Report/Photo: Boxing Bob Newman
WBA president Gilberto Jesus Mendoza opened the 96th annual convention in Medellin, Colombia by outlining a new approach both the traditional convention agenda and to the sport of boxing in general. “We should not try to see what boxing can do for us, but rather, what we can do for boxing,” said Mendoza. A morning of regional reports took place, as well as a star-studded cast of champions past and present relaying their pasts before boxing and their lives now after boxing and how the sport improved their respective lives.
Not all tradition was flouted. The standard roll call of all in attendance was taken, with all introducing themselves.
The assembled champs took turns speaking: Jackie Nava, Alys Sanchez, Victor Callejas, Antonio Esparragoza, Fidel Bassa, Beibis Mendoza, Rosendo Alvarez, Ricardo Lopez, Antonio Cervantes, David Griman, Roberto Duran were all on hand in this particular assembly. The highlight was the legendary “Kid Pambele” Antonio Cervantes. Colombia’s first ever champion just celebrated the 45th anniversary of his winning the crown this past Saturday, October 28th. Seldom seen at past boxing events, conventions and even his own induction into the international boxing hall of fame, Cervantes has overcome many personal demons to emerge to an adoring boxing public once again. Former WBA featherweight champion Antonio Esparragoza has become an attorney in his native Venezuela. Former WBA flyweight champion Fidel Bassa employs some 35 people in his business. Ricardo Lopez does boxing commentary in his native Mexico. It was heart-warming to see bitter rivals Lopez and Rosendo Alvarez hugging and acting as long lost brothers. The same could be said for Alvarez and four-time foe Colombian Beibis Mendoza.
President Gilberto Jesus Mendoza took the time to introduce the topics of the day:
A report on the recent meeting with organizers of the Association of International Sports Journalists held in Cali, Colombia was also on the agenda.
Various regional reports which weren’t heard in the closed session on Sunday due to late arrivals were delivered.
International Commissioner Renzo Bagnariol, Legislative Director Carlos Chavez and Budget & Administration Francisco Piña each took turns heading up the rest of the morning session as Gilberto Jesus Mendoza and advisor Jose Oliver Gomez excused themselves from the proceedings to tend to convention-related business.
Piña reported on the Cali experience with the sports journalists. Piña expressed the importance of impartiality of sports journalists, which goes without saying. Being that this meeting included many journalists of varied sorting backgrounds, Piña observed those journalists learning a great deal about scoring in boxing- punches, round-by-round and other scoring criteria. Piña also cautioned, “The world has a watchful eye now on everything. Listening to and watching real-time boxing, where broadcasters are expressing their view of a score and the viewing audience takes that as gospel, is dangerous.” Piña went on to caution, “Journalists have a responsibility to be self-correcting as well. Admit when they make a mistake.”
Regional reports were then delivered:
Asia: Alan Kim & Won Kim explained the launch of WBA Asia on Feb 22, 2017 and listed participating members:
WBA Asia East- Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Mongolia, Central Asian countries
WBA Asia South- Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Singapore, India, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and middle Asian countries
Fedalatin: Aurelio Fiengo
Fiengo broke down participating fights, belts paid for, outstanding sanctioning fee debts, etc.
WBA China: Li Siwei (Secretary General) Formed June 23, 2016
Li outlined the extreme activity and ambitious campaign in the first sixteen months of existence.
Salvadoran Professional Boxing Commission (Francisco Costa) introduced their commission and future plans for KO Drugs tournaments in the very near future.
Upon returning from business, President Mendoza introduced a group of youngsters who have organized “Path to the Ring,” a group for at risk youth looking to turn their lives around through boxing. Mendoza threw the WBA’s support behind the group as part of the WBA’s Social Improvement campaign, which has been the focus of this convention since its early planning stages.
After a poolside lunch, the ratings meeting was held, presided over by Jose Oliver Gomez.
Promoters including, but not limited to Golden Boy, Banner, Thompson Boxing, Don King, RCC Boxing, Roy Jones Square Ring, Dragon Fire Boxing, Diamond Boxing and Vlad Hrunov were all on hand to stump for their respective boxers in the rankings.
The ratings were followed up by the championship committee meeting.
Things started off with the seemingly never-ending case of Fres Oquendo’s legal case concerning the “regular” WBA title. Oquedo won his case to fight for the vacant title after losing a highly controversial decision to then champ Ruslan Chagaev. Chagaev then lost to Lucas Browne, who tested positive for PEDs. The WBA ordered Oquendo-Shannon Briggs. Briggs subsequently tested positive for PEDs. It was then recommended Oquendo fight Alexander Ustinov, but Ustinov is supposedly fighting Manuel Charr in a bout advertised for that very WBA “regular” title! Oquendo’s legal representative John Wirt offered to fight the next available contender Kubrat Pulev and asked the WBA to look into the advertisements for the Ustinov-Charr fight for the “regular’ title. Ustinov’s rep Vlad Hrunov rebutted that the fight was being advertised as an eliminator, but Wirt tendered a printout off the internet for tickets to the Ustinov-Charr fight declaring it a world title fight.
Vlad Hrunov asserted that promoter Wilfrid Sauerland didn’t pay full amount to Patriot Promotion (Russia) after the George Groves – Fedor Chudinov. He is still awaiting resolution for his matter and notified the WBA as it was a WBA Super Middleweight title fight.
A special press conference was held immediately afterward on the third floor involving past champions Kina Malpartida, Hannah Gabriel, David Griman, Bernard Hopkins, Jackie Nava, Marcos Maidana, Evander Holyfield, Juan Manuel Marquez, Chris Aglieri, Betulio Gonzalez and Bryan Vasquez.
The assembled international press asked questions of most everyone on the panel. The female fighters feel they are able to fight three minute rounds. Holyfield discussed bad and or partisan judging. “Sugar Ray Leonard ran around the ring, he won the fight. Howard Davis ran and he lost the fight. A judge can’t go against one fighter for something that favored another fighter for doing. Chris Algieri shared WBA president Mendoza’s convention vision for using boxing as a platform to better one’s lot in life. He also considers himself an active boxer and is looking for the right situation in which to return to the ring. “With Crawford vacating all the belts at 140, I see an opportunity to get right back in the mix. 140 is my best weight.”
A Guinness World Record certificate was presented for the most female world title fights presented on one card- 4 title fights presented at ‘La Batalla de Campeones’ promoted by Jupiter Fight Boxing at Domo Jose Maria Vargas, LaGuaira, Venezuela on June 18, 2016.
Tonight will see the opening banquet on the 18th floor of the Dann Carlton Hotel, the host venue.