By Boxing Bob Newman
In keeping with their tradition of always expanding boundaries, breaking down barriers and leading the way, the WBC pulled out all the stops in making the inauguration of their 59th annual world convention one of the most unique ever.
Bypassing the conventional trend of holding opening ceremonies in a grand ballroom at the host hotel, this year, the first live convention in 2 years due to the COVID pandemic, the WBC held their opening ceremonies at the incredibly expansive Arroyo restaurant about a 20-minute drive from the Intercontinental Presidente hotel.
To call the Arroyo simply a restaurant would be an understatement. This establishment was more of a multi-purpose complex. With a massive two-tiered banquet hall, the actual opening ceremonies were held in the attached bull ring! What could be more fitting than an arena where the most Mexican form of battle is held – a bullfighting ring?
With guests seated in the stands, dignitaries, media and board members were seated down in the ring on chairs placed on the actual dirt floor, with a stage was set up at one end of the arena.
The official emcees for the event were hall of fame ring announcer Jimmy Lennon, Jr. and TV Azteca commentator Rodolfo Vargas. Being that the host country was Mexico with a large contingent of Spanish-speaking attendees, the proceedings were completely bilingual which led to a slightly longer, but none-the-less enjoyable afternoon.
WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman opened by welcoming the boxing world family back together, live and in person once again after making such sacrifices and effort in fighting through the world pandemic. Among others, he thanked his family, especially his mother Martha, his wife Cristiana and son Mauricio Jr for their strength and commitment while he’s away from home frequently, strengthening the WBC and its efforts to improve boxing.
Probably one of the most emotional moments of the entire ceremony was the introduction of the Walker family. That name by itself might not ring a bell to too many people, but if you recall the name Bridger Walker, then that might elicit memories of the young boy who saved his sister over a year ago from an attack by a neighbor’s German Shepherd mixed dog. Bridger suffered terrible wounds to his face from the dog attack, while saving his sister. When the WBC heard about this act of bravery, along with the rest of the world, they decided to honor this young boy in several different ways.
Bridger had been a guest online during last year’s virtual convention, speaking with Mike Tyson, who had lauded the boy for his heroism and bravery. But the accolades and recognition didn’t stop there. Citing safety as a forefront of their efforts to improve boxing, the WBC decided to implement a new weight division between the cruiserweight division and the ever growing heavyweight division. They wanted to “bridge” the gap between the widening weight disparities between a fighter moving up above the 200 lb weight limit of the cruisers and the ever growing size of the larger heavyweights – in cases of champions like Tyson Fury who weigh 275 lb or greater. Therefore, in a tip of the hat to a young boy that the WBC has dubbed, “The bravest man on Earth,” the new weight class has been christened Bridgerweight.
On October 22nd, the WBC crowned its inaugural Bridgerweight champion when Oscar Rivas defeated Ryan Rozicky in a titanic battle over 12 rounds. The new champ Rivas was on hand to exchange gifts with the Walker family and meet the namesake of the weight class for which he will forever be the first champion. Also, legendary champion Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Also presented young Bridger with a one-of-a-kind belt from the WBC, anointing him as, “The Bravest Man On Earth.” It was a very touching moment.
The 10 flags of the Continental confederations which make up the WBC were paraded on to the stage by several champions such as Rosendo Alvarez, Rey Vargas, Oscar Rivas, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Jelena Mrdjenovich, Jesse Vargas and Alfonso Zamora. This was followed by the traditional singing of what has become the WBC’s anthem – “We Are The World,” by a local children’s choir.
NABF president Duane Ford took to the lecturn to thank the WBC and Mauricio Sulaiman for their continued support of the Federation as well as wishing everyone to enjoy the convention and above all else, “Have fun!”
A video presentation entitled, “Women Power,” was shown on a huge screen, honoring the strong woman of boxing, both in and out of the ring – fighters, referees, judges and administrators. This created a perfect segue to the introduction of Mexico City’s mayor, Dr Claudia Scheinbaum. The holder of a PhD in energy engineering, Sheinbaum is only the second woman to hold the mayoral position of Mexico City and is a possible candidate in the 2024 Mexican presidential race. President Sulaiman and the collective female champions presented mayor Sheinbaum with an official WBC belt.
Also taking the lectern to welcome delegates of the convention to Mexico City were restaurateur Pepe Arroyo and president of the Mexico City boxing commission Ciro Nucci.
The WBC also presented a special belt to consensus trainer of the year Eddy Reynoso, who this year alone has trained pound for Pound great Canelo Alvarez, Ryan Garcia, Andy Ruiz and Oscar Valdez.
Doing the honors we’re legends Roberto Duran and Julio Cesar Chavez.
World Boxing Cares president Jill Diamond and Mexican chapter president Cristiana Manzur both took the microphone to deliver an inspirational bilingual speech on the good deeds of the WBC’s benevolent arm.
Emcee Jimmy Lennon, Jr. was presented with an award commemorating his first world title fight as a ring announcer. Presenting him with that award, were none other than the two protagonists of that match for the vacant WBC super featherweight title: Mario Martinez and Julio Cesar Chavez.
Before closing the ceremonial portion of opening day of the convention, president Mauricio Sulaiman made an interesting announcement. He was flanked on either side up on the dais by Julio Cesar Chavez and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Apparently there had been some good natured ribbing going on between the two during the opening ceremonies. Whether or not they are both serious about it, the topic of the ever popular new trend- staging an exhibition bout between them, was mentioned. Sulaiman mentioned it would be possible for 2022 in either Mexico or Texas with a huge Mexican contingent in the stands. Stay tuned…
The now hungry throng of some 500 delegates then filed into the banquet hall of the Arroyo restaurant. A fantastic multi-course, authentic Mexican meal was served over the next three hours! Mexican style chips with various salsas and mole were served for starters. This was followed by Huazontle and Gorditas de frijoles. Next up was a lamb soup, followed by pulled pork and baked lamb chop.
Several bands played a variety of Mexican music including regional styles from around the country and of course the very popular and iconic Mariachi music. By 5:00 p.m. a very tired, full and thirst quenched crowd of delegates made their way to the eight buses to be transported back to the host hotel Intercontinental Presidente. Meetings will start in earnest Tuesday morning.