2020-10-21

The truth about the late Filipino boxer Roberto Ruiz

Last month, Philippine Tribune printed some information about a certain “Roberto,” a Sydney-based Filipino boxer who committed suicide. The article was read by his friend who told us that his full name was Roberto Ruiz and that he hanged himself not in 1997 but on the 4th of February 2000. For reasons of privacy, his friend did not wish to be identified. We will refer to her as Britney (not her real name). This is her version of the story about Roberto.

Britney interjected that her friend did not get into trouble in Liverpool. According to her, “Roberto was a very good and well-mannered boy.” She added that he was hardworking. In her letter, Britney wrote:

“The only trouble he (Roberto) ever got into was when he came to Australia to box and be used for money. I believe this is (his manager’s) money-making scheme, to bring boys here to box, have them living in poor conditions, and ripping them off their boxing money from fights.”“

“I believe Roberto came to Australia (sometime) in 1998. I met him in a Filipino club in Blacktown in early 1999. I was told by Roberto that he ran away from his manager because he was being treated like a dog. Roberto was very upset in telling me how he and three other Filipino boxers were living:

“In a garage with no open windows; Toileting in the backyard; Showering with a bucket in the yard; Eating (only) a staple diet which is boiled rice; Sleeping on lounge chairs or a mattress on the floor. Their training consisted of running for kilometres around surrounding streets of the house.

“I myself was disgusted that a human being could be treated like this in Australia.

“As Roberto could not read or write and knew very little English, he also had no idea of Australian currency. He became very upset after being told by fellow Filipinos that he was being ripped off his purse amounts for fights.

“He would get $500 to $1,000 per fight but would only see $200 of it if lucky. His manager would take money for managing, food, rent, etc.

“Roberto ended up with cataracts in both eyes. He haemorrhaged in his left eye and had a detached retina (also in his left eye) because he did not have any medical check whilst quartered in the boxing stable.

“I took him to Westmead Hospital Eye Clinic and we saw a surgeon who wrote to Immigrations stating that his visa should be extended for another six months so we could get surgery on his eyes.

“Sadly, Immigrations said ‘no’ and he was supposed to go home in 2 months. That was when Roberto became very depressed, feeling he had not achieved his potential in boxing in Australia. He was not happy to go home. He only had a ‘Lola’ (grandma) with whom he lived and he was the sole breadwinner for the family.

“We planned for him to follow Immigration rules and go home. We tried for a different visa but Roberto wasn’t very positive that he would be allowed back after overstaying his previous visa. 

“On the 4th of February 2000, he committed suicide (by hanging himself). Roberto’s emotional and physical problems got the better of him. May he rest in peace.” – Britney (not her real name)

Based on information gathered from a licensed migration agent, holders of a Sports Visa (Subclass 421) are entitled to be paid in accordance with Australian standards. Therefore, if his Australian opponent is paid $1,000 to fight, the Filipino boxer is entitled to be paid the same amount.

Philippine Tribune is in possession of a Certification issued by Fight Vision Pty Ltd stating that Roberto Ruiz has been matched against John Simpson at Club Merrylands on March 12, 1999 for a purse of $1,000. The certification was signed by Craig Mordey, Boxing Promoter.

(Editor’s note: It seems that the boxers’ living conditions in the boxing stable have improved. They now sleep in bunk beds and according to their manager, the boxers have free access to the entire house.)