I WILL start with the wonderful support that Ringside Charitable Trust have received this year. I never like to single out any of the very special people who have gone way above what could ever be expected of anyone, time and time again, as every single contribution and effort is so gratefully appreciated and I am constantly amazed and humbled at the support we continue to receive.
But I cannot go further without personally thanking the selfless acts of people like Andrew Fairley and Andy Brace, who continue to organise fund-raising events, or young Sophie Gallagher, who despite being stricken by illness has walked the equivalent distance from Lands End to John O’ Groats in her back garden. What about Jock McInnes MBE, who has walked across deserts and climbed mountains? I could go on but realise that space is limited. But be sure that everyone who has helped Ringside Charitable Trust has an eternal place in my heart. You, like us, have shown that you care for the future of boxers who have already discovered, or will one day discover, that life can be cruel after the final bell has tolled on their careers.
I would also like to mention our wonderful ambassadors and volunteers who man our helpline, the first of its kind in the world and one that has offered advice and help to boxers in need. Some, I must add, that you will all remember from their time as fighters but won’t be aware of their current predicament. We will not name them here, we have too much respect for them to do so. But they have been unable to find help anywhere else – what does that say about the infrastructure of this sport? What we do know is that conditions like dementia and motor-neurone disease are on the rise as a consequence of head trauma. Loneliness, too, is afflicting many of those we talk to.
The helpline is just a small part of our working week and, unlike some charities, our trustees have never taken a single penny for their travel or food expenses, with every trustee paying their own way.
We continue to work tirelessly towards making the care home a reality and installing an aftercare system of which the sport can be proud. Yet we have made progress without the powerbrokers or big name fighters. They remain silent, they remain ignorant. The British Boxing Board of Control, however, have supported us both financially and by attending any meetings that we have needed to call.
But what we continue to be faced with is apathy. Two years ago we set up a plan where boxing fans were invited to pay £5-a-month in support of the charity. Only 80 people signed up. We know times are hard, however.
It seems the promoters don’t want to know at all. Yet they continue to profit from boxers giving their all inside the ring. Our efforts to set up meetings have been unsuccessful and the only journalists they talk to regularly these days are seemingly too afraid to put them on the spot and ask them why. Helping Ringside Charitable Trust should surely be a priority for them. It is not even on their radar.
The home remains a necessity yet as a sport we must seek not just to be reactive. We must be more proactive otherwise the sport, that appears to be so lawless at times, will slip further and further into deep and murky waters. We know the government are watching us closely and asking questions. Let’s not allow ourselves to look back with shame because we didn’t do more.
Let’s pull all the experienced trainers together and get the message across. The damage really occurs as a consequence of many rounds taking punches. How many hard rounds are trainers allowing their boxers to take part in behind the scenes?
There is so much more we as an industry should be doing. Ignorance is bliss, they say. It won’t be when the sport gets shut down.
Frankly, anyone who is in a position to help us, and has not, should be ashamed of themselves. Are we really destined to be the only sport in existence that doesn’t help their own athletes?
We will carry on regardless. We continue to close in on our financial targets without the help of those who could make it happen so much quicker.
Thanks, again, to those of you who have proved that you care.