By David Finger
It’s been an exciting week in boxing, and although the World Boxing Organization may not be involved in the upcoming Mayweather-McGregor fight in Las Vegas, that doesn’t mean the WBO is taking a break from the action. In fact, 2017 has been on of the busiest years for the WBO in recent memory. From the shocking upset of Jeff Horn over Manny Pacquiao, a fight that opened up Australia in new ways for the WBO, to the crowning of Terrance Crawford as Super Champion in the 140-pound division, this has undoubtedly been a historic year for the WBO.
But maybe the best is yet to come.
“We are waiting for news of the Pacquiao-Horn rematch,” WBO President Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel said about the upset of the year. Although the fight has yet to be finalized, it is cautiously expected to take place before the end of the year. And although there had been controversy with the decision in the first fight, there is a general consensus that the Pacquiao-Horn fight put Brisbane on the boxing map and revitalized the sport of boxing in Australia.
Despite complaints about the decision from the ESPN commentators and Manny Pacquiao, the WBO ultimately stood by the decision of the judges after the decision was reviewed by a neutral panel of WBO judges who also scored the fight. It didn’t mollify a lot of Manny Pacquiao’s fans, but it did show those boxing fans that the WBO did have a mechanism in place to review controversial decisions when a formal protest was filed.
“The review confirmed what we were thinking before: that it was very close,” Valcarcel added. “But the review agreed with two of the officials. The fight was very close and the rematch will be better than the first.”
With the Crawford fight in the review mirror, the biggest fight on the horizon for the WBO is the upcoming Joseph Parker-Hughie Fury fight in Manchester, England on September 23rd. The Parker-Fury fight was originally slated to take place in Auckland, but was moved back after an injury to Fury. But the delay has only added to the intrigue of the fight. Both men are undefeated and the winner could face off against Anthony Joshua in 2018 in a unification fight. It goes without saying that a heavyweight unification fight could be the first real heavyweight super fight in years. Something not lost on boxing fans.
“For me, that is a pick ‘em fight because Fury is fighting at home,” Valcarcel said of the upcoming clash. “All the heavyweights can punch and if he lands against Parker he has a great chance to beat Parker.”
Another exciting WBO fight on the horizon that should be on the radar of boxing fans is the upcoming Gilberto Ramirez vs. Jesse Hart fight for the WBO Super Middleweight title, slated to take place on September 22 in Tucson, Arizona.
That fight with Jesse Hart will be a hell of a fight,” Valcarcel added. “If Jesse Hart fights like he fought in his last fight then this will be a tough fight for Ramirez.”
But the news from the WBO goes beyond just the fights that boxing fans are looking forward to. The WBO Kids Drug Free program continues to make headway all over the world, from Nicaragua to Lansing, Michigan children all over the world have benefited from a championship program that aims to keep kids off drugs by using boxing as a positive influence in their lives.
“We are committed to helping kids around the world,” President Valcarcel added. “We had a banquet in Nicaragua for the cancer hospital, and Koko (WBO European Vice President Istvan Kovacs) is doing great work for handicap children in Hungary. We have a lot of events in Puerto Rico and donated $50,000 for scholarships for an event in Houston (on September 2nd).”
Also, the WBO is in gear to kick off this year’s annual convention, which will take place on a cruise ship leaving from Miami. Some of the biggest news regarding the convention including the presence of former WBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, who has plans to attend the golf tournament on the first day of the convention.
“We invited him to the convention and the October 22nd golf tournament will be a tribute to Wladimir Klitschko.”
Valcarcel was not surprised by Klitschko’s decision to retire.
“No, he was close to retiring,” President Valcarcel said when asked if the move came as a shock to him or to the WBO. “The guy’s been there for ten years. He has nothing to show now. He had a great fight against Joshua. He’s a great guy and a class act.”