By Boxing Bob Newman
The official opening of the 57th annual WBC convention occurred in the Grand Oasis Arena this morning in Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico. It’s never easy to start on the scheduled mark of 9:30 a.m. at these events, what with the press swarming all over the gathered champions and old acquaintances reuniting. Things eventually got started as the delegates took their seats.
A local regiment of the Police color guard presented arms during the Mexican national anthem. As is customary during WBC conventions, the unifying song, “We Are the World” was also sung, in this case, by the Mayan Children’s Chorus, who did so blending English and the ancient Mayan language.
An honorary WBC belt was presented to local philanthropist Alfredo Harp Helú for his contributions to the community and the world of sport.
WBC/WBO 140 lb. champ Jose Carlos Ramirez took the microphone to speak a bit on the dream and responsibilities of being a world champion, in and out of the boxing ring. Ramirez also brought to light the dangers that boxers face in the ring in pursuit of their dreams, highlighting the recent deaths of boxers such as Patrick Day.
A ten count conducted by former multi-division Abner Mares was heard after viewing the customary tribute video of those in boxing who passed during the preceding year. Among the well-known champs and fighters were Rocky Lockridge, Eusebio Pedroza, Bert Cooper and Jose Napoles.
Multi-world champion, promoter and hall-of-famer Oscar De La Hoya also addressed the convention. Not only thanking the WBC and the city of Cancun, De La Hoya also praised the WBC convention for the functions it serves- educational seminars for ring officials, administrating the sport via championship and ranking committees and much more. De La Hoya also spoke on a topic very close to his heart…
“I stand with the WBC to not allow professional boxers in the Olympics. Professional boxing and amateur boxing are two different sports. I would not have been able to deliver my promise of an Olympic gold medal to my mother had I been forced to compete against grown men in their thirties.”
De La Hoya also promoted the month of October as Breast Cancer Awareness month. His mother died of the disease just prior to his 1992 Olympic gold medal run.
WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman welcomed fellow sanctioning body presidents Gilberto Jesus Mendoza (WBA) & Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel (WBO) to the convention. The three amigos will meet to further discuss uniformity and transparency to further better the sport in a third installment of their “summits” which began a few years back between the WBC, WBA & IBF. IBF president Daryl Peoples was unable to attend this year.
NABF president, former judge and long-time contributor to the sport of boxing Duane Ford received the WBC’s highest honor- the Lifetime Achievement Award.
WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman declared this “The Year of Ukraine.” With the success of three Ukrainian stars, Vasyli Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk and Oleksandr Gvozdyk, all guided by their manager Egis Klimas, the WBC recognized the three stars and Klimas for their unparalleled, simultaneous success in the ring this year. A special award was bestowed upon Lomachenko’s father Anatoly Lomachenko for his mentoring of these three stars. Gvozdyk wasn’t present after just losing his title via TKO in a unification with IBF counterpart Artur Beterbiev this past Friday in Philadelphia.
An inspiring demonstration of “adaptive” boxing was given by two students of former British and Commonwealth heavyweight champion Scott Welch. One male vet of the Afghan war who lost his legs in combat and a female who walks with the aid of a crutch, demonstrated the adaptive version of the sport from their wheelchairs, complete with gloves, headgear and mouth guards. Mauricio Sulaiman committed to funding this endeavor as a means of fitness, boosting self-esteem and equality for differently-abled athletes, with a goal toward perhaps making adaptive boxing a paralympic sport.
Two very moving presentations were made. The first was to former WBC Light Heavyweight champ Adonis “Superman” Stevenson. Stevenson had reigned for five-and-a-half years before losing his title in dramatic fashion to Ukrainian Oleksandr Gvozdyk in December 2018. Stevenson lapsed into a coma, but has made a remarkable recovery. While not yet 100%, Stevenson is walking, talking and seemingly on the road to a well-deserved retirement. The WBC fashioned a special belt adorned with both the Canadian and Haitian flag commemorating his reign as champ, as well as his spirit, drive and determination to survive his brain injury and lead a full life outside the ring. Presenting the belt to him were, Shawn Porter, Bernard Hopkins, former foe Badou Jack, and Roberto Duran. Mauricio Sulaiman then gave Adonis a WBC belt to present to his biggest supporter and caretaker, his wife Sisi. Adonis wept openly as he thanked his wife for her strength and commitment as she remained by his side 24/7 during his hospital stay.
Last up was an honor for Mexican ring icon and consensus greatest Mexican fighter ever- Julio Cesar Chavez. Chavez was feted by former foes Mario “Azabache” Martinez, Juan LaPorte, Oscar De La Hoya and his long-time promoter Don King. Each former adversary praised Chavez, with LaPorte calling for a rematch of their controversial 1986 bout which Chavez won unanimously, but by only one point on two scorecards. After a ceremonial Mayan fire dance around Chavez, who was seated on a Mayan throne, a special Mayan belt was presented to J.C. by none other than his mother!