|Alex Ramos and the Retired Boxers Foundation
By Bob Carroll, Doghouse Boxing (Jan 3, 2009) DoghouseBoxing.com
Since I started into the media end of boxing, I have met a lot of great people. People like Edner Cherry, Danny Batchelder, Brian Minto, Lamon Brewster and Benny Henderson Jr (ok, scratch that guy) have shown me that fighters truly do care about the guy that they are fighting against and the fans. Giving that boxing is a violent sport, what shines more then anything else is the respect and honest caring the fighters have for one another. No other person in the world of boxing represents this thinking then the president of the Retired Boxers Foundation, Alex "The Bronx Bomber" Ramos. Alex is one of the most genuine, caring people in the sport of boxing, and would give you the shirt off of his back.
Last August, boxing almost lost one of the greatest ambassadors it has ever had when Alex was found lying near death in his apartment. Thankfully, for all of us, Alex has bounced back to continue his duties with the Retired Boxers Foundation. Alex and the Retired Boxers Foundation Executive Director, Jacquie Richardson, recently sat down with Doghouse Boxing to share their thoughts.
Bob Carroll: Alex, give the readers of Doghouse Boxing, your history as a fighter.
Alex Ramos: Well, first of all, whoa, that goes back to 1972. I fought amateur for a long time and at the age of 16, in 1977, when I entered the New York Golden Gloves, I got the attention of a gentleman, and something that a lot of people don't know, I was Shelly Finkel's first fighter. I happened to be Shelly Finkel's first fighter and I won the New York Golden Gloves four times, I won the Nationals, I won practically every tournament in the United States. After that, there was a group that was scheduled to go to the Olympics in 1980, but there was an US boycott of the Olympics, so I turned professional. A lot of us turned professional to include Johnny "Bump City" Bumphus, Mitch "Blood" Green, Tony Tucker, Tony Ayala Jr, Chris McDonald from Brockton, Bernard Taylor from North Carolina and we were on NBC's "Tomorrow's Champions". That was when they would show boxing on regular TV, and we were fighting a lot. It was great back then, but I am still involved with the sport of boxing, but today I do a different thing for the sport. I am going to die a fighter, doing the right thing for this sport. I love boxing, it is my life.
BC: In 1998, you started the Retired Boxers Foundation. Give the readers an overview of the foundation.
AR: Well, I started the foundation in 1996, but my executive director, who helped me tremendously, Jacquie Richardson is her name, helped me to get incorporated and to become a legitimate 501c3, non-profit corporation. She did all of the proper paperwork, research, she did everything for me, so since then, we have been in existence for 12 years now, helping fighters, whether they are indigent, have problems with drug/alcohol, homelessness, or whatever. There was a movie called "Resurecting The Champ", with Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett, and I was so excited because we were invited to the opening of the movie. There was a guy living in Orange County who was saying that he was Bob Sautterfield, the fighter who broke Rocky Marciano's nose during sparring, and this was one of the first fighters that we helped. Ever since then, we have been helping out fighters. I get calls every day from fighters, I speak every day to the fighters. Just yesterday I spoke to former heavyweight champion of the world Tony "TNT" Tucker, William Guthrie, Hector "Macho" Camacho, Johnny "Bump City" Bumphus, anybody, I speak to the fighters every day. I have a good database and I talk to all of the fighters, and it's wonderful. This is what I want to do, I want to help out all of my brothers in the sport of boxing because in boxing, as you and I know, there is no pension plans or medical benefits and as a result, when they leave the sport, 87% of the fighters leave with some sort of damage. I want to give credit to Jacquie for doing the research on that information. I myself, have frontal lobe and right temporal damage to my brain, but of course, a lot of us don't go to get diagnosed and that's where there is problems. There is problems with something called 'Pugilistic Dementia' which is the medical term for being 'punch drunk'. I remember as a kid I used to hate that term, I would argue with people who would say stuff like that because I never really liked that term. These are some of the problems that fighters face, and we try to help them. I thank God because we have been doing this a long time now.
BC: Alex, who are some of the people involved with the Retired Boxers Foundation?
AR: Well, Jacquie Richardson is our executive director, Mike Indri is the Vice President and is a captain of the West New York Police Department, the head of the Massachusetts Boxing Commission Gary Litchfield, Col. Bob Sheridan who is probably one of the biggest announcers in the sport of boxing, calling over 10,000 bouts, he broadcast Ali-Foreman in Africa. Col Bob is such a wonderful guy and he has helped us tremendously, in fact he got James Carville to be on our board. Carville is a guy who helped President Bill Clinton become President. We also have a wonderful medical advisory board with doctors, neurologists, general surgeons, neurosurgeons, psychs. In Wales, Dr. Ray Monsell, Dr. John Stiller in Maryland, oh gosh, I can't even think of all the doctors involved with us. Anybody that I miss, please forgive me. It's unbelievable, we have such a great team and great representatives. As I said, I started this a long time ago and I want to continue. We're growing every year, we are always doing wonderful things. We have a lot of help and that is the great thing about this foundation. It's about fighters helping fighters, because nobody else is doing it.
BC: Earlier you mentioned a couple of fighter that the foundation has helped, who are some of the other fighters the RBF has helped in the past?
AR: Ok, listen, I could go on and on, it's a big list. I can't tell you a whole bunch of them, but I'll tell you this, one of the first fighters that we helped was a two time world champion that was living on skid row, Bobby Chacon. He was living on skid row and we went looking for him and when we found him, he was living on skid row and cooking off of a hot plate. What we did was, Jacquie and myself went over to Costco and Jacquie bought him a nice microwave, so he could have hot meals, and some groceries. Some of the others we have helped are Paul Banke, Johnny "Bump City" Bumphus, who has cancer now, Iran Barkley, the list goes on, I can't give you all the names. Jerry Cheatham who was a great fighter out of Arizona, Jimmy Young before he died. Juan Antonio Lopez, who brought to boxing and trained Julio Cesar Chavez, and we were helping him. Juan had been diagnosed with Leukaemia, so we and the WBC, were paying his medical bills for a while and then WBC took over paying completely. That was amazing, they paid for the chemo therapy just before he died. We helped Kendall Holt in the beginning and he is still fighting. There have been so many fighters, I can't think of them all. We also go and help with SSI, to help them get supplemental social security. It's just wonderful.
BC: So Alex, the Retired Boxers Foundation is not only for retired fighters, you are trying to help all fighters that need a helping hand and help the fighters out in life?
AR: Yes, help them out in life, you better believe it. We work with amateurs, number 1 okay? We try to educate these guys, because you are self employed. Arthur Mercante, who refereed many of my fights, mentioned, 'Boxing is boxing when it is in the amateurs, but when you turn professional, it's a business". So fighters have to be aware that of his take for a fight, 33.3% goes to the manager, 10% goes to the trainer(s), 2% goes to a cutman, then the IRS comes along for their cut. What is left is yours to cover yourself, and this is what we pass on to the amateurs. You know Bob, they see all of these big pay days, but there are a lot of things that occur, that a lot of fighters need to be educated to watch. I love what we do and to me, this is incredible. I love it, and I'll tell you what, I wouldn't mind leaving this earth today, because I know that I am doing something I love and I know it is going to get better. You've heard the sad stories about guys like Joe Louis, who went to his grave penniless. You hear stories all the time, like what Jerry Quarry and his whole family went through. Do you know who I just made a representative in Oklahoma? Former heavyweight contender James "Quick" Tillis, he was a pretty good fighter. We helped out Jeff McCracken, a Marine who was a good amateur. He turned pro, but did not do to great as a pro. We helped him. We helped out Michael Bentt, who I still speak to every day. It's just wonderful and it does not matter where they are from, we'll try to help.
BC: How can fighters in need contact the Retired Boxers Foundation?
AR: Well first, we are on the internet. I'll tell you, I'm a two finger typer, but I'm a great speller. Our website is www.retiredboxers.org, .com or .net. They can also call us at 805 955-9064. We are here 24/7. I get calls from Europe at times, We have representatives from Europe. I talk to Barry McGuigan and he is working on certain things. I talk to the doctors in Wales, Germany, or wherever it is they call. I love it, I'll tell you what, and it's going to get better and better. Like I said earlier, I was speaking with former IBF light heavyweight champion William Guthrie yesterday, and we were talking about some pretty sad stuff. There are a lot of things in the sport of boxing that we need to know about publicly. Boxing is an incredible sport, and there are tons and tons of money being made in the sport of boxing and the people who are fighting today , don't think about what is going to happen to them later in life. They do not want to think about it. The sad thing about that is, things happen sometimes, tragedies happen in sports. There are a lot of things that go that people do not know about. Our Executive Director Jacquie Richardson is here and I would like her to speak about this subject.
Jacquie Richardson: Alex is doing a great job and you can see the passion he has for this foundation. A lot of what we do is more labor intensive. We spend a lot of time communicating with commissions and legislators around the country about doing the right thing. We just had another case about three weeks ago in Arizona where a fighter was unconscious in the ring, and there was no ambulance. It took 40 minutes to get that fighter to a hospital. 40 minutes, if you think of a loved one that was unconscious and you had to wait 40 minutes for a paramedic, that's tragic! That should never happen! We work to prevent things like that example. You can see from Alex's passion, how could you not want to help Alex. Alex lives on supplemental security, he's been very ill this year, he almost died in August. I think it was the fight in him that brought him back. The doctors told me they didn't think he would make it, and lo and behold, 48 hours later he came to and he wanted to check his e-mails, so there you go.
BC: Jacquie, how does the Retired Boxers Foundation function financially?
JR: Oh my God, I swear I have worked in the non-profit world for 25 years and lately we never have more than $1000 in the bank, but what we have done is, we have benefactors around the country. One of these benefactors happens to be the International Professional Ringside Officials (IPRO) through Barry Druxman. If we don't have the money, we'll call them and they will send the check for us. We have another attorney down in Florida, Sam Bearman, we'll call him and he'll send the money. We can do the labor intensive things, I've written hundreds of letters for fighters who are appearing in court for one reason or another, we have obtained free rehabilitation for them, free medical care, free mental health. We have resources, we don't have cash and this is a really bad year. To be honest with you, I've spent a lot of the last several months taking Alex to doctors all over the place, getting his medical records and I work full time for the district attorney. Nobody that calls us has ever walked away without getting what they need, maybe not what they want, but we always get them what they need. We provide, kind of like, the bridge to social security, veteran benefits, subsidized housing or whatever we can do to help. Also, and people will laugh, a lot of fighters suffer from some kind of gout. I have three fighters right now, that can't walk because they have gout, Alex being one of them. Yesterday I got a call from a guy that was in so much pain, and I told his wife to go buy a basket of cherries, because cherries will cure gout. I'll tell you what, we know how to get the job done. A box of cherries cost $1.29, and you know what, we do what we've got to do and I know how painful it is to have gout. Alex had a bout where he literally had to crawl around his apartment and he has gone through periods this year where he could not walk. He has had three seizures, the first one he was out for twelve hours, the second one forty eight hours and the last one six hours and it happened to be in Las Vegas. I had to call 911 from the freeway. It happened during the convention of the American Association of Ringside Physicians and three of the doctors came out to the hospital to work with the neurologists. Their our medical advisors and then Dr. Paul Wallace from the state athletic commission in California arranged for Alex to see Dr. Gluckman, and he is actually paying Alex's medical bill. Alex is on Medi-Cal, but not for specialists like him. We did that for Alex, he moved to the top of the heap in terms of really needing some critical care. In the mean time we made sure groceries get delivered and we got signed memorabilia to Genero "Chicanito" Hernandez. Hernandez has a horrible cancer to where he is going to have major facial surgery, but does not have enough medical insurance. We are helping the 'WBC Cares' with a fundraiser on January 17th, again, labor intensive. We are collecting memorabilia, giving some of the things we've collected over the years, to help raise money for his medical expenses. I also have to tell you about the most wonderful person, former WBC super bantamweight champion Paul Banke, who calls us to thank us for what we did for him. He is living fine on $800 a month and he calls, not for any help for himself, but to tell us of fighters who need some help like Johnny Montes, or others that need a helping hand. These fighters, it is the most satisfying work I have ever done, because they have the most beautiful hearts and they are all worth our efforts, believe me.
BC: Jacquie, the sport of boxing is looked at as being nothing but a violent sport, but you have people like Alex and Paul. What is comes down to is, when that bell rings and the fight is over, these guys truly care about each other and their hearts go out to the opponent across the ring, along with everyone else who has stepped into the squared ring.
JR: Yeah, you know it is a brotherhood and I'll give you a perfect example of the brotherhood. Playboy magazine did a feature story called 'Boxers Wearing Boxers' and they hired a high priced PR firm that could not get a hold of one single boxer, no one returned their calls. So they called Alex and Alex got Lennox Lewis, Don King, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and Fernando Vargas. They all did it for Playboy because Alex asked them to do the article. After that, Playboy made a $2000 donation to the Retired Boxers Foundation. These guys are awesome, if Alex calls, they are going to do whatever Alex asks them. In terms of donations, this was a very bad year. We had a golf tournament in which Micky Ward helped us arrange and with the economy being bad in the east, we made $1000 compared to what we normally bring in, somewhere around $10,000, so this is going to be a very tough year. People don't think about the fighters and a lot of people in the sport really need to think of the fighters. All of these people making tons and tons of money, they all make charitable donations that are tax deductible. I would like some of them to consider donating to the Retired Boxers Foundation. Every donation to us is 100% tax deductible and there are a lot of worth while organizations out there, but I would like to see the fans of boxing and people who are in the sport of boxing, to think about the Retired Boxers Foundation, because like I said, we don't turn anyone down, but it is hard sometimes. I have dug into my own pockets, Alex just received a $25 birthday check which he put back into the Retired Boxers Foundation. Anyone that wants to help, you get the same tax deductions as if you gave to the American Cancer Society or Make A Wish, it's the same tax deduction. So please set aside a little bit, so that we can help these fighters, and we appreciate that help.
BC: Alex, if our readers wanted to help the Retired Boxers Foundation, how would they go about making a donation?
AR: Well, if you want to make a donation, go to the website and there is a spot to use Pay Pal to donate. If you can't use that, you can send a donation to 3359 Bryan Ave, Simi Valley, California 93063. That's the ways you can send donations.
BC: Alex, as Jacquie mentioned earlier, you had a very serious health scare back in August. How are you feeling now?
AR: I feel 100% great! I tell you, I don't know what it is, but somebody up there likes me. Do you remember the movie 'Somebody Up There Likes Me’ with Paul Neuman, the boxing movie? Well, somebody up there REALLY likes me, because I am feeling incredibly good, I feel healthy. I'm walking and in the beginning I couldn't walk, it was real hard for me to walk. I'm walking, feeling great, I am really taking care of myself and living right, which is the greatest thing ever. Living right is the biggest thing for me.
BC: Were the doctors ever able to pinpoint what happened to you?
AR: Yes, I had Grand Mal Seizures and they changed my medications, of course. My medication is taking care of the problems. But you have to live right, that is the biggest thing.
BC: There were reports that you were chasing the nurses around the hospital ward while you were in a wheelchair. Have the nurses forgiven you?
AR: (Laughing) You know what, they have forgiven me. Let me tell you, I made so many friends in the hospital and I give credit to those nurses in the hospital because I am a pain in the butt, but they loved me. Freddie Roach and his wife Pepper Roach brought in chocolates for the nurses, it was great. They were so nice to me, those nurses. I had a great experience with the care I received. I get embarrassed but I wanted to talk about it, I didn't know what had happened, I just woke up in the hospital with no recollection of what happened to me. When I woke up in the hospital, I still had electrodes from a defibrillator still attached, and I had no idea what had happened. I just don't remember anything, I don't even remember getting loaded into the ambulance. Apparently my heart stopped on the way to the hospital and they had to use the defibrillator on me. But I'm a fighter, fighting for my life and I'm going to continue fighting, and fighting for the right cause. I believe in my life and that is how I want to leave this earth. Bob, you've been around the game a long time, and there was always talk of people wanting to help the sport of boxing. I was born in 1961, in 1960, hall of famer Jack Dempsey had spoken about the same exact thing, in Minnesota, to a crowd. There is always someone saying they are doing this for the sport of boxing and you have other groups that are doing something for the sport of boxing, but then you find out the money is being used for something different. It's pretty sad because there are some good people out there and there are the bad people, but we (the Retired Boxers Foundation) do what we need to get done. I'm not leaving this earth until something happens, and I believe in my heart, that is why I am here. I boxed for a long time, I've been in this game over thirty plus years, I was on my way up and I had problems. I can't blame anything on anyone else but me, but when mistakes are made and the things that I have done in my life, I blame myself, no one else and especially not on the sport of boxing. Boxing has been very good to me. I got to travel all over the world, I fought anywhere, anytime and I had wonderful experiences. Today I may walk around with a little bit of damage at the frontal lobe and right templor, but I am sharp as a tack. It's time to do something right for the sport of boxing. With all of the money that is generated, you would think that you could get help from the sport. If it wasn't from director Ron Shelton, and I'll bring him up all of the time, but I love this man. Ron Shelton, who directed 'White Men Can't Jump" and "Play It To The Bone" among others, along with his wife Lolita Davidovich, donated $50,000 several years ago. He donated $10,000 a year for five years, so that the Retired Boxers Foundation could have operating costs. If it wasn't for Ron Shelton, we would not be in existence. We gave all that money to the fighters, and anyone who needed help. That's what we do, but I have a lot of records on cruelty and a lot of things that have happened, a lot of things that are being investigated, and that is the sad part. I know that God know what we are doing and we will continue to do the right thing. I'm so glad that I am talking to you, I'm really excited, I'm just over here having a great day Bob.
BC: Jacquie had mentioned that the Retired Boxers Foundation is involved in a fundraiser to benefit Genero "Chicanito" Hernandez, on January 17, 2009 at the WBC Legends of Boxing in San Bernardino Ca. How did the foundation come to be part of this fundraiser?
AR: Well, I'm an ambassador for the WBC, but Jill Diamond is the chair, she is one of the executives for the 'WBC Cares'. She is a wonderful lady and great person. The WBC Cares goes around to hospitals and they do things like that with Iran Barkley and all of the WBC champions come out, no matter what the event. They have more money than we doe, so they are raising funds for "Chicanito" Hernandez. Along with this event, January 17th is the birthday for Muhammad Ali, Marco Antonio Barrera and myself. All Capricorns (laughing) and on my birthday, I'll be working! (Writers Note: For more information on this event, go to http://www.wbclegendsofboxing.com)
BC: In closing, is there anything you want to say to the readers of Doghouse Boxing?
AR: I really hope the readers will visit our website, retiredboxers.com, .org or .net or send us an e-mail at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from people and the support. If there are any fighters out there that need help, just direct them our way, we'll get the help for them.
I'd like to thank Alex Ramos and Jacquie Richardson of the Retired Boxers Foundation, for taking time out of their day to speak with Doghouse Boxing. For more on this and other boxing stories, tune into Fightin' Words Radio Show, Wednesdays, 6-7 on http://1490wwpr.com, hosted by Bob Carroll, Butch and "THE Big Dog" Benny Henderson Jr. The show will return live on January 14th, with special guest Alex Ramos. Make sure to visit the shows website fightinwordsonline.com
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