The biggest battles facing some of our former world champions and the brave fighters who entertained us over the years often take place well after their careers are over and promoters have long cast them aside to make room for the next generation of revenue generating superstars. With no union, health benefits or governmental assistance, their ability to pursue a normal life outside of the only one they know within the ring is extremely challenging and difficult. The efforts of Ring 10 Veterans Boxing Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by former middleweight fighter Matt “Beta Bomber” Farrago, help give these men a fighting chance.
The organization's support extends beyond helping former fighters with serious medical needs. This second installment of our two-part series focuses on this aspect of Ring 10's efforts.
Former two-time and undisputed heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe is in financial ruin, filing for bankruptcy in October 2005. Ring 10 helped bail him out of foreclosure but all of his valuables have since been repossessed. His financial situation and lack of job skills have forced him to pursue fighting in his 40's, with Farrago frequently receiving calls from the former champion asking for help to get fights.
"He doesn't want to fight, he has to fight because that's all he can do," explains Farrago. "Everybody has walked away from him. He's got nothing but his hands. That's all he knows is how to fight. Nobody managed his money or put up an annuity for him so he has nothing. He has no income at all."
Former three-division world champion Iran Barkley, who upset Thomas Hearns in 1988 for the middleweight world championship and again in 1992 for the light heavyweight title, also receives much needed support from Ring 10. Barkley lived for a month on the No. 6 subway train in New York after he was evicted from his Bronx apartment in November 2010. The New York Post reported this story at the time.
The once intimidating Barkley was found by a member of Ring 10 with only a bag of clothes and his championship belt, which he has since been forced to sell. The organization helped him find living accommodations in the Bronx and assisted with furnishing the apartment. They also provide him with a monthly food credit and help him find work so he can become self-supporting.
The former champion explained the difficulty he had in managing the money received in piecemeal during the height of his career.
"I wasn't getting $5 million in one lump. They gave me a million here, half a million there," Barkley said. "Back then, there was no financial advisor like fighters got now. Back then, they gave you your money, you spent it and then later on you learned about taxes that you had to pay and Uncle Sam was your partner."
Instead of someone advising him and helping him plan properly as the money came in, Barkley said he learned all of that as he went along. By that point, he wound up having to fight to get money to pay what he owed, getting caught in a vicious cycle.
"I was young. You're not thinking when you're 21 – 22 years old. You don't think about that until something happens and it's all dwindling away."
The underlying theme of Ring 10's mission is to not sit in judgment of these fighters, including those who mismanaged their finances. Farrago views it as an opportunity to help those who cannot help themselves.
"Iran Barkley made $5 million, a hell of a lot more than me, yet he's broke and I'm in good shape. So when I find him in a subway do I stick my finger up and say 'You dumb S.O.B, you made money, what did you do with it?' No. No, that won't help him."
"I feel the need to give back", Farrago later went on to say. "They are my brothers, even guys that I fought, beat and lost to – it doesn't matter. You have the balls to get in the ring and do what very few people can do, I've gotta’ give you credit. It’s a small brotherhood. It really is."
Barkley, who continues to work out daily at the famed Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn, tries to serve as an example for young fighters who may get caught up in the seduction of money and fame that can come from a successful boxing career.
"You should get the proper help that you need, learn about the business because they [ the boxing establishment] have their accountants and business people in order, and don't put too much trust in the managers."
Barkley regularly attends Ring 10's monthly meetings where issues are shared among the fighters in need and input is provided by members. HBO’s unofficial ringside judge Harold Lederman is a committed and active member of the Ring 10 Board of Directors.
"We've got a whole bunch of champs because I've rounded them up, gotten them out of their holes and said let's join together to speak in numbers," Farrago said. "We're doing very well as a club. We're helping the guys who everybody soaked for whatever they could get out of them and then left them."
Ring 10 will be sponsoring its second annual fundraiser event on August 18 at Marina Del Rey in Throgs Neck, New York from 11:30 am to 4:30 pm. Celebrities who will be in attendance include past world champions such as James “Buddy” MicGirt, James "Bonecrusher" Smith, Livingstone Bramble, Donny Lalonde and several other notable boxing figures.
Farrago is hopeful that the funds raised from this event, which will include a silent auction of one-of-a-kind boxing memorabilia, will enable Ring 10 to increase the level of contributions currently being made to fighters in need.
Additional information can be found on the Ring 10 website.
Boxing is a double edged sword – the violent and competitive nature of combat sport is what makes it so compelling. Yet, it also plays a role in some of the very serious issues facing the athlete over the long-term. The highs are high and the lows can be even lower without a level of planning, education and support before, during and after a fight career.
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