Alex Ramos built his boxing career on knowing his next move in the ring.
The problem is looking beyond boxing to see what the problem is, said Ramos, a four-time Golden Gloves middleweight winner known as the “Bronx Bomber” and whom legendary host Howard Cosell once described as “a tremendous puncher.” designated.
Ramos was a member of the 1980 Olympic team when the US boycotted the Summer Games in Moscow and went on to triumph as a professional. But he wasn’t the next big fighter that Cosell and others had predicted. He left the sport in 1994 – broke and heartbroken.
“When boxing is over, it’s over,” said Ramos, 62. “They just drop you like a hot stone and move on to new people.”
Ramos said his difficult transition from boxing inspired him to start the Retired Boxers Foundation in 1998 to help former fighters get back on their feet. He saw stories of well-known boxers who were left homeless or unable to afford medical care and knew he wanted to help them.
“Through the Retired Boxers Foundation, we’ve been able to help hundreds of fighters,” Ramos said. “We’re still getting calls, but we don’t have funding.”
Some of those calls include questions about applying for California’s little-known pension program for retired boxers.
However, Ramos himself has yet to benefit. He’s entitled to $13,000 Retirement plan for California professional boxers. It’s money he says he needs, but raising the money presents him with a dilemma.
The plan provides for lump sum payments, which means he would not be eligible for the Security Income benefits that fund his West Hills assisted living facility.
“A retirement plan should cover you for life,” said Ramos, who suffers from several medical conditions including dementia pugilistica, a form of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) associated with repeated head injuries.
California, the country’s only state-administered plan, introduced the pension in 1982 after lawmakers determined too many fighters were “injured or destitute.” However, the program has long faced criticism for not educating boxers about their benefits.
A Times investigation found that about 6% of boxers who could have claimed a pension last year were paid by the California State Athletic Commission, which administers the program.
Most retirees in other occupations receive lifetime pensions in monthly payments. Boxers, speaking to The Times, said the Sporting Commission’s lump sum payment rule has made it difficult for those who depend on government benefits to claim their pension without forgoing more generous housing or medical care grants.
In the case of Ramos, assets of less than $2,000 are required for his disability pension. Losing that would be devastating for Ramos, said Jacquie Richardson, co-founder of the Boxer Foundation and now authorized to help Ramos with medical care and finances. The foundation is no longer a non-profit organization, but continues to provide services to boxers in need.
“With a real annuity, you can get monthly payments,” said Richardson, a former Ventura County prosecutor. “The sports commission is all or nothing. It puts me in a bad position. Alex cannot survive without these [assisted-living] Services.”
Many boxers prefer the lump sum payout because total pension amounts are generally small — about $17,000 on average, according to commission documents analyzed by The Times. In addition, the Commission does not allow interest or cost-of-living increases on pensions, which is another obstacle to accepting partial payments.
But for some, the obligation to make severance payments meant forgoing their pension. Other boxers who spoke to the Times raised similar concerns about the potential loss of government benefits they depend on. Richardson said she recently considered converting Ramos’ pension to one that provides small monthly payments without impacting his disability benefits.
When the Times reported concerns about the lump sum payments to the Sports Commission, CEO Andy Foster promised that anyone who needed payment in installments would do so.
“I can do it,” Foster said. “The fact that it’s a bit difficult administratively doesn’t give me a good reason to say no. I will if anyone asks. … This thing is meant to help them, not harm them.”
Ramos, who grew up in the South Bronx before being transplanted to Los Angeles, retired from boxing with a record of 39-10-2, including 24 knockouts. His rise was interrupted by prison stays following a conviction for assault and assault. He beat up a manager and promoter who he claimed had withheld his winnings and claimed he had no money for a plane ticket to be with his ailing mother before she died.
He still retains the soft brown eyes and dimpled smile that would have made him the perfect lead in a Hollywood remake of his life. The script would no doubt feature a bizarre saga convicting a childhood acquaintance Rape of women by impersonation ramos The real Bronx bomber testified against the scammer in the rape trial and reclaimed his identity.
Ramos speaks lovingly and forcefully of his boxing career. He remembers that most clearly these days as he recounts details of decades-old battles, forgetting who he’s telling the story to on the phone. After years of helping other fighters with his foundation, Ramos says his own future is uncertain due to his medical problems and financial instability.
“I’m in a difficult position,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen.”