Why Alex Ramos Never Won Olympic Gold
by Warren Spooner
I want to tell you about one of the undisputed greats of the international Middleweight division, a four-time winner of the prestigious New York Golden Gloves who was robbed of the chance to win an Olympic gold medal for his country when the USA withdrew from the Moscow games but overcame that disappointment to establish himself as among the best - an acknowledged champion, of his (and all!) time in the ranks of the professionals.
I could talk about the way young men are taken from poverty and poor education and thrust whilst they are at the top or on their way to it (without the benefit of any education, guidance, counselling or the like) - into a false but lethal, unreal world of glamour, sex, drugs, penthouse apartments and all the trappings, only to be unceremoniously dropped in the gutter, penniless, when their results begin to wain.
Alex Ramos has a fight record amateur and professional of which any pugilist would be proud. It can be accessed easily by anyone with a computer, just Google his name, look at the records of the New York Boxing Hall of Fame (Alex has been recognised and inducted there) or the African American Sporting Hall of Fame (yes, he’s there too!).
I admire all of this about Alex and I’m in awe of his sporting achievements but it isn’t what I want to bring to your attention today. It’s not what makes me love and respect the guy, my mate and my “brother”. It’s the fight he put up after he retired that makes Alex such a hero in my eyes.
Dropped in the gutter (almost literally) as his career slowed and the ravages of substance abuse and the harsh nature of his chosen sport took its toll, sleeping on the streets and in the back of sleazy gyms, it is here that Alex began his most impressive fight, one which continues today and will go on as long as he lives.
The fight for dignity his own and that of his fellow warriors worldwide and a right to a quality of life that the rest of us accept all too easily.
Alex credits God (smart man, my brother) for his greatest comeback, from the streets. He had a lot of help! The Salvos were there initially, of course. He was also blessed with a family of “angels”, the Richardsons (Jacquie now fills the honorary unfortunately - role of CEO of the Retired Boxers’ Foundation). The bottom line, however, is that none of these fine people (God excepted) could have helped had Alex not been willing to do the tough yards, to fight for himself.
Every day Alex prepares himself for the battle. We all know that substance abuse never really goes away … is never “cured”. The challenge of coping with the day-to-day stuff after years of limelight, adulation and respect and to carry also the effects of the years of damage from his chosen sport cannot be easily imagined or described. Yet Alex marches boldly ahead, a smile for everyone he meets and a word of encouragement for anyone in whom he sees a need.
Above all, Alex remains a fighter. Yes, most who enter the square ring particularly with success always see themselves as a fighter but in Alex’s case he really is still fighting! Since 1995, when he first made his commitment, Alex has worked to found and to establish on a solid footing the Retired Boxers’ Foundation. It was and remains his vision that all who choose the sport of boxing and eventually retire (for whatever reason) be recognised as the “Undisputed Champions of Dignity”.
He works (very ably supported by the amazing Jacquie Richardson, who also holds down a “real job” at the same time!) - almost literally twenty-four-seven - to achieve that goal. He will never turn away from a call for help from a brother pugilist in need (no matter where in the world), an offer to promote the cause or change the way things are done so that future fighters get more reasonable treatment.
Together they lobby for the review of rules and regulations, Medical research and development, a better understanding of fight-related illnesses and injuries, reforms in athlete care and post-career conditions. Fund-raising is a constant need and a “necessary evil” they must address. The work is long, unrewarding, often tedious and frequently depressing. Yet this man always has a smile and a good word for everyone he contacts.
“God don’t make no mistakes!” he tells me … often. Well, He certainly didn’t when He called Alex Ramos to do His will.
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