After losing the pension information of a world champion boxer, California finally admits a mistake was made

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – FEBRUARY 22: Boxer Paul Banke attends the 9th Annual Experience, Strength And Hope Awards Ceremony at the Writers Guild Theater on February 22, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
(Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

After losing the pension information of a world champion boxer, California finally admits a mistake was made

Boxing and MMA

Melody Gutierrez

March 5, 2024

For years, Paul Banke desperately needed the money he believed California owed him.

The former world super bantamweight boxer struggled with cancer treatment and had to sell his car

during the pandemic

when the broadcast went out

during the pandemic.

Banke, who made headlines in 1995 when he became the first major American boxer to publicly acknowledge he had AIDS, was certain he was entitled to a pension from California’s unique boxer pension system. But Banke said the California State Athletic Commission, which administers the 40-year-old pension plan, repeatedly told him over the years that he was ineligible.

On Monday, after numerous questions from The Times, the committee admitted that it had inexplicably lost Banke’s pension information and voted to pay him a lump sum of $21,000.

Unable to accurately calculate what Banke is owed, the committee approved an amount equal to the average payout to boxers over the past three years.

“I don’t know if he’s falling short or if we’re paying him too much. I don’t know,” Andy Foster, the commission’s executive officer, told The Times. “Based on the information I have, this is the fairest way to pay him.

The committee said the lost pension was likely an ‘isolated incident’ but could not rule out other boxers

have been


The committee’s vote on Monday followed questions from The Times over the past six months about why Banke had been denied a pension when boxing records showed he had.


more than twice the minimum rounds


in California to qualify. It also follows a Times investigation last year that found the pension program failed in its primary mission to locate boxers and inform them of their benefits, kept inadequate records and had not set aside enough money to pay pensions owed.

Foster said Banke’s pension information


does not appear to have been transferred when the California Professional Boxers Pension Plan was revised in the 1990s.

Banke was a hard hitter who defeated Daniel Zaragoza in 1990 to win the World Boxing Council title at the Forum in Inglewood. That

the same

Last year, The Times described Banke as a “crowd-pleasing slugger.”

Banke is now 60 and lives on disability insurance in Pasadena with his dog and birds. He said the retirement money will allow him to buy a car.

“This is a lot of money for me,” Banke said.



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


boxer and fought against the size of the


purses. Boxers can apply for their pension from



years old

or earlier

as used

for medical or educational purposes.

The plan,

that is

Funded by a fee of 88 cents per ticket, it was created in 1982 to provide retired fighters with some financial security, according to state law. More than $4.5 million has been paid to 265 retired fighters, with most claims coming


in the last decade. The average pension is a lump sum payment of $17,000.

In conversations with

Dozens of boxers

told The Times in interviews

the past year that they

most told The Times they

I couldn’t remember ever receiving any information about them


during their careers and criticized the state for not making more efforts to find them. Following The Times investigation, the commission pledged to step up efforts to track down boxers and paid out a record number of pensions last year. But even with the higher payouts, less than 1 in 4 boxers could claim


pensions did this last year, according to The Times’ analysis of committee documents.

Banke said

in the past 10 years

he called the athletic committee several times

in the past 10 years

and every time


was told he was not eligible. After The Times’ investigation, Banke’s friends told him he should continue pressing the committee to explain why he was rejected. Banke said he got nowhere

before reaching out

The times.

“It’s alarming,” said Hector Lizarraga, a featherweight champion who filed for retirement last year

are what

contacted by The Times. “I told him to be persistent and keep asking. It’s unacceptable. It’s not like he’s a fighter. We’re talking about a former world champion.”

Foster said there could be other boxers

in the same way

pensions due

for whowie

the committee has no data


but he has doubts.

I mean, we could, but we


I asked a little question but I can’t find one, Foster said. We were a little concerned about that. But maybe there is another one, I don’t know. But I think this is kind of an anomaly.”


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