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98th WBA World Convention: Day One

By Tracy Morin

The 98th WBA World Convention kicked off Thursday, November 7, in Fuzhou, Jiangxi, China. In the morning session, the organization hosted WBA Directorate Meetings, which outlined goals for the convention, taking place over the next four days at the Grand New Century Hotel Fuzhou.
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After an invocation and brief video on the WBA’s history and achievements, president Gilberto Jesus Mendoza welcomed the audience of directorate members from around the world and introduced some key points on the agenda, including a reorganized medical committee and improved guidelines to protect boxers.

Carlos Chavez, chairman of championships committee, added comments on preventing boxing deaths, encouraging transparency within the WBA, and increasing its presence around the world via regional bodies. George Martinez, chairman of the ratings committee, advocated for quality of title fights over quantity, while ratings committee vice chairman Aurelio Fiengo agreed, noting the WBA’s primary objective of increasing its worldwide presence while presenting quality bouts and avoiding ring tragedies. Chavez emphasized the overall need to strengthen the organization’s regional relationships and activities, and Martinez asked regional representatives to work with the WBA on forwarding everyone’s goals by working together—and possibly creating a WBA Europe faction.

Martinez also previewed a seminar for boxing fans, planned for early 2020 in Toronto. The event will teach attendees about both technical and practical information, from regulations and officials’ duties to hand wrapping techniques and boxers’ workouts, to increase general knowledge of the sport. At the end, participants can even have a chance to briefly spar professionals for a video opportunity. (For more information, contact georgemartinez0612@gmail.com.)

The meetings were followed by an open Q&A session for Mendoza, who addressed concerns such as multiple titleholders, which, though controversial, are helpful for attracting more interest from promoters, television networks and boxers themselves. Regional and interim titles, he explained, help advance boxers in their own communities while maintaining championship-quality standards.

The afternoon continued with Mendoza outlining various goals and challenges within the sport, asking for input from those in attendance to improve the WBA and boxing as a whole.

Mendoza set forth three pillars of focus:

1. Olympic boxing
2. Education
3. The new WBA Academy.

The WBA is looking forward to celebrating 100 years of history in 2021 by hosting an event on each continent, and Mendoza also wants to host a tournament among top boxers in different countries, World Cup-style.

Finally, Carlos Irusta was honored with a belt by the WBA for his decades of work as a journalist, historian and now commentator, as Mendoza championed for his induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

The mayor of Fuzhou, Zhang Hongxing, arrived late afternoon to discuss the future of WBA China and advocate for the first WBA Academy to open in Fuzhou, which can educate officials, coaches, boxers and others on the sport.

At the evening’s welcome banquet, Hongxing welcomed WBA representatives attending from 47 countries, introduced fellow politicians and dignitaries in attendance, and toasted the convention, after which Mendoza thanked them for the warm welcome.

The local hospitality continued with a gargantuan spread of Chinese delicacies for dinner, followed by a special presentation on the big-screen projector of the thrilling Inoue-Donaire fight from Japan.

The convention will continue Friday, November 8, with the opening ceremony, officials’ seminars and a special evening entertainment presentation of Chinese opera.

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