By Mauricio Sulaimán
Son of José Sulaimán – President of the WBC
It’s impossible not to start this column by talking about the spectacular match between two champions, two Mexican warriors who placed boxing at the top, before, during and after their fight this Saturday the 20th in Las Vegas. Óscar Valdez knocked out the then-champion Miguel Berchelt in a dramatic and withering way. Valdez is now the World Boxing Council Super Featherweight Champion; something that he, over and over, has expressed as his dream since being a young boy.
In a very difficult sport, there are cases that complicate things even more so, since we are talking about two friends facing each other in the ring. They belong to the Ring Telmex-Telcel team, since its inception in boxing; This program founded by Don Carlos Slim and my father, Jose Sulaiman, to provide scholarships with a monthly retainer so your fighters can concentrate on their careers in boxing and have money for food, gym, equipment, medicals, etc… They are companions and have celebrated successes together, until fate led them to meet for the WBC world championship.
Valdez represented Mexico in two Olympic Games, and from there he jumped to professionalism; he became a WBO featherweight champion, until he made the leap to super featherweight. He fought and won a final elimination against Adam Lopez, thus earning the right to fight against the world champion of the division.
Berchelt, on his side, won the title in January 2017, knocking out the great former world champion, Mexican Francisco Vargas. In these four years as champ, he defended his crown six times and was considered one of the strongest world champions of the moment.
Top Rank had great vision and was preparing this fight for years, and everything was formalized when Valdez became the mandatory challenger. The fight was scheduled for 2020, but a positive for COVID-19 from Berchelt delayed the fight.
This fight caused great expectations, because it is guaranteed to see great fights when two Mexicans face each other in the ring. Countless press notes during the lead up to the fight highlighted the historical battles between Mexicans and social networks were flooded with lists that compared this fight with historical matches such as: Morales vs. Barrera. who fought three times; Zarate vs. Zamora; Marquez vs. Barrera; Israel Vazquez vs. Rafael Márquez, who fought four times, and many more.
It was precisely 21 years since the first fight between Érik “El Terrible” Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, a fight that took place on February 19th, 2000, and 28 years have passed from that historic sell-out crowd at Azteca Stadium, when Julio César Chávez knocked out Greg Haugen in five rounds, in an event that holds the Guinness record for the highest paid ticket attendance.
This fight was no exception; Valdez dominated, hurt and ended up knocking out Berchelt, but Berchelt was brave and dangerous until the last moment.
A passage that will be remembered was the incredible display of humility and brotherhood between them. Valdez knelt before Berchelt to acknowledge his greatness, and both exchanged very emotional words; It was then that the crown went from one great champion to another, the passing of the torch. Congratulations Óscar Valdez, your dream has come true; Cheer up Berchelt, you’ll be back.
Eddy Reynoso is going through a great time in his career. He recently won the recognition of WBC Trainer of the Year 2020, as he managed to crown three world champions, and just entering this 2021 he has crowned Oscar Valdez.
Congratulations Eddy, and just like your famous motto says: “No Boxing, No Life.”
The WBC introduced a very important rule for boxing: “The mandatory challenger;” It is also called official challenger. Before the WBC, the mandatories did not exist and the champions could defend their title with whoever they chose, and it happened that many great prospects did not receive the opportunity to fight for the title, even while being ranked as number one in the division, because they were simply ignored due to their dangerousness.
An example is Mantequilla Napoles, who was ranked number one in the world for six long years, without receiving the opportunity; yet another was Archie Moore.
The World Boxing Council introduced the rule in the early 1970s, and it has been the formula for many of the great champions to be crowned. The champ, in turn, has the obligation to face the official challenger every 12 months. When the fight is ordered, 30 days are given to start free negotiations and if there is no agreement, a purse bid is held in which all promoters can participate, and whoever bids the highest number gets the rights to promote said event.
This Saturday in Miami two more mandatory fights will take place. The world flyweight champion: Mexican Julio César “Rey” Martínez will face Puerto Rican McWilliams Arroyo, and the great champion Saul “Canelo” Álvarez will make the mandatory defense of his super middleweight belt against Turkish Avni Yildirim, who has been The WBC mandatory for two years after the controversial split technical draw loss to Dirrell.
DID YOU KNOW…?
George Foreman was Joe Frazier’s official challenger; Sugar Ray Leonard to Wilfredo Benítez; Roberto Duran to Leonard; Oscar de la Hoya with Julio Cesar Chávez; Chiquita González with Korean Yul Woo Lee; Érik Morales with Daniel Zaragoza; Floyd Mayweather Jr. with de la Hoya, and Tyson Fury with Deontay Wilder, just to mention a few examples. Oscar Valdez was crowned after being Miguel Berchelt’s official challenger.
The world super featherweight championship was vacant as “El Macho” Camacho decided to move up to lightweight. The number one ranked fighter was Mario “Azabache” Martínez, and a fight for this title had to be ordered.
One day there was a meeting between the late coach, Ramón Félix, and my dad. Felix had a young man with him; a shy boxer who wore a ripped white shirt, like the ones that are in fashion now, but this one had a real rip, as this boxer was a very humble young man. Don Ramón approached my father, rubbed his belly as if he were a Buddha and said: “Don José, give us the opportunity, this boy is going to be a great world champion.”
Don José had already seen him fight in a war that took place on a Don King card in Los Angeles and he liked it a lot. “Look, my dear Ramón, I am going to ask the WBC Board of Governors to vote because your fighter is ranked as number six, but I’m going to try to get it approved, to order the fight against Azabache for the vacant championship.”
The vote was approved and on September 13, 1984. Julio César Chávez knocked out the wide favorite in eight rounds, becoming the new WBC super featherweight world champion; the same championship that Oscar Valdez won this Saturday against Miguel Berchelt.
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