ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Professional and amateur boxers in New York may get an educational boost from a new pilot program that officials say is first in the nation to prepare fighters for careers outside the ring.
The initiative, announced Friday by the City University of New York and state boxing officials, includes opportunities to get high-school equivalency diplomas, enroll in CUNY undergraduate or graduate programs and win scholarships based on academic merit. They said the program will provide boxers a path for getting a college education like there is for athletes in other sports.
CUNY said it will administer the program, called "Fight For Your Future." The New York State Athletic Commission, USA Boxing Metro and the Daily News Charities Inc. said they'll help recruit applicants. The first students could enroll with the spring semester that begins in January.
To qualify, boxers must be New York state residents and active in the sport. Pros need a valid license or identification issued by the commission. Amateurs need a valid USA Boxing Passbook registered with Metro Boxing. Its registered clubs are in New York City, Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley.
Yvonne Williams, president of USA Boxing Metro, said they have 1,400 registered athletes, two-thirds of them 15 and older. "We have athletes that are actively interested," she said.
Commission Chairwoman Melvina Lathan said the program will allow boxers the chance to pursue other options while perfecting their craft. "We believe it is vital that we offer this community of athletes additional alternatives for success and financial freedom," she said.
The commission had 436 pro boxers licensed for its most recent licensing year, spokesman Laz Benitez said. The initiative was Lathan's idea, which she presented to CUNY, he said.
"For generations ambitious young people have sought to make a place in the world for themselves through boxing, but too often, without an education, it led to a limited future," said Allan Dobrin, CUNY executive vice chancellor. He called it an innovative partnership of groups that care about the boxers' futures.