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Change in State Pension Plan Means Easy Purse for Some

October 10, 1998|STEVE SPRINGER

Attention, Michael Dokes. Hello, Vinny Pazienza. Where have you gone, Mike Lally?

Have we got an offer for you. How would you like a chunk of money, no strings attached? You don't have to step into a ring. You don't have to put on the gloves. You don't even have to walk into a gym.

All you have to do is call, write or visit the offices of the California State Athletic Commission in Sacramento and someone there will be happy to cut you a check.

Honest.

This is understandably hard to believe in a sport in which someone always seems to be ripping off fighters, where boxers sometimes spend their youth struggling to survive in the ring and their old age struggling to survive on the streets.

But now, because of a change in the California pension plan for boxers, the Athletic Commission has more than half a million dollars from the old plan that it must disburse to eligible fighters by Dec. 31. Money unclaimed by that date will go back into the pension fund.

Those who fought in California from 1981-1996 were required to put 3% of their purses into the pension fund, thought to be the only one in the country for boxers. Under the new plan, fighters no longer must contribute to receive benefits at 55.

As for the payback plan, here are the details:

* Who is eligible?

It's a bit confusing. Only fighters who are vested in the program can receive money. That would include those who fought at least 10 rounds in each of three calendar years and a total of 75 rounds between 1981 and 1996.

Those are scheduled rounds, meaning that even if a fighter got knocked out in the first round of a scheduled 10-rounder, he got credit for 10 rounds.

* How many fighters are affected?

Of the 4,875 men who fought in California from 1981-1996, only 327 fighters have money coming back.

* How much money per fighter is involved?

Obviously it varies, based on the size of the purses. Some have a small amount coming. Some, like Pazienza and Dokes, are entitled to about $2,000 apiece.

Dokes, a former heavyweight champion, could probably use some extra money. He is on trial in Nevada for attempted murder.

* How do fighters claim their money?

That, at least, is simple. They can call the Athletic Commission office in Sacramento at (916) 263-2195, or stop in, or write a letter to the offices at 1424 Howe, Suite 33, Sacramento, CA 95825.

Commission officials say they will not contact individuals but have tried to get the word out through letters to managers and promoters, and through newspaper ads in both English- and Spanish-language newspapers.

"Of all the eligible fighters, only about 40 have contacted us," said Dean Lohuis, chief inspector for the Athletic Commission. "Can you imagine? It's a little frustrating."

TYSON WATCH

Are we missing something here?

Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson shows the world that he's not thinking rationally when he takes two notorious bites out of the ears of Evander Holyfield. He has served time in prison on a rape conviction. He is currently accused of attacking two men, one in his 50s and one in his 60s, after an apparently minor traffic accident. He underwent a public examination of the state of his mental health several weeks ago before the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Yet now Tyson is trying to keep from the public records of a psychiatric exam he took at the request of the commission.

Tyson, questioning the constitutionality of the state's public-records law, which requires the commission to make such material available, is taking his case to the state's Supreme Court.

His advisors say they believe the psychiatric report is positive. They wouldn't logically ask for a new hearing to try to get back Tyson's boxing license--revoked after the ear-biting incident--if they didn't have a favorable exam in hand.

So what's to hide?

And besides, what could a psychiatrist say in a report that could make Tyson look any worse than he did on that night in June 1997 when he chewed off a chunk of Holyfield's ear and spit it onto the canvas?

Whatever his motives, Tyson has run out of time. Commission officials have given him a tentative hearing date of Oct. 19, which still would give him time to fight before the end of the year. But Tyson has been warned that, to keep that date, he must turn over the psychiatric report by the close of business Monday.

Nevada's Supreme Court judges have sent word they will rule Monday. But if that doesn't come through, or if the ruling goes against him, Tyson still will have to surrender that report to make the deadline and hope he can survive any negative publicity.

Negative publicity? Mike Tyson? Is the public ready for that?

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