IT was a tremendous honour to be awarded the Humanitarian Award from the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame recently for the work I am doing for ex-boxers here in America. It was both a surprise and extremely gratifying for that work to be recognised, because I believe the sport needs to do more in that regard.
After I made my speech, I sat down at my seat and a married couple behind me tapped me on my shoulder. They handed me $50 to send to a boxer in need. I go out of my way for the fighters and do what I do because, for my whole life, I have always idolised boxers on every level. More than anyone else in the sport, they’re the people I relate to the most.
As a kid, it was a shock when I first realised that so many ex-boxers and champions ended up down on their luck. Back then, I was under the impression that all boxers ended up with huge bank accounts and lived the good life in their big houses. Now of course I know that is far from the truth; even legends of the sport are currently facing incredibly hard times with unthinkable futures. We have to help them.
Generally speaking, not nearly enough is being done within the industry to help those former fighters. Though there are some heroes out there. You guys have Ringside Charitable Trust in the UK and, over here, groups like Ring 10 with Matt Farrago, who stage fundraisers. But it’s like it’s some kind of secret. None of the major players seem to be supporting them, it’s all behind the scenes, so many fans who watch boxing don’t realise there is a need to help.
Events like the Atlantic City Hall of Fame are very important because they allow fans, boxers and industry people to congregate and keep each other up-to-date. It gives the fighters, including myself, a chance to reminisce on our fighting days and there is no better tonic for a former boxer than having that opportunity to reflect. The connections made are incredible. This year, we had Roy Jones Jnr and Felix Trinidad being inducted and their presence made it extra special. And with that comes more attention to what we’re trying to achieve for the ex-boxers.
At the ceremony my old friend Roy flagged me down and told me to bring him whatever I had and he would sign it with view to it all then being sold to raise money. Same with Tito. Almost every single fighter I have approached – and plenty have approached me – are happy to do this.
Whenever I send cheques to fighters like Wilfred Benitez or Gerald McClellan, I always take a photograph of the envelope and put it on social media. Some have accused me of ‘bragging’ about sending money to fighters while saying that others do it too, but don’t ‘brag’ about it. Of course, I am not bragging, I am trying to raise awareness. I need people to know that these guys are in bad shape. I need people to know that I am selling items and why I am selling them. The more people that see my posts, the more money is raised. Ex-boxers in trouble is not a dirty secret. It is a fact of our sport and the sport must come together to support them.
Fighters helping fighters is one of the most beautiful things I’ve experienced in my whole life.