By Tracy Morin
The 98th WBA World Convention’s third day kicked off with the WBA Global Boxing Summit on Saturday, November 9, in Fuzhou, Jiangxi, China, at the Grand New Century Hotel Fuzhou.
After a brief welcome, Cai Qing, vice mayor of Fuzhou, introduced her city, which has 4 million inhabitants and thriving arts, culture and business sectors. Now Fuzhou looks to develop sports facilities and events; a recent televised boxing match broke viewership records, and boxing has a high market value in China overall. Qing expressed her desire to work together with the WBA and the forthcoming WBA Academy to train more talent and encourage development of the city.
Next, Jorge Ramirez, director of development for the WBA Academy, discussed the concept of the new facility, which will provide education to trainers, boxers, physicians, promoters, officials—those who are involved at every level of the sport. The first goal is to certify coaches, and the overall threefold focus for the academy will be certification, training, and ongoing education and development. Ramirez showed a video that showed what the finished complex would look like, with classrooms, training spaces, a library and more.
Longtime trainer Pedro Diaz then took the stage for a talk titled The Path to the Championship. After applauding China’s strong boxing presence and competitors, he outlined the need for trainers to possess medical, pedagogical and psychological knowledge. They must be able to teach young people properly and understand everything from nutrition to biology, taking social, cultural and functional angles into consideration.
Lu Xiaolong, CEO of the local Max Power Promotions, noted that China’s boxing scene has enjoyed rapid development over the last few years but still can progress much further. With 18% of the world’s population, Chinese boxers represent only 1.8% of the world’s participants, and Xiaolong would like to see those numbers grow. Currently, he said, Chinese boxers usually require side jobs to survive, and coaches often spend their own money helping injured boxers, without much professional medical assistance. However, Xiaolong is dedicated to help cultivate more local talent and make China a leader in the boxing world in the next five to 10 years. The WBA Academy, he believes, will help make that happen and represents a new start for the Chinese boxing industry.
Next door at the medical seminar, a special video from the WBA’s oldest official (and 2019 inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame) showed 88-year-old Guy Jutras thanking the WBA and the Mendoza family for all their years of support. Then boxing officials reviewed real-life cases of boxers’ injuries, such as a serious cut, hematoma or broken jaw, to determine whether the fight should be stopped to preserve the long-term health of the boxer. The WBA urged officials to consult with the ringside physician for determinations—and, if necessary, use common sense to stop a fight even when not mandated by the ringside physician.
Dr. Paul Wallace, esteemed California ringside physician, also pointed out that, due to the arteries present in that area, blood loss from the face would never be to the extent that a transfusion is required or cause a long-term health threat; instead, fighters have to be protected when, for example, they cannot see to protect themselves. Raul Caiz Jr., vice chairman of international officials for the WBA, suggested that officials can familiarize themselves with cutmen and their experience levels, as well as a boxer’s own history of injuries when possible.
Finally, a very important topic was addressed, that of recent boxing deaths—a total of four this year so far. Even with preventative measures, the sport remains high-risk for participants. To help prevent tragedies, international officials chairman Luis Pabon advised officials doing their homework and asking questions of every boxer, understanding the following: the fighter’s record; how he performed his last fight and how he won or lost (i.e., what punishment he received); if he has ever been suspended; if he needs to shed pounds at weigh-in or is moving two weight classes up or down, plus his day-of-fight weight; and if he has been knocked out during workouts. Caiz also recommended that during the fight to check in with the boxer—not the trainer or others in the corner.
WBA president Gilberto Jesus Mendoza took the microphone to commend the officials who attend these seminars worldwide to improve their knowledge and raise the safety of the sport. He vowed to help prevent mismatches through quality control of fights, as well as help elevate education via the WBA Academy.
Dr. Karanjeet Singh, sports medical consultant with the Indian National Boxing Team, tackled dehydration in boxing. He discussed causes and signs of dehydration, the function of proper hydration in the body, and why it’s so important within boxing. As little as 2% water loss in the body (only 4 pounds in a 200-pound boxer) can decrease ring performance by 5%, but 5% loss (10 pounds in a 200-pound boxer) can decrease performance by as much as 30%. Dehydration affects boxers through decreased alertness and concentration, increase of fatigue, and slower reaction time—ultimately affecting the brain. Dehydration also has links to high blood pressure and kidney failure, and even increases levels of cortisol, which decreases sensitivity to pain.
But how can dehydration be prevented? Singh recommends education and discipline from day one of training, avoiding rapid weight loss, monitoring weight pre- and post-training, and avoiding losing 3% to 5% of one’s hydrated weight.
After a lunch break, Wallace continued the topic with a discussion on weight cutting and dehydration in boxing. In addition to detailing the effects of dehydration, he pointed to a study of more than 1,500 boxers over several years that found 26% of boxers changing their weight by 8% or more. Now in California, if a fighter has gained more than 15% of his body weight since the weigh-in, the fight will be called off. Wallace wants this to be adopted by the major boxing organizations like the WBA, and advocates for eliminating the window of time allowed for boxers who don’t make weight to cut further. With proper education and regulation, Wallace believes, weight cutting can be reduced across the sport.
Judge Roberto Torres then reviewed proper conduct for judges, both inside and outside the ring. After reviewing scoring criteria, various hypothetical situations were offered and judges in attendance scored accordingly on an oversize card in front of the meeting room so that Torres could explain the correct score and why. Then a series of videos were shown so attendees could vote on whether the episode showed a knockdown.
At the evening dinner and awards banquet, several past and current champions and boxers joined the festivities, including Mary Kom, Bernard Hopkins, Erislandy Lara, Roberto Duran, Hanna Gabriels and Xu Can. The WBA recognized journalists in the sport, while Gabriels offered a special dedication for Kom, a trailblazer in women’s boxing. Duran thanked the people of China for a warm welcome, and Hopkins took the stage to discuss the importance of dedication in boxing.
The 98th WBA World Convention will host its final day on Sunday, November 10, with a city tour, six-fight boxing card and closing farewell.