I have been wanting to write an article about Alex Ramos ever since I met him a couple of years ago but didn’t really know where I wanted the article to lead. Now I do.
A lot of times you hear about punch drunk or down-on-their-luck boxers and that is relevant when discussing retired fighters. You watch a guy get beat then you go on social media and see people calling them “bums” or a myriad of other words that denigrate them and their profession. I realize that when I see a person make a comment about a boxer being a bum or something like it, that person is not a true fan and more often than not that guy is just sitting behind a screen and has never sparred or competed in their lives. If they did, they would realize that boxers have uncommon courage they as person don’t possess. Yes, even the guy that comes into the ring with a record of 10-27 has bravery that these keyboard warriors could never understand.
Through the years of doing our “Boxing Legends Show” every fighter I have talked to has a special story. Sometimes these are stories of triumph, but more often they are tales of what might have been. The saga of Alex Ramos is a little of both, but in the end, it is a story of a man who has triumphed through his hardships.
One of the greatest amateurs of all-time
Alex got his start going to Gil Clancy’s gym on 28th Street in New York and immediately took a liking to the sport. He was an outstanding fighter early and ending up winning four Golden Gloves titles, which were huge back in the 1970s. He caught the eye of soon-to-be-promoter Shelly Finkel and was Finkel’s first signing. Ramos stayed with Finkel from the age of 16 until after his 1984 defeat at the hands of James Kinchen.
Ramos accumulated 143 amateur wins, scoring an incredible 132 KOs. Amateur boxing was big in the ’70s and ’80s and Alex was a regular on ABC’s old “Wild World of Sports”, where he scored spectacular knockouts over the best the Cubans and Russians had to offer.
Then came the turbulent year of 1980. Ramos beat future legend Mike McCallum in a close fight. That win would ultimately save Ramos’ life, as a loss would have sent him to a show in Poland. That flight ultimately became one of the deadliest airplane trips in sports history. The plane would crash, killing every American boxer on it. When I asked Alex about the event and the effect it had on him he said “It was tough to take, that could have been me. I was friends with a lot of those fighters and it had a serious effect on me.”
USA Boxing Coach Sarge Johnson passed away in that crash and Alex said Johnson was “A great coach.”
1980 Summer Olympics and what could have been
Before the 1980 Olympics, the Soviets held an amateur tournament that the USA got clearance from then-president Jimmy Carter to attend and Alex was the star of the show, winning the Misha Trophy as the most outstanding boxer of the tournament. Ramos seemed poised for Olympic superstardom, much like Leonard, Davis and the Spinks brothers from the 1976 Montreal Olympic team. But fate, or should I say politics, reared it’s ugly head, robbing Alex and his other teammates of their chance for Olympic fame. Can you imagine Ramos going to Russia and beating the Russian and the Cuban fighter to win Olympic Gold? His career would have gotten an amazing boost, but it was not too be.
It wasn’t all a lost cause as NBC Sports gave him a nice contract to be a part of Tomorrow’s Champions, along with Johnny Bumphus, Bobby Czyz, Tony Tucker, etc. Most of his fights early in his career were televised on NBC’s old Sportsworld show and everything seemed to be moving along smoothly until Alex fought what he thought to be no-hoper by the name of Ted Sanders. Ramos admits he did not prepare properly for that fight and would surprisingly lose to Sanders.
A rematch was setup with Sanders and Ramos would train with strict disciplinarian Janks Morton, who helped train the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard. Alex says that he was in the best shape of his life and was ready to go. The only catch was Ted Sanders decided not to show up for this nationally televised rematch. Not only did Ramos lose out on getting his rematch, to make matters worse he wasn’t even paid for the fight even though he had done nothing to cause the cancellation.
Instead of giving Alex time to recover from a tough training camp a new fight was setup with the durable Tony Cerda. Alex was over-trained and not in the best frame of mind for the fight and the fight ended up being an ugly draw.
A shot at the title
1984 looked likes Alex’s year when he beat highly-ranked Curtis Parker. A title shot against Champion Marvin Hagler seemed as if it was within reach. That quickly disappeared as Ramos fought the young up and coming prospect John Collins to a draw and then suffered a defeat at the hands of James Kinchen. Again, he was distracted for both.
Ramos would go on to lose to Michael Nunn (Michael Runn to Alex). The last fight of his career was for a middleweight title in Argentina against Jorge Castro. Alex was stopped early in the fight with a devastating kidney shot.
Transition to retirement
When Alex talks of his losses in the ring and not being prepared, he doesn’t talk like it’s an excuse, he talks of those times as a man that wonders what might have been. If you see his amateur fights, they will make you wonder that also because there was a time when Alex Ramos was a very special fighter.
Alex mentions Jacquie Richardson and how she saved him from living on the streets. They started an organization called the Retired Boxers Foundation to help fighters who have hung up the gloves. Retired boxers have no pension, no insurance etc. and a lot of old fighters end up destitute with nobody to care for them. Alex and Jacquie have made it a goal to help as many of those fighters out as they can, and I have talked to Jacquie before and the love she has for these fighters is unquestionable. Alex lives in a one bedroom apartment and his monthly income is from SSI.
You would think from reading the story of Alex Ramos’ life that he would be bitter, possibly self-loathing, as many who have so many bad breaks are. Some are self-imposed and some are entirely beyond their control. Alex Ramos is not one of those guys. As soon as you hear Alex’s voice on the phone, the smile almost jumps out of the phone at you. Alex is a man who is not bitter about the course his life has taken, he is a man that wants to help others who have had to go through what he has gone through. I wish everyone could meet Alex Ramos because he is the definition of a fighter. Boxers are a special breed that go into a ring in shorts, shoes, gloves and nothing else in front of thousands of people, and in that arena, all of a man’s flaws are exposed. But so are his positives. With Alex Ramos, the good far outweighs the bad.
It’s true as a boxer Alex Ramos fell short of the hype, but he has overcome that and learned to live with it and what’s more important is Alex wants the help those less fortunate than him find that same peace that he has achieved.
Alex Ramos truly is the epitome of a fighter.