By Mauricio Sulaimán
Son of José Sulaimán / President of the WBC
It was during the 2020 Virtual Convention when the World Boxing Council decreed 2021 as “The Year of Boxing,” as we found ourselves in the middle of a claustrophobic lockdown due to the pandemic.
So, a plan was created and established to celebrate life through our sport, to commemorate the great anniversaries that would occur in 2021, and it was determined to work hard to make boxing resurface globally.
What an extraordinary year we are living through! There have been great contests, dramatic fights, spectacular knockouts, and wonderful celebrations of historical events that we remember with great pride as well as fondness.
We also celebrated the annual Convention in Mexico City, with an impressive number of legendary champions and stars of the present and the future in attendance.
Included in “The Year of Boxing” are some of the following celebrations of boxing’s iconic anniversaries, among many more:
– 100 years after the first million-dollar gate in 1921, when Jack Dempsey beat Georges Carpentier, which generated $1,879,000.
– The 50th anniversary of the “Fight of the Century” between Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier at Madison Square Garden, New York.
– Promoters Don King and Bob Arum celebrate their 90th birthdays, respectively.
– The 40 years of the great fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns.
– The 15th anniversary of the first WBC Women champion, Jackie Nava.
– 15 years after the creation of the WBC Cares program.
Regarding the activity in the ring, it all started on January 2 with Ryan Garcia rising from the canvas to knock out Briton Luke Campbell; Óscar Valdez conquered the WBC super featherweight world championship, dramatically knocking out his compatriot Miguel Berchelt.
Mexican Juan Francisco “Gallo” Estrada defeated Nicaraguan Román “Chocolatito” González in a war that shattered the record for punches thrown during a fight; Nonito Donaire of the Philippines became the oldest, at age 38, to win the bantamweight title, defeating Nordine Oubaali. Devin Haney was confirmed as a great champion by beating Jorge Linares at lightweight. Scotland hero Josh Taylor became super lightweight UNDISPUTED CHAMPION, by defeating José Carlos Ramírez, and obtaining all four belts; Jermell Charlo and Brian Castaño drew in an unforgettable war in which the four super welterweight belts were also on the line. Oscar Rivas became the first champion in the history of the bridgerweight division.
The most outstanding actions in the ring, in 2021, have been the following:
– Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder met for the third time in what will certainly be awarded “The Fight of the Year”. After a solid start by the Wilder, he was knocked down in the third.
Meanwhile, Wilder knocked Tyson down twice in the fourth. Fury came back and sent him to the canvas in the ninth, following by a miraculous comeback full of drama as Wilder almost had Fury out at the end of the tenth. Finally, Tyson Fury knocked him out in the eleventh. This was one of the very best fights in boxing’s elite division, the heavyweights.
– Australian George Kambosos surprised the world by dominating and defeating seemingly invincible Teofimo Lopez, thus becoming lightweight Undisputed champion.
– The great champ of today, the best pound-for-pound in the world, Mexican Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez, fought four times in 11 months. And he conquered the WBC world super middleweight championship and set his sights on becoming the first Undisputed champion in the history of that division.
He packed the Dallas Cowboys stadium with a record 73,116 fans defeating Billy Joe Saunders, and subsequently dramatically knocked out Caleb Plant to become El Rey. It is the first time in history that there is no need to have ballots to vote on the fighter of the year category, Canelo Alvarez has been awarded the “Fighter of the Year award 2021.”
The Year of Boxing is the spearhead of even more to come. However, there is great concern. Respect and order are being lost in various areas. Press conferences and weigh-ins have become a circus with insults, pushing and shoving, and even punches thrown; these actions may generate interest in the fight, but put the physical integrity of the fighters and everyone in attendance at risk, and even endanger the realization of the fight. It is time to put a stop to this practice that has become all too common.
The sportsmanship, nobility, and respect of the fighters and their corners, are undergoing unacceptable changes. Much has to do with the effect that social networks have. The extreme abuse and bullying by some so-called media channels and from cowardly people hidden behind a phone or computer make fighters lose their minds and engage in unethical practices and actions.
This past Saturday we saw how two champions, who lost their titles, disrupted during the TV interviews, showing poor class and sportsmanship, taking away the moment of glory from their opponents who had just accomplished their dreams.
Boxing is not like that. It is a sport where opponents always hug each other, recognize their virtues, celebrate victories, but also accept defeats with grace and become friends for life.
DID YOU KNOW…?
Most boxers who have contracted COVID-19 lost their following fights: Miguel Berchelt, Alexander Povetkin, Nordine Oubaali, Teofimo Lopez, Brandon Figueroa, Kenshiro Teraji and Luis Nery.
My dad started a movement to ban boxer parents from the corners. I remember very well how he explained it: “Having your father in the corner is dangerous. The son feels too much pressure, and when things don’t go well, they push themselves too hard so as not to disappoint him. On the other hand, parents are too demanding, our children are the best, they are invincible, we stretch the expectation too far.”
The fact is that many parents initiate their children into boxing, and it is practically inevitable that some will be the corner of their offspring.
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