Dan McGrath, of the Chicago Tribune, wrote an excellent article on Gerald McLellan and how the money behind boxing turned its back on him. Dan was nice enough to include Ring 10 in his article. Here is a link to the article – ‘Boxing totally turned its back’ on battered Gerald McClellan.
Here is the intro to his article…
If enough people are willing to shell out $100 for the pay-per-view telecast, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor could earn nine figures each for the “spectacle” they’re staging in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Lisa McClellan, meanwhile, lives on a disability stipend of $1,920 a month her brother receives, plus the occasional kindness of strangers.
She might watch the contrived showdown between the boxer and the brawler “if my boyfriend buys it,” Lisa says, “but I’m not buying it. I refuse to support a sport that doesn’t take care of its own.”
Gerald McClellan, older by a year at 49, is the brother with whom Lisa shares a small, well-kept home on a dead-end street in the well-worn town where they grew up. Gerald was once in Mayweather’s line of work and did well at it, rising to the the top of the middleweight division with ferocious punching power.
Here is a mention of Ring 10…
Ring 10, a New York-based nonprofit established in 2011 to assist boxers in need, has been the McClellans’ lifeline. Matt Farrago, now a medical supplies salesman who had 28 pro fights as a super-welterweight in the ’80s, is the founder, chief fundraiser and tireless spokesman for the charity.
“We’re fighters helping fighters in the only sport that doesn’t do anything for its athletes once it’s through with them,” Farrago says. “Ninety-eight cents of every dollar we raise goes to the fighters. Nobody gets turned down.”
He won’t discuss specific contributions, but Ring 10 maintains an account at the grocery store where Lisa buys the family’s food, and there was help with an electric bill when she fell behind several months ago.
“I’ve never experienced anything like Ring 10,” Lisa says. “Some organizations will help you out one time and then we’re moving on to the next person. But Ring 10 is a consistent thing — ‘We’re family and we’re here for you.’ They provide us with help every month.”
It’s Lisa’s selflessness that keeps Ring 10 coming back to Gerald, Farrago says.
“Boxing totally turned its back on Gerald, walked away from him, but Lisa is so devoted to him,” he said. “It’s more of a human interest story than a boxing story.”
To the President, Board of Directors and Members of Ring 10,
Amazing this organization is to have come into our lives and helped us in ways and words we cannot say. On November 28, 2014, the day after Thanksgiving, I was standing too close to my propane heater and my pant legs caught fire. Tragically, I received some second and third degree burns to the backside of my body. I am blessed to be alive today.
To this day, my wife, Mary, and I never knew or had any thought of a miracle/blessing (Ring 10) to step in and offer to help us in such a way that we are still in awe. We thank you, Matt, for calling and keeping in touch with me to see how things are going. Each day I’m fighting another round. I’m currently in the rehabilitation unit stretching, bending and learning to walk the stairs and all that’s needed to get me back to where I need to be. Fighting another round.
Again, thank you, Ring 10, for all that you do. You have helped us in such a BIG way by providing help with our utility bills. Another stepping stone for not having to worry. I will never forget this as long as I live.
During my fighting career, I often used this phrase, “I may get knocked down, but I won’t get knocked out.”
I’m thanking God every day for allowing me another chance and thanking him also for you, Ring 10, for making another chance easier as I begin the healing process.
Horace Hal “TNT” Carroll
By Mike Silver on March 30, 2015
Matt’s integrity has won him many fans, including HBO’s Harold Lederman (on the left).
Aside from the financial woes experienced by many ex-boxers, Matt Farrago is also well aware of the inherent physical danger connected to his sport…
At 7 p.m., on the second Tuesday of every month, several dozen boxing enthusiasts, including such former ring stars as Mark Breland, Iran Barkley, Aaron Davis, Dennis Milton, Tyrone Jackson, Junior Jones and HBO’s Harold Lederman meet in a private room of Rino’s Ristorante in the Throgs Neck neighborhood of the Bronx to discuss their latest efforts and plans to help former professional boxers who have fallen on hard times. The organization is the Veterans Boxing Foundation of New York, Ring #10.
From the early 1950s to the 1980s there were scores of veteran boxers’ associations located in various cities throughout the U.S.A. The very first VBA originated in Philadelphia (Ring #1). Most were primarily fraternal organizations where retired boxers who fought from the 1910s to the 1950s would get together and schmooze over coffee and doughnuts while reliving memories of old times and old battles. Over the past several decades, as the old-timers died off, so did the VBAs. Only a handful remain.
Five years ago a former professional boxer named Matt Farrago decided that the few VBA chapters still in existence were not doing nearly enough to help former pro boxers in need. He decided to form his own organization for just that purpose. Even though Matt, a college graduate, had a full-time job as a medical device representative he devoted all his spare time to organize and establish Ring 10 with the same bulldog enthusiasm and tenacity that was the hallmark of his professional boxing career. Matt, a light-middleweight, fought from 1983 to 1991 and compiled an enviable 25-2-1 record (11 KOs).
It was Matt’s vision to create an organization that would be far more proactive than any other group claiming to help impoverished and physically ailing former boxers. In just a few short years he has accomplished that goal. Under Matt’s leadership Ring 10 has made a huge difference in the lives of dozens of ex-pros, including several former world champions. In the late 1980s Iran Barkley was one of the sport’s biggest stars, having won the middleweight title with a spectacular third round KO of Thomas Hearns. Subsequent bouts with Hearns, Roberto Duran, James Toney, Michael Nunn and Nigel Benn grossed several million dollars. Yet, in a scenario repeated far too often, 10 years after Barkley retired he was broke and homeless. Ring 10 found him and took him in.
“The board and members helped to get him an apartment, basic furniture, TV, and we made sure he was able to acquire social services,” says Matt. “He regularly attends our monthly meetings and has great input in all our decisions and conversations. Due to his knowledge and experience with the sport of boxing, we brought him onto the Board of Directors where he participates in all aspects of Ring 10. I’d also like to congratulate Iran for getting back on his feet and now he’s busy planning his wedding to Pamela Graham in November of this year.”
Ring 10 sends financial assistance to former ring great Wilfred Benitez who suffers from dementia and can no longer care for himself. The organization also made arrangements to have a credit at a local grocery chain so that ex-champion Gerald McClellan’s sister can purchase food for herself and Gerald. McClellan was forced to retire from boxing after suffering a severe brain injury in his final fight.
Many other lesser known boxers benefit from the organization’s largesse. Each month Ring 10 sends out food gift cards all over the country to various fighters and their families so they can shop at their local grocery store to purchase food. All of these fighters know that they have support from their “Brothers” in New York.
“Our sole purpose is to help boxers get back on their feet and to give them a fighting chance to become self-supporting,” explains Matt. “I feel we are successful in what we do because of our core group. They are all connected deeply to the boxing community in some way and they truly care. We meet once a month for a nice night of productive conversation and great food. Fifteen dollars gives you an Italian style dinner and a great opportunity to mingle with some of the greatest professional fighters from around our area.”
Aside from the financial woes experienced by many ex-boxers, Matt is also well aware of the inherent physical danger connected to his sport. He is very interested in the research conducted by Dr. Ann McKee, M.D., a leading authority on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that is most commonly found in athletes participating in boxing, football, ice hockey and other contact sports. Dr. McKee is co-director of the Center for the Study of CTE at Boston University. “Ring 10 has been involved with their research,” says Matt. “Our organization provides boxers for frequent mental testing and they track each fighter’s status. Many of the former boxers in our organization, including myself, have decided to donate our brains which will be harvested and studied after death. Ring 10 wants to be a part of the ongoing research that is needed to identify, treat, and maybe reverse the symptoms of head trauma.”
Trying to reverse the downward spiral that afflicts so many former boxers once their careers are over is a daunting task. Matt believes that fundamental changes within the structure of the sport might help: “Ideally I would like to see the sport somehow unionized. This would give more control to the fighters and less control to promoters and managers who don’t always have the fighter’s best interest at heart. Professional boxing has no health benefits, no financial security, nothing that educates them regarding their finances, and no protection from some of the unscrupulous handlers. Unfortunately, this is a sport that has no use for you when it is over, and no one prepares these fighters for the aftermath. That is why so many end up broke, homeless, and hopeless.
“Ring 10 has two fund raising events each year. Our next one is on May 31st when we will host our Second Annual ‘Run With The Champs Walk/Jog-A-Thon.’ It takes place at the Villa Maria Academy in the Bronx. This is a beautiful school on 10 acres of waterfront property. It will be a fun and fit activity for all. We will also have music, BBQ, Ring 10 original merchandise for sale, and raffle baskets. The champs sign gloves and everyone has a wonderful time.
“The second event is our Fifth Annual Ring 10 Gala on September 13, 2015, at the beautiful Marina Del Rey catering facility in Throgs Neck. This is our main source of fundraising. World champions, both retired and active, contenders, actors and comedians come together to support the organization and its mission. There are raffles and live and silent auctions. People seem to enjoy bidding on the great boxing memorabilia we have to offer. Over 200 people attended last year’s gala. Some of our past guests included Carlos Ortiz, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, Jake LaMotta, ‘Buddy’ McGirt, Tony DeMarco, Marlon Starling, Earnie Shavers, Tim Witherspoon, Riddick Bowe, comedian Pat Cooper, and actors Danny Aiello and Holt McCallany.”
Matt’s integrity, dedication and sincerity have won him many fans in the boxing community. He understands the problems facing many former professional boxers and feels compelled to make a difference. “The biggest battles facing some of our former world champions and the brave fighters who entertained us over the years often take place well after their careers are over. With no union, health benefits or governmental assistance, their ability to pursue a normal life outside of the only one they know within the ring is extremely challenging and difficult. These men deserve a fighting chance. Ring 10 has no intention of throwing in the towel on these brave athletes who dedicated themselves to the sport and deserve our help.”
Ring 10 is a tax-exempt 501(c) charity. Membership is open to all who want to help. Dues are $ 25 dollars a year. Matt proudly states that “one hundred percent of all membership fees and donations go towards helping fighters. No funds go to any members or directors of Ring 10. Their service is voluntary.”
Membership applications, donation instructions and news about upcoming events can be accessed via the web site: www.Ring10ny.com. Like and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @ring10ny.
Boxing historian Mike Silver is the author of the The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science (McFarland Publishers, 2008).
It’s been a long time now, almost three decades, since Iran Barkley became an overnight sensation, when the boxer known as “The Blade” stopped Thomas Hearns in three rounds and won the WBC middleweight title. He was 28-years-old and on that night in Las Vegas, he was on top of the world.
The next year, Barkley rumbled with Roberto Duran in a grueling 12-round battle that was the Fight Of The Year, but it ended in a split decision for the Panamanian legend. He later fought Michael Nunn in 1989 and Nigel Benn in 1990, suffering defeat in both title fights. But in 1992 he came back to stop Darrin Van Horn and then challenged Hearns at light heavyweight and became the only man to prevail twice against “The Motor City Cobra.”
One might think that after winning world titles and facing some of his era’s most popular fighters, Barkley could look forward to a comfortable after-boxing life. At the very least, one would expect his retirement years to be a level above the poverty of his youth when he lived in the squalid housing projects of the Bronx. But despite career earnings of roughly $5 million, soon enough Barkely found himself in a worse situation than ever before, homeless and sleeping in a New York subway station with nothing to his name but a bag of clothes and the title belt he won from Hearns. Friends eventually helped Iran out and paid for some hotel rooms, but needless to say, this was far from the situation Barkley had imagined for himself when he hung up his gloves.
It was a group of boxing industry veterans, organized as the Ring 10 Boxing Foundation of New York, who helped Barkley to eventually get back on his feet. They provided support, found him an apartment, and essentially gave him a new lease on life, restoring the dignity of a former boxing champion.
On a balmy October evening in New York, I met Iran Barkley for the first time. Wearing a black shirt and a gold chain around his neck, “The Blade” is still an imposing figure, although now he looks more like a heavyweight than a middleweight. He still commands attention; people turned as he entered the restaurant where we met. He is soft-spoken, and he shook my hand gently to introduce himself. “I’m Iran,” he said with a warm smile.
Barkley was there to attend a Ring 10 meeting. He and a few former boxers are Ring 10 board members and attend the organization’s monthly meetings in the Bronx. That night was the group’s first after their annual September fundraiser, the seventh such event since the group’s founding in 2010. One of the agenda items for the evening was to go through the financial records from the event. The board spent the first few minutes of the meeting dissecting a five hundred dollar discrepancy in the records kept by two different officers. For an organization that needs every dime it can get to fund its mission, five hundred bucks is kind of a big deal.
“We can’t lose,” comments Ring 10 founder Matt Farrago as the group goes over the numbers. “We may not win that much, but we can’t lose.”
While all board members agreed that the September 24th event was worthwhile and that they would like to do it again next year, some lamented the difficulty of getting big name boxers to attend. This year several of the invited guests backed out at the last minute, forcing Ring 10 to absorb the costs of unused hotel rooms and travel expenses. , As non-profit organizations like Ring 10 have to compete with other charitable causes for people’s good will and generosity, the attendance of boxing celebrities is critical to attracting more people and securing more donations.
Ring 10’s challenges are symptomatic of the struggles of the largely disjointed Ring organizations in the United States. Ring chapters were formed across the country to provide assistance to retired boxers, but of course it’s difficult to carry out a benevolent mission when resources are scarce. Ring chapters are generally underfunded and have limited options, but there is a steady stream of ex-boxers who need their help.
“What does a pro football player who’s put ten years into the sport have when he retires?” asks Farrago. “He has money and financial advisers. He’s probably got an education because football players receive scholarships and go to university. Where does a fighter come from? The streets. What does he have when he retires? Not nearly as much to fall back on.”
A lack of education makes boxers susceptible to exploitation in a sport where it’s every man for himself. And after retirement, many pugilists eventually end up where they came from, with their bank accounts empty and their houses, cars, and even families, gone, leaving the boxer truly alone, with nothing and no one to fall back on.
For the most part, the former boxers who have retired to relatively comfortable lives and are able to take care of themselves are those with a college degree. Farrago himself earned a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York even while pursuing a professional boxing career as a middleweight. At 56, he has long since retired but it is clear he still loves the sport and he has dedicated himself to executing Ring 10’s mission while working a demanding full-time sales job. His work at Ring 10 is a labor of love that is unlikely to bring him any monetary rewards in the foreseeable future.
Funding for the noble cause of helping retired and injured boxers is hard to come by and whatever amount Ring 10 raises goes primarily to ex-boxers who are in dire need. Ring organizations rely on fundraisers to secure the money they need, but compared to other sports, boxing no longer appeals to a broad audience and hence Ring 10’s events do not attract big crowds, or the crowds that have deep pockets. Meanwhile, corporate sponsorships are elusive.
“Boxing is a lonely sport,” says Bruce Silverglade, who owns the famed Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn and was an awardee in the recent Ring 10 fundraiser. “When you go into that ring, you’re all alone and that’s what boxing is. You’re alone, and not just in the ring, but also outside the ring. There is no support system.”
Like most industry veterans, including Farrago, Silverglade believes another reason boxers are exploited and overlooked is because of the absence of a national regulatory body. Unlike other sports leagues in America, boxing has no pay levels, no pensions, not even medical coverage requirements. States impose their own rules, but if they do so stringently, this only drives promoters and fight cards to go elsewhere. Thus boxers must fend for themselves and make sure there is enough money left for when they walk away from the ring for good. But many are unable to do just that.
Silverglade believes the lack of support, not just for Ring organizations but for boxing in general, reflects the political and social reality in America. Boxers come from the lowest economic class and are social outliers. “The people involved in boxing don’t come from a big voting bloc, so government agencies don’t want to spend money on them. There’s no return.”
Despite the seeming popularity of boxing for fitness, pugilism itself does not really have mass appeal beyond the biggest fights. Indeed, many who take up boxing for exercise do not even watch a boxing match, much less know the current crop of boxers.
“People don’t like the sport of boxing,” Silverglade notes. “People think it’s just violence. They don’t understand the benefits of boxing. That’s a marketing problem.” This perception inhibits the organizations which help boxers from raising significant amounts of cash to make a long-term sustainable impact on the athletes.
Even local boxing clubs and well-intentioned programs such as Gleason’s Gym’s “Give A Kid A Dream” can’t find ongoing support. “It gets zero dollars,” Silverglade laments. “Everybody will give you lip service, will tell you how great it is, but nobody will open their wallets.”
And if boxing programs that may one day produce the next world champion are getting no support, the chances of retired boxers getting it are even slimmer. Institutional sponsors are unlikely to see any return on investment from retired fighters, some of whom may not even be physically able to remember their sponsor’s name.
Because a national governing body is unlikely to be formed anytime soon and institutional support is not forthcoming, perhaps the solution lies within the industry itself. Payoffs for the top champions and boxing stars can be astronomical, with many millions earned for a single mega fight.
But for every Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao, there are thousands of lesser known boxers who will never see that level of financial success. Could the industry itself learn to better distribute the wealth to close the income gap?
“Mayweather made over $200 million from his fight with Pacquiao,” notes Silverglade. “So why not take just $1 million and give it to the undercard? If you make $199 million instead of $200 million, it’s not going to kill you.”
But boxing in America, which is controlled by just a handful of big players, is not built with altruism in mind. Silverglade notes that the industry does not care for even the most magnificent and successful boxer the moment he gets injured and stops fighting. “They don’t care,” says Silverglade. “They say, ‘Who’s next?’”
For this reason, boxers will continue to need organizations like Ring 10 because when there is no one else to turn to, this organization can provide some relief. Farrago says requests for assistance have grown, partly because of Ring 10’s online presence. Farrago diligently posts pictures of the group’s events and writes blog posts about its activities. To raise extra cash, Ring 10 sells t-shirts and beanies, and auctions off boxing memorabilia, such as the discarded hand wraps of famous fighters.
At any given time, the group helps 15 to 20 retired fighters across the United States, Farrago said. Assistance can be in the form of gift cards for groceries, or financial assistance for rent or medical costs. The group wants to do more, but resources are limited. To save money, Ring 10 operations are run out of Farrago’s home and no one receives a salary or allowance for their work in the organization. Everyone pays for their own dinner at the monthly board and members’ meetings.
Despite these constraints, however, Iran Barkley is just one of the ex-boxers Ring 10 has helped. Among the fighters who have received support is Wilfred Benitez, a champion and Hall of Famer who now lives in a shack in Puerto Rico and is being cared for by his sister. Similarly, Ring 10 sends monthly gift cards for groceries to former middleweight champion Gerald McClellan, who has been severely handicapped since his battle with Nigel Benn in 1995. And more recently Ring 10 provided assistance and collected donations on behalf of Magomed Abdusalamov, who was severely injured in his bout with Mike Perez in 2013.
Ring 10 also made sure it helped Howard Davis Jr. meet the cost of his chemotherapy and homeopathic treatments for lung cancer. In his final months in 2015, Davis was honored by Ring 10 with a replica of the four Golden Gloves pendants that were stolen from him years before. Davis passed away in December of that year but Farrago takes solace in the fact that Ring 10 helped him through the hardest fight of his life.
As the board meeting transitioned to the regular membership meeting, the discussion became more spirited since naturally there were more issues and unfinished business to attend to beyond the most recent fundraising event. Thankfully, the $500 bookkeeping discrepancy was resolved, but once one fire is put out, two or three more must be dealt with. In this way Ring 10 is a reflection of boxing as an industry. It is old-school and scrappy, reliant on the wit and grit of dedicated grass-roots volunteers, and survivors like Barkley.
But it’s a sad statement on boxing itself that the organization receives no ongoing financial aid from any of the sanctioning bodies or promotional companies which, it must be noted, profit handsomely from boxing and from the sacrifices of its injured athletes. Should it be so difficult for Ring 10 to secure financing from the sport it is trying to serve? Couldn’t some of boxing’s big players and more successful champions offer some help? Hopefully such support will transpire in the near future. But in the meantime, like the fighters it serves, Ring 10 is an organization with a big heart, one determined to keep going no matter what, and provide much needed assistance and dignity for boxing’s wounded warriors. — Sheila Oviedo
For more information on Ring 10, please visit: http://ring10ny.com/
Charity for former boxers fallen on difficult times can be a beautiful thing.
Ring 10’s Veterans Boxing Foundation of New York’s 2nd annual fund raiser to help boxers who have who thrilled fight fans decades ago but have fallen on hard times – fallen victim to unscrupulous promoters and disloyal friends – was a success with some big names at Marina del Rey on Saturday, August 18.
The group – whose board of directors consists largely of east Bronx fight fans – held the fundraiser that brought pugilists that fans remember, including James “Buddy” McGirt, Carlos Ortiz, Holt McCallany, James “Bonecrusher” Smith, Livingstone Bramble, Donny Lalonde, Aaron “Superman” Davis, Iran “The Blade” Barkley, Doug Dewitt, and Michael Olajide, according to Ring 10 president Matt Farrago.
“The people who came to the fundraiser loved it,” said Farrago. “We could not get people to leave after five hours. The boxers were so thankful for us inviting them.”
There were also a number of donated items for a silent auction that made the program a even more successful, said Farrago.
Among the items donated were a pair of fight shoes worn in the ring by Livingstone Bramble that were autographed by him; gloves donated by Saul Alvarez, Leon Spinks, and Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini; and a signed picture of Iran Barkley from when he won a world championship, said Farrago.
Board members of Ring 10 include Community Board 10 chairman John Marano. The vice-president of the organization is long-time Villa Maria Academy physical education department leader and teacher Michael Bernard.
Through Ring 10, Marano has become friends with Iran Barkley, whose homeless plight was featured in the New York Post in 2010.
“I got involved in Ring 10 through my relationship with Iran “The Blade” Barkley and Michael Bernard,” said Marano.
Barkley had been giving motivational talks for children at Villa Maria Academy for years.
“We got positive input and got to network at the fundraiser, and to educate the boxing fans of what these fighters go through.”
The money raised will go to the foundation, which provides money and aid directly to the fighters and their families – dishing it out carefully – to pay for housing, medical aid, and other living essentials, according to Farrago.
The organization may form partnerships with several retired boxers who could agree to donate proceeds from various projects to the organization, said Marano.
He said that Ring 10 plans on working with several younger boxers to make sure they understand that even if they are making big sums of money today, that could change once they leave boxing.
“We need to educate the younger boxers coming into this life,” said Marano.
And boxers who are established or retired, he added, should consider giving back to their comrades who are falling on hard times.
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@c