By Mike Indri
Retired Boxers Foundation
By the time Alex “The Bronx Bomber” Ramos had reached the tender age of eleven, he was making quite a name for himself at New York’s TelStar gym on West 28th Street. At an age where most young boys were playing little league baseball or finally learning to ride their bikes - without the training wheels, Ramos was knocking out grown men; at the obsessive behest of his success driven father and under the watchful eye of gym owner Gil Clancy. “The gym was filled with nothing but pros, Emile Griffith trained there”, Ramos stated proudly, “I was the only amateur in the gym, and I was only a kid”.
A boxing prodigy before even thinking of becoming a teenager, Ramos established himself as one of those “can’t wait, future champions”.
En route to compiling a staggering amateur record of 180-9 (132 knockouts!), Ramos captured four NY golden gloves titles, several national championships and impressively fought his way onto the highly touted Team USA, from 1978-1980.
A proverbial lock for a gold medal at the 1980 Olympics, ill fate would intervene for the then nineteen year old Ramos, and all the USA Olympic qualified boxers, as President Jimmy Carter opted to boycott the Summer Games which were held in Moscow.
With his dream of winning an Olympic gold medal now shattered, fate would again deal the naive, mega-talented Bronx native a harsh dose of reality. Opting to turn professional, Ramos jumped into the shark infested waters of the boxing business and put his faith, trust, and career, into the hands of anothe. Enter Shelly Finkel. Having the dubious distinction and glorious misfortune of signing on as Finkel’s first managerially contracted fighter, Alex Ramos would soon be enlightened to a type of “education” never encountered during his twelve years of schooling within New York’s public school system.
To say that Alex never reached his potential would be an understatement. Retiring after a resounding defeat in his only world championship opportunity, at the hands of WBA middleweight champ Jorge Castro (KO 2: 11/05/94), Ramos finished with a respectable record of 39-10-2 (24 KO’s).
After fourteen years fighting professionally, the thirty three year old Ramos who had lived his entire life as a boxer since the age of eleven, found himself unprepared for the real world. Suddenly alone, and having to deal with the physical and mental problems brought on by the brutal, taxing and unforgiving years of constant bouts and sparring sessions; which takes as much of a toll on the body and mind as the actual fights, Ramos turned to the demons which compound problems: drugs and alcohol.
After a troublesome and tumultuous time in the “darkness”, Ramos came to the realization that he was losing big in his most important bout of all..the fight of life. Up to this point the story of Alex Ramos and his ordeal with living a normal life outside the ring, as unfortunate and unbelievable as it may sound, is not that all uncommon for many retired boxers. The dealing with the frustrations, the corruption and disloyalty, the physical and mental dilemmas, the lack of social skills and training, combined with the self realization that these once proud gladiators were now all but stripped of their pride, respect and dignity; made for a very dismal outlook for the future of most ex-fighters.
The truly remarkable and poignant part of this story is that Alex Ramos did not give up; not on himself and not on his brothers.. his fellow fighters. “I was hanging out in a gym and was asked to help with Sharon Stone’s non-profit organization for homeless mothers and children”, stated Ramos, “then it came to me, I could do fundraisers and raise money for my brothers in boxing. That’s how I came to start the Retired Boxers Foundation!”
By 1998, with much help from Jacquie Richardson, the foundation’s executive director, the Retired Boxers Foundation became officially incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
The “RBF” has been helping hundreds of fighters in need annually ever since. Whether it’s a Olympic medalist, a former world champion, a contender or a pretender; 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” assures Jacquie Richardson, adding “much has to do with our networking and resources.”
While the “RBF” goes by the motto of “Fighters helping Fighters”, it is really not the fighters, or the promoters, or the managers, that are helping their fellow fighters, it is the boxing fan. The fan that happens to be a Doctor and offers his service to a fighter; the fan that is a civil servant and assists fighters in filing for his benefits; the fan that owns a comedy club or restaurant and offers his business as a form of fundraising; these are the people helping the Retired Boxers Foundation.
The “RBF” would never ask a fighter for a cent of the money that he or she risked their life in earning, yet there is no reason why a fighter today wouldn’t give some of his time to this worthy and, unfortunately, much needed cause.
Promoters and managers are different - many of these individuals have earned their livings, very good ones at that, from many of the fighters that need help, or will need help in the future; it really is not much to ask for a very small percentage of a ticket price to be set aside for a fund to go to help the fighters - here is how it would work: take the dollar a ticket or quarter a pay-per-view buy out of the fan’s cost. The boxing fan has proven he doesn’t mind helping..when will the promoters, and managers, and boxing community feel the same way?
Alex Ramos will be turning forty five years old this coming January 17th, a birthday he proudly shares with great champions Marcos Antonio Barrera and the legendary Muhammad Ali. Unfortunately, Ramos never attained the stature of “World Champion” during his professional boxing career - he attained his champion status long after he last laced up the red Everlasts and decided he was going to do something for others. Alex Ramos has become a bigger and better “World Champion” then he could have ever imagined - and its to the benefit of his brothers..the retired fighters, in need!
Happy and Healthy New Year Champ!