NOT ALL ex-fighters are articulate media analysts or successful trainers or multi-millionaires thriving in the boxing afterlife. It is of course important to paint our sport in a good light wherever possible, yet the ongoing ignorance about what becomes of too many former fighters only does those war-torn human beings, and boxing in general, a gross disservice.

Ringside Charitable Trust (RCT) continues to operate in an industry that has made it feel most unwelcome. The registered charity, designed purely to help those former boxers who are experiencing difficulties in retirement, should by now be – five years after it was founded – a staple in the industry rather than the nuisance it is too frequently deemed.

It’s too easy to villainize the promoters for not wanting to get involved even if, to many of us, their ignorance on the issue is perplexing at best. The whole sport needs to get behind RCT, not just those with the money to really make a difference. The message must be loud and clear from top to bottom. Only then will those with cash to burn be forced to help.

Arguably the biggest problem here is our collective conscience. When we watch boxing every single weekend it certainly doesn’t enhance the experience to wonder if these astonishing feats of bravery will one day come at a cost. It doesn’t help the promoters to sell their product, it doesn’t make the trainers feel at ease with their chosen profession and it doesn’t help the fighters – those who make our world go round – to keep doing what they somehow do. In short, if boxing wasn’t littered with casualties, we’d all find it a darn sight easier to sleep at night.

Which is why facing the problem is the only way forward. Because if we could all say, with hands on hearts, that we’re doing everything we can to help then at least nobody from the outside world could accuse us of the blatant ignorance that exists today. Perhaps then the next time you hear about an ex-champion who is struggling to tie their shoelaces we won’t feel so deeply ashamed of the sport we supposedly adore. Instead, we’ll be relieved to know that the help is there.

I completely accept that this is not easy to read but don’t expect an apology for that. RCT needs everyone’s attention. Moreover, the future of boxing surely depends on it.

Perhaps you haven’t got the stomach to see the photo of a blood-soaked head belonging to a 70-year-old former British champion. It was taken after he had gotten simultaneously confused and angry, so much so he clawed at his own head and pulled off a section of his scalp. Skin, hair, and all.

You won’t want to hear about the journeyman who took so many blows he can now barely remember any of the 100+ professional fights he had. Thankfully, he also forgets that every morning he wakes up in a nappy full of his own urine and excrement. “He was such a proud and funny man when we met,” says his partner who would prefer no names were mentioned. “I have to wash him, feed him. He’d be so ashamed of what he’s become.”

We should be ashamed, too.

Perhaps a conversation with a former world champion, only in his 50s, is less traumatic. But in the space of one hour, he goes round and round in circles, telling the same anecdote over and over and asking the same questions. He’s so far removed from how we used to know him it brings tears to my eyes. But after an hour I can move away from the phone and get on with my life.

Lorna Rainey, the wife of a man who has dedicated his entire life to boxing, has no choice but to look after her husband, esteemed Sheffield trainer Howard Rainey, every single day. He is palliative and suffering from dementia.

“He’s one of the most exceptionally gifted men I ever met,” Lorna tells BN. “But he’s nothing like who he used to be. Close friends who he’s known for years will be sitting in front of him and he won’t know where he is or who they are.”

Howard requires round the clock support. Lorna and her family carry most of the burden but get help from three physician assistants. In that regard, they’re lucky. But the lack of support from the boxing industry has been a great shock to her.

“He dedicated his entire life to the boxers he trained but we hear nothing from most of them anymore,” she went on. “He took very little money off them, which is why we’re so poor today. I look back at all he did, the hours he sacrificed, and I wonder what the point of it all was. It seems like such a waste.

“I look at other sports and nearly all of them have aftercare in place, even sports that are not known to be dangerous. Everyone goes on about a ‘boxing family’. Shut up with your boxing family. It doesn’t exist.”

In the background, Howard is watching Sugar Ray Leonard versus Wilfred Benitez. He gets comfort from watching old fights and when he’s having one of his rare good days, Lorna will take him to the local boxing centre where he instinctively comes alive.

It’s the kind of environment that RCT want to create within a care home. Yet too many scoff at the idea or, worse, deny the need for one to be built. Last year, Lorna was offered the chance to take a much-needed holiday, but she simply couldn’t afford to pay for someone to look after Howard while her and their nieces were away.

“I got a call from Paul [Fairweather] at Ringside Charitable Trust and he said they would help [financially]. It was the first time someone had said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ve got you.’”

But Howard’s time in residential care only underlined the need for the boxing industry to create its own home.

“When we got back, we were told that Howard was walking through the home with his favourite boxing book trying to talk about boxing to the carers and the patients. But nobody did.

“Imagine if he was in a home with like-minded people? For many in boxing, it’s the only subject they’ve ever known in their whole lives. We’ve been told that would help him. You can’t buy that kind of help for dementia sufferers.”

Howard is one of many but far from the worst example of those who suffer in the shadows. It’s time to stop being ashamed. It’s time to be proud of what we’re doing to help.