Report: Ambitious Pension Program for Boxers Isn’t Meeting Expectations

California set up the program in 1982

Boxing gear
California's pension fund for boxers dates back to 1982.
Matthew Payne/Unsplash

In 1982, California established a pension fund for former boxers who had competed in a certain number of bouts within the state, with the first payments issued 17 years later. It is, by the state’s own reckoning, the only such pension of its kind anywhere in the world. Given the significant effects that boxing can have on competitors’ health later in life, it isn’t hard to see how such a fund could benefit aging boxers.

A new investigation from Melody Gutierrez at the Los Angeles Times raises a series of unsettling questions about the operations of the California Professional Boxer’s Pension Fund, and suggests that it isn’t doing all that it could to reach boxers who might be eligible for it. Gutierrez first establishes what the pension fund has paid out — nearly $4 million to 235 boxes. Unfortunately, 200 others are eligible and have yet to receive any money from the fund.

This is especially worrisome, Gutierrez writes, because the value of unclaimed pensions is declining over the years.

As per the pension fund’s website, boxers must be at least 50 to qualify. In addition, they must have “[f]ought in at least 10 rounds a year for 4 years in California with no more than a 3-year break” and “[f]ought in at least 75 scheduled professional rounds in California with no more than a 3-year break” to qualify.

Among the issues with the system as it currently exists, the investigation argues, is that it hasn’t done enough outreach to eligible boxers. At least one issue with the system has been addressed as a result of the Times investigation: a list of beneficiaries that ended prematurely and featured incorrect spellings of some names. (They’ve since been fixed.)

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The whole article is well worth reading, and documents the ways in which a well-intentioned initiative can nonetheless fall short of its goals. Still, the issues described don’t seem insurmountable; if this investigation can make life easier for the boxers who should have money coming to them, that’s a worthwhile goal.

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