After Times investigation, retired boxers are finally getting what they’re owed from California

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

After Times investigation, retired boxers are finally getting what they’re owed from California

Times Investigations, Boxing and MMA

Melody Gutierrez

Dec. 28, 2023

California’s little-known pension plan for boxers paid benefits to three dozen fighters this year, a record number since the program began 40 years ago, but still only a small fraction of them owed money to the state.

The increased payouts from the California Professional Boxers’ Pension Plan follow The Times’ investigation in May, which found the state failed to notify boxers of their benefits, leaving most retirement accounts unclaimed each year.

In interviews with dozens of boxers, most told The Times they could not recall ever receiving information about their accounts during their careers and criticized the state for not making more efforts to find them.

The California State Athletic Commission, which administers the pension, pledged to educate boxers about the plan, which was created to provide financial support to vulnerable fighters who face the challenges of aging, battered bodies in their later years. to intensify.

The committee, which has paid an average of fewer than 10 boxers a year, has written 33 checks totaling $531,000 so far this year. According to The Times analysis, that is the highest amount paid to boxers under the scheme since the commission first started paying out pensions in 1999.

Six Three additional boxers are currently receiving a total of $61,000. $32,000.

Even with the higher payouts this year,

About 1 in 5 boxers less than 1 in 4 boxers

whoever could claim his nest egg, did so


according to The Times’ analysis of committee documents

. California created the nation’s only pension for aging boxers. But it doesn’t deliver

“I think the most important thing about this program is to raise awareness that it exists,” said Andy Foster, executive officer of the athletic commission.

Currently, 165 retired boxers are eligible for their pension

owed to the fighters when they turn 50, while many of them have owed the money for ten to twenty years. Last year, about 6% of boxers were paid out due to a pension, according to research by The Times.

Foster said the commission has since launched investigations to find contact information for beneficiaries and in June worked with Mexico to locate boxers there.

“The boxers are starting to talk about it,” Foster said. “I think the generation of boxers approaching their 50s will have a much higher success rate of people coming forward just because they’re talking about it.”

Mexico joins search for retired boxers owed California pensions

The plan, which is funded by a fee of 88 cents per ticket, was created in 1982 to provide retired fighters with some financial security, according to state law. In October, Governor Gavin Newsom approved a bill to create a pension program for mixed martial arts fighters, modeled on that for boxers, which will also be administered by the athletic commission.

The boxer’s plan provides pensions to any professional boxer, regardless of residency, who completes at least 75 scheduled rounds in California with a break of no more than three years. Pension amounts are determined by the number of rounds a boxer has fought and the size of his wallet. Boxers can also apply for early retirement for medical or educational purposes, and families of fallen fighters are eligible for the benefits on their behalf.

“There are so many people they owe money to,” said retired lightweight Gonzalo Montellano of Bakersfield, 66, who recently received a check for nearly $20,000 for a retirement he made.


knew he had done so until The Times contacted him.

Montellano first became eligible for the lump sum payment 16 years ago.

“I mean, it’s great for California to have this for fighters, but in a way it’s useless because no one knew about it,” said Montellano, who fought professionally for eight years and amassed a 35-3-2 record.


with 20 knockouts.

To date, the scheme has paid 265 retired fighters a total of $4.5 million, with most of the claims filed in the past decade. The average pension is a lump sum payment of $17,000. The highest single payment in 2022 went to Sugar Shane Mosley, a powerhouse from Pomona with world title belts in three weight classes. Mosley’s retirement benefit was $203,000, according to records obtained through the Public Records Act.

Last month, retired Los Angeles light heavyweight Milford Kemp received a check nearly 20 years after he became eligible for the nearly $8,880 California set aside for him.



who was known as the “Ballet Boxer” for the way he incorporated the geometric principles of both into his fights, said no one ever told him he had the retirement account. It went unclaimed because he sometimes struggled to find subsidized government housing and warm clothing where he lived in Edmonton, Canada.

Earlier this year, the former fighter said from his sparsely furnished apartment, where he sleeps on a discarded massage table, that it is money he desperately needs and is grateful for.

Following The Times’ reporting, the said committee will begin sending annual statements early next year to all established boxers for whom it has addresses, a step that pension experts say is a minimum standard for most pension schemes. The athletic commission previously waited until a boxer turned 50 before attempting to contact them for the first time. The vast majority of addresses were no longer current at that time.

The names of those who can currently apply for a pension are listed on the commission’s website.


Retirement advocates are lobbying lawmakers to raise the ticket price, and the commission is also considering a special license plate as a source of revenue.

“They’re late, but at least they’re doing something,” said Bob Fellmeth, the architect of the boxer’s pension when he was chairman of the athletic committee in 1981.

Fellmeth said he is equally pleased to hear the committee is actively contacting boxers who are owed pensions.

“We need more of that,” he added.

Can You Get a California Boxer Pension? Here’s what you need to know

There are costs to boxers when pensions are paid years or decades late. Amounts owed to boxers do not accrue interest or adjust for inflation once a fighter becomes eligible at age 50, meaning the value decreases over time.

Whatever they give me now isn’t what it was worth 10 years ago, said Ramzi Hassan, 61, a retired light heavyweight from San Diego who was recently paid $18,600.

Prior to a call from the athletic commission a few months ago, Hassan said he was unfamiliar with the retirement program, which he qualified for during his career in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2012 he became eligible for his pension for the first time.

Hassan said he is grateful for the unexpected money, but believes the program could be better.

There was never any communication, he says.


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