By David Finger
Day three of the 61st annual WBC Convention in Tashkent, Uzbekistan continued with a series of presentations, and although fans were a bit disappointed that the ratings committee meeting would not take place on day three (it will kick off on Thursday) it was nonetheless an exciting an informative day filled with exceptional presentations.
Before the first session, WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman took some time to thank the WBC Board of Governors before reiterating that 2023 was “a great year for WBC.” Noting that the WBC had 24 championship fights over the year, Sulaiman then introduced what he promised would become one of the biggest developments of the sport in the coming years: BoxMed.
BoxMed, quite simply, is a cell phone application (app) that will collect data on fighters and create a central database for the sport. A app that will create an individual ring history of every fighter. He then turned the presentation over to Dr. Ricardo Moriel of the WBC Medical Committee, who also spoke on the BoxMed app.
“It sounds hard to understand, but once you start using it, it will be very easy,” Moriel said. “And once everyone starts using it, it will revolutionize boxing.”
BoxMed will be a free app for everyone, and will have a collection of valuable information on each fighter, including updated health information on fighters. It can also be used for messages so that commissioners and promoters can reach out to fighters via the app.
However, it is in weight management that the WBC sees the app as most beneficial.
“We all know that weight is the most difficult and dangerous opponent of a fighter,” Sulaiman added, “it will be mandatory for champions and fighters in the top fifteen to be enrolled in the system. (and the fighter) must upload a video of their current weight.”
The app will create a means for the WBC to monitor the weight of fighters and will be a valuable tool when dealing with one of the dangers of boxing: rapid weight loss before a fight. But there are other benefits to the app in regards to the safety of the sport.
“Once a fighter enrolls, the first item will be weight management,” Sulaiman said. “But (the fighter) will also have to notify where he will be for (purposes) of random drug testing. This app will help the Clean Boxing Program and VADA.”
The app would also collect medical records, fight results, and current and former suspensions.
“The only thing that matters is safety.”
After announcing the app, WBC President Sulaiman added that enrollment will be mandatory for champions and contenders starting on January 1, 2024 (although he added that there will be a six-month grace period). However, it will be open for all fighters and will have no cost to fighters or commissioners.
“It will be like when the WBC changed 15-round fights to 12-round fights,” Dr. Moriel added, citing once of the biggest changes in the sport passed by the WBC, a rule that has had a profound impact on the safety and wellbeing of fighters ever since.
WBC fighters who do not comply could face penalties including fines, sanctions, and even removal from the ratings.
The second session of the day was a presentation on the Mismatch Prevention System by Dean Lohuis, chairman of the Mismatches Committee. Lohuis reiterated his commitment to minimizing the mismatch in boxing, and gave information on his system of spotting mismatches and helping to prevent them.
“The main thing we look for is what (number of) rounds a fighter fought,” Lohuis stated, “we understand how a fighter’s been pressured. I look at when a fighter has a certain level of ability.”
From there the next presentation was a discussion of a partnership with Bally’s and Golden Boy Promotions in launching the Bally’s DBS (Data Processing System). Although in the early stages of development, the program would create an expansive viewing experience for fight fans by using additional information through sensors in a boxer’s gloves, a special arena, and the growing science of artificial intelligence to create the most informative and detailed live analysis of a fight.
A short video followed which highlighted the WBC’s 2023 year in review, and then President Sulaiman spoke on the Jose Sulaiman Boxer’s Fund, which celebrates ten years of service to fighters in need. Another video commemorating those we lost over the year followed and then former WBC bantamweight champion Carlos Zarate was honored with an award, commemorating his career and his service to his community.
“Carlos Zarate is an example of endurance and bravery,” President Sulaiman said. “He has been sober for sixteen years and he goes and speaks on the evils of addiction.”
Following this award was what turned out to be the most explosive presentation of the morning, when Maria and John Sheppard gave a presentation on the website Boxrec.com, This presentation included some of the changes made to the website, including its messaging center and private and group texting. They also discussed creating media subscriptions for journalists. However, the discussion soon took an unexpected turn when President Sulaiman called them out for their refusal to recognize the newest weight class in boxing: the bridgerweight division.
Sulaiman lambasted the website for its refusal to even acknowledge the existence of the bridgerweight title, let alone the bridgerweight division. He even introduced the WBC bridgerweight champion, undefeated Polish puncher Łukasz Różański (15-0, 14 KOs).
“I want to be (recognized by) Boxrec,” Rozanski added, “but I don’t know when or why.”
John Sheppard was steadfast and refused to budge on his position in opposition to the recognition of the new weight class at this time.
“The national commissions have not requested to do the bridgerweight division,” John Sheppard added before going back to the contract Boxrec had with these other national commissions.
“So do we need a contract?” Sulaiman shot back. “We will do a contract!”
When Sheppard refused to back down Sulaiman made a formal motion to request that Boxrec.com recognize the bridgerweight division.
“I move for the WBC to vote, right now, to request…to put in and recognize the bridgerweight division.”
“You put me on the spot here Mauricio,” Sheppard said of the formal motion.
“I know,” Sulaiman added, “but we have been waiting for three years.”
When Sheppard refused once again to budge, Sulaiman announced that the WBC would discontinue all association with Boxrec.com.
The next presentation came from WBO heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, who spoke about an application (app) that he was partnering with: RT Fight. WBC President Sulaiman formally signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding their partnership with Usyk and RT Fights, but after the signing of this MOU, the elephant in the room came forward. WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury released a video that was played to Usyk and the attendees of the WBC Convention.
“Usyk, good luck,” Tyson said on the video, “I’m smashing you to pieces. Four rounds!”
Usyk took the jab in stride however.
“Hmmm, I love Tyson,” Usyk added after seeing the video. “Tyson Fury. Good guy.”
But Usyk had a parting shot of his own for the Brit, questioning why he couldn’t present that message in person.
“Hey Tyson Fury…where are you?!”
The next presentation was on a company called Crypto Fight Nights, given by a man named Rahul.
From there Steven Espinoza was named the “Man of the Year”, which Roberto Diaz accepted on Espinoza’s behalf.
After lunch, the next presentation was a short video highlighting some of WBC’s legendary fights, followed by a presentation by Sam Suojhatyer of Yuth Sports Gear. Suojhayer spoke about some of the new developments in the area of gloves, including a chip that will be inserted in a boxing glove that will record the history of that glove. The hope is that as this chip becomes more prominent, this will aid in documenting the history of the boxing glove itself, which fight the glove was used in, who won and how they won. His goal is to eventually see the emergence of a world sporting authenticating bureau.
The WBC then introduced a new pilot plan on the red “Stop Towel”. Citing the problems associated with the corner “throwing in the white towel” to stop a fight, and discussing how there is no uniformity on the rules as how a corner can stop a fight, the WBC indicated its desire to create a uniform standard. The new red towel will make its professional debut this Friday during the WBC fight card in Tashkent.
The next presentation was from Jill Diamond, discussing the history and accomplishments of WBC Cares, and after each of the WBC Board of Governors spoke briefly, the event closed out with a video of WBC member Simon Block, who cut a surprisingly catchy video to raise funds for a retired boxer’s house.
The WBC Convention will continue tomorrow at 9:30 AM local time.