By Mauricio Sulaiman
Son of José Sulaimán / WBC President
We are concluding a great year for our sport and especially for our WBC, since a large number of programs have been achieved in various parts of the world, and what better way to close the year than with a visit to the Holy Father, Pope Francis!
During the private audience of our Pope’s non-religious foundation, Scholas Ocurrentes, we were accompanied by the current heavyweight world champion, Deontay Wilder, who was named Ambassador of Peace through Sports within the BoxVal program of this foundation.
Deontay Wilder’s presentation to the Pope was very special. Let me tell you what happened on the first occasion I had the honor of meeting the Holy Father. It was precisely at a Scholas hearing that my brother Héctor received the honorable recognition of being appointed president of the Advisory Council of Scholas México. It was then that we met the two people who created this foundation with the then Cardinal (Jorge Mario) Bergolio in Argentina, more than 20 years ago: José María del Corral and Enrique Palmeyro.
One night before that hearing, in February 2016, our friend Román Rodríguez told us about the “FutVal” (Soccer with Values) program. We told José María and Enrique everything that the WBC does around the world with social responsibility, and the closeness with thousands of trainers and boxers. Thus was born “BoxVal”.
I will never forget that first audience with Pope Francis, since Jose Maria took the microphone and introduced me to His Holiness, as the President of the WBC, and announced the creation of BoxVal.
Without having planned it, he handed me the microphone to explain to the Holy Father about this program. At that time we announced the first fight for peace, which took place between a Catholic, Mexican Saul Canelo Álvarez, and a Muslim of Pakistani ancestry Amir Khan. Moments later, the Holy Father greeted some children who were in front of me, and to my great surprise, he took a step towards where I was, and when I shook his hand, he told me: “You are a world champion … a heavyweight champion!”
We both let out a monumental laugh …
Returning to what happened this Friday, December 13, when we were in Rome introducing Deontay Wilder to the Pope, I said: “This is the true heavyweight world champion,”and with a big smile he received Deontay, and appointed him Ambassador of Peace through Boxing. Wilder is a great human being. He started in boxing to be able to fulfill and meet the enormous medical expenses following the birth of his daughter Naieya, who has a medical condition called “spina bifida”. Since then Deontay has totally focused, in order to provide for his family, and everything he has been doing, is motivated by the love of a parent.
Outside the ring Deontay is a kind, caring and great man. In Rome, he visited the children’s hospital, where there were wonderful, precious and memorable moments of happiness, enthusiasm and hope for many children, who daily tenaciously fight for life. Deontay also took some so special time to embrace and give strength to the parents of the patients, who strive, inspired and motivated by love, just as he`s fought for years with the greatest motivation of his eldest daughter….Pure Love!
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