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Ramos wants to help fighters

Associated Press Thursday, Jan. 21 5:08pm ET

NEW YORK -- A tearful Alex Ramos, who knows about hard knocks in and out of the ring, talked Thursday about helping others who toiled in the hard world of professional boxing.

"I was in the dark, I didn't see the light," said the 36-year-old Ramos, a former middleweight contender. "I was into drugs and alcohol and I was homeless. I had been on top of the world and -- boom -- I hit rock bottom, but I picked myself up."

And when he straightened himself out through rehabilitation in 1995, he saw the light in his life.

"What I wanted to do is help retired fighters," Ramos said on the final day of three days of hearings conducted by the National Association of Attorney Generals Boxing Task Force at the Downtown Athletic Club.

Ramos is founder and president of the Retired Boxers Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps direct retired fighters to services that can help them. It is especially directed to help ex-fighters who are alcoholics, substance abusers, homeless and show the effects of Dementia Pugilistica (punch drunkenness).

The foundation is a way of keeping Ramos involved in the sport he loves. He fought professionally about 40 times from 1980-1994, except for being inactive in 1992-93. He made an unsuccessful bid for a piece of the world middleweight title in 1994.

"I love the sport of boxing as much as anybody," Ramos said. "I will die a boxer."

Love of the sport and the quest for championship money and glory, of course, leads to a lot of problems for boxers because they fight too long, or are overmatched too many times.

"When the roar of the crowd is gone ..." said Gerry Cooney, who failed to win the WBC heavyweight title from Larry Holmes in 1971, noting the emptiness that retirement can bring to a fighter, especially a successful one. "That walk from the dressing room to the ring is special.

"I've been out of the ring for a while and I haven't found it (a satisfactory replacement) yet," added Cooney, who attempted a couple of comebacks, and who helped found the Fighters' Institute for Support and Training, a non-profit organization. "It helps former fighters get job training, psychological testing and medical help."

"For us, it was just a way for a moment to stand tall," Ramos said of the reason to become a fighter.

Also appearing before the task force Thursday were Bobby Bartells of Ring 8 of the Veteran Boxers Association; Stephen Acunto Jr., president of the American Association for the Improvement of Boxing, and George Otto of the Jerry Quarry Foundation for Dementia Pugilistica, founded by the former heavyweight contender. Quarry died Jan. 3 of cardiac arrest.

Quarry had Dementia Pugilistica. Otto said Quarry's brothers, Mike, a former light heavyweight contender, and Bob, who boxed as a heavyweight, also suffer from it.