An important international event occurred in Italy, inspired by a young man who loves the sport of boxing and who wanted to do something for the retired fighters who had fallen on hard times. Peter Lerner (Age 26) – a young Englishman who moved to Rome two years ago – completed a grueling 24-hour walk to show his support for the great warriors of the Sweet Science. With the help of his family, friends, his girlfriend, their friends and school children, this young man made an historical humanitarian effort on behalf of people he has never met - retired professional boxers.
He began the walk on the coastal road outside the capital on November 18 for a day and a night, to raise funds for the Retired Boxers Foundation. The last minutes of the walk were absolute agony for Peter Lerner, who is the Retired Boxers Foundation Representative in Italy. Peter started at started at 14.45 local time on Saturday from Ostia, as seaside town about 20km from Rome. From there he followed the coast road (known as the ‘lungomare) south. The road took him through different resort towns and areas of countryside. Lerner reported that “the first eight hours or so were fine. Then the pains started! First the blisters on the soles of my feet popped, and then the skin on the top of my toes started to get worn away. This meant that every step was painful - it didn’t matter if I was going quickly or slowly. Then came the pains in the ankles, knees and hips. One thing I wasn’t expecting was backache (which I hadn’t experienced in training). I guess this was caused by the fact that I was in a standing position for 24 hours.
After reaching the coastal towns of Anzio (one of the points where the Alies landed during WWII) and Nettuno, he cut inland towards Latina. It was outside Latina, at Latina Scalo, where he finished 14.45 on Sunday. Without much fanfare, Peter Lerner caught the 15.00 train back home.
The original date was November 4th, but Lerner had an accident that he said “was not serious” but resulted in a broken hand, cuts and bruises, as well as a twisted knee . With a true fighter’s heart, Peter Lerner trained seriously for the 70+kilometer walk with the determination and commitment most people simply cannot muster, and kept his promise to walk for the fighters on November 18th.This is only the beginning of his efforts on behalf of retired fighters. He would love to challenge the Guinness Book of World Records in 2007.
Writer and English teacher, Peter, who was recently made RBF’s Italian representative, said: “The public is well aware of the tragic events which befell Michael Watson and Gerald McClellan. However, there are many boxers who suffer similar problems but the public is not aware of them. They are men who once won the applause of the crowd, but are now suffering and forgotten.” Peter used to box a little around Greater Manchester in his younger days and has always been passionate about the sport which he describes as brutal yet beautiful. He said: “I have never been to a football game or a concert which could match the atmosphere, emotions and sheer adrenaline generated by watching a favorite fighter. Though capable of moments and feelings of great beauty, boxing is also a sport which is, by its very nature, brutal.”
Peter, who left Manchester in 2004 to experience a new culture, contacted former colleagues, friends, family and boxing enthusiasts from his home city to sponsor his journey. He went back to England, meeting with dignitaries, boxing promoters and the press to publicize the Walk and to gain additional supporters.
The American based charity set up by former world middleweight title challenger Alex “The Bronx Bomber” Ramos—the Retired Boxers Foundation—helps boxers who were celebrated while they battled in the ring – but are now struggling with ill health, finances and their retirement. Ramos, the Founder and President of the RBF had this to say about Peter Lerner: “My heart is touched that a young man like Peter Lerner is willing to literally ‘walk the talk’ on behalf of my brothers in boxing. Peter is a bigger man than I have ever met in the ring and he is one of our Undisputed Champions for Dignity!” The foundation’s team of legal and medical experts helps to solve the problems of boxers all over the world and shortly after emailing Alex Ramos earlier this year to tell him about the walk, Peter was appointed RBF representative in Italy.
Although Peter writes mainly fiction outside his job teaching English as a foreign language, he hopes his role as RBF representative will give him the opportunity to help, meet and interview boxers and industry professionals world-wide. Lerner said, “I would like to give something back to the sport which has given me so many exciting moments.”