Could you have a California boxers’ pension? Here is what you need to know
California created a unique plan to help struggling boxers in their retirement. But for decades the state has stumbled in getting the word out, resulting in few claiming their benefits.
Roughly 200 boxers could have claimed a California Professional Boxers’ Pension Fund payment last year, but only 6% of them did so, according to a Times investigation. In interviews, many boxers owed pensions said they had never heard of the program, which is administered by the California State Athletic Commission and paid for by a ticket fee collected at boxing matches. Other fighters said they thought they might have money in the pension plan, but had never received information from the athletic commission and did not know how to apply.
But, it’s not just boxers who are eligible to claim a pension. Spouses and other beneficiaries can apply for a pension if a boxer has died.
California created the nation’s only pension for aging boxers. But it’s failing many of them
Boxers contacted by The Times said they were unaware that California has a 40-year-old pension program or that they are its beneficiaries.
Why does California have a pension for boxers?
California created the safety net for retired boxers in 1982, with lawmakers saying too many fighters were ending up “injured or destitute, or both.” While the boxers’ pension is state-administered, it does not receive taxpayer money. The pension is funded by an 88-cent ticket fee for boxing events, with a cap of $4,600 per match.
The pension plan includes retirement accounts for more than 1,900 current and former boxers. A quarter of those boxers have met requirements for a pension now or when they turn 50.
To date, the plan has paid $4 million to 235 boxers.
Alex Ramos started a foundation to help struggling boxers after retiring. But he has been unable to tap a California pension program to assist with his own needs.
California offers pensions to any professional boxer who fought at least 75 rounds in the state with no more than a three-year break. Boxers are not required to live in California, but only their fights in the state count toward their pension.
If a boxer has met the minimum requirements, they can apply for their pension when they turn 50. If a boxer dies prior to turning 50, their benefits are eligible to be paid early to a beneficiary.
Retired boxers who are 36 or older can apply for all or a portion of their benefits early if they plan to use the money for vocational education. Boxers can also request to withdraw their pension early due to demonstrated medical reasons.
The commission recently updated its lists of boxers who are currently owed benefits after The Times identified it as being incomplete. The lists include only vested boxers who are 50 and older.
If you believe you qualify and are not listed, contact the commission. Boxers, regardless of age, should be sure that their contact information is current with the commission in order to receive annual pension statements.
How are pensions calculated?
The commission uses a complex formula to determine how much a qualified boxer receives. That formula considers the number of rounds he or she fought in California and the purse of each bout.
Pension amounts are adjusted each year based on revenue generated from the 88-cent ticket fee and how much is in the plan’s investment account.
When a boxer turns 50, their account freezes, with however much is allotted to them at that point becoming their final pension amount. Boxers’ pensions do not increase or decrease from that point, regardless of when they claim their money. However, financial experts point out that unclaimed pensions that are not receiving cost-of-living increases depreciate in value over time due to inflation.
How much are boxers paid?
The pension plan began making payments to eligible boxers in 1999, with the average pension about $17,000, according to a Times analysis of commission records obtained through the Public Records Act.
Last year, the commission made its largest pension payment to a fighter — $203,000 to “Sugar” Shane Mosley, a powerhouse fighter from Pomona with world-title belts in three weight classes.
The 11 other boxers who claimed pensions last year received between $11,300 and $24,000.
The commission pays pensions in one-time lump sums, but can provide smaller installments in some cases if requested.
How to apply
Boxers or their beneficiaries are required to fill out forms on the athletic commission’s website and will need to provide a certified copy of their birth certificate or an original passport.
For more information, contact the California State Athletic Commission at (916) 263-2195 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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