I once had a dream that I won the heavyweight championship of the world. In the aftermath of me winning, I got married to a Hollywood sweetheart, made millions of dollars and then lost it. The first thing I lost was my championship. The loss was hard enough to cope with, nonetheless, all of my supposed friends stopped coming around. Shortly after I noticed my crew leaving, my wife busts out on me too. With my personal life in ruins, the promoters and sanctioning bodies force me to fight someone over my head. He probably would not be over my head; however, given my mental state, an easy opponent would normally be called for. I take the fight for short money because I am told I will get a chance to regain my title if I am victorious. I end up losing this fight and retire thinking I have made enough money to be set for life after boxing. As it would come to pass, I would not have the assets I thought I did. Thieving promoters and managers would have taken large amounts of my purses. Half of what was left went to my ex-wife as she convinced me we would be together forever and I didn’t need a prenuptial agreement. I would end up back in the ring to take a couple more high profile fights in losses and be reduced to being a stepping stone for the younger fighters. The aftermath of my career that ended several years after it should have would find me brain damaged, broke and surviving a meager existence. Unfortunately, this nightmare is a common reality to several fighters of all eras. So what are the answers? Stitch Duran takes a look at how fighters end up in this exact state in his documentary, A Boxer’s Nightmare, available on Boxingtalk. Keep reading and I will give you my opinion as to solutions on how to prevent this nightmare from being a common occurrence.
I’ll begin in an area where I have some experience…insurance. Currently, boxers can’t get health insurance. As a licensed insurance agent in Nevada, none of the companies that I represent will cover a boxer due to the high risk of medical problems. A solution I came up with for myself was to set up a medical savings account (MSA) and buy my way into a PPO. This is how big corporations save money on insurance for their employees. In fact, the state of Louisiana has done this very thing for all of the local government employees. With my own MSA and PPO, I enjoy going to the doctor or hospital at the same expense insurance companies pay for the procedure. Let’s take a hypothetical situation where I break my hand in the ring and the injury requires surgery. Rather than paying the $1800 for the surgery, I would have to pay $700. If I have kept putting money in my MSA, I will be able to pay the hospital bill without any extra out of pocket expenses. Imagine if the boxing establishment did something like this; each fighter becoming a member of the PPO and putting 1.5% of their purse into a group MSA. If every fighter were to do this, there would be a few million dollars each year for the boxers to enjoy the health benefits they so badly need.
Another aspect of boxing that needs reform…agreements with promoters, managers, trainers, etc. For the last few years, with the Ali Act and other regulations, standard contracts are coming to fruition. Standardized contracts will help prevent situations where a fighter is forced to pay his manager and/or promoter 50% of his purse. Standardized contracts are a good idea. Case in point, lease agreements! It is much easier for a court to decide whether or not a tenant or landlord is in the wrong if the lease agreement is standard. The same would be the case for a boxer and his representatives.
There are skeptics who believe the government should not get involved with these matters. A fighters’ union may or may not be of benefit to boxers, but if there’s one thing that is needed, it’s a pension plan. I imagine the benefits received from the plan would reflect the amount of money each fighter contributed. For example, the Mike Tyson’s and Oscar De La Hoya’s do not need to be supporting the Simon Ruvalcaba’s for life. Obviously, there’s a lot to be considered and the benefits would be up to whoever is in charge, but if the Screen Actor’s Guild can put together a well ran pension plan for the various actors and actresses on every level, then we should be able to achieve something similar in boxing. The Retired Boxer’s Foundation has started this effort and let us all hope they can succeed on the level so badly needed.
In closing, the biggest thing that can be done to prevent this common nightmare from becoming a reality is educating the fighters. Most promoters and managers have a wealth of education, either formal or from what they have learned throughout the years. Those promoters and managers are also backed by attorneys and several other intelligent people to help guide them. Fighters need to be educated to protect them from the sharks in the boxing world. Fighters need to know who their true friends are as opposed to those who are just looking for a free ride in this business. Fighters need to ask themselves if they’re being fair to the people who are taking care of them, such as trainers, cutmen, managers and promoters. They need to look at the examples of Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis, all-time greats who left the game bankrupt. Fighters need to prepare themselves with the skills inside the ring and outside as well.
By watching A Boxer’s Nightmare, a fighter can learn some of the basic things they need to know to best equip themselves for their career. Stitch Duran did an excellent job in bringing the experts in the sport together in order to help fighters, trainers, fans and all participants in the sport. In addition to the education you will be helping support the Retired Boxers Foundation and the Gerald McClellan Fund. As a boxer and a writer, I strongly recommend anyone serious about the sport to get this video