided, on a daily basis, by Jacquie Richardson, Executive Director of the Foundation. But the problem is a huge one and huge help is needed.

On that long gone September night in 1982, Alex Ramos brought a least a thousand fans from the Bronx to the Westchester County Center to see him do what, at the time, he did as well as the best in the sport. Today, he's trying to do something as well and as necessary as anyone in the sport, he's trying to help those in need, those who often can't help themselves. Just maybe, the boxing community can bring themselves to emulate those Bronx fight fans and gather around Alex Ramos and the Retired Boxing Foundation. It would make a pretty good script.

 


Contact us for more info



image