By Boxing Bob Newman
Photos: Boxing Bob Newman
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The 41st annual NABF convention got underway Thursday morning in scenic Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico. The beautiful RIU Palace de las Americas will be the host hotel for the meetings and officer elections, while the first ever Continental Congress, comprising thirty seven member nations will take place simultaneously. Finally, a block buster fight card featuring two NABF fights, and three former world champions will cap off the convention on Saturday, June 6th. The locale for the show will be the exotic nature preserve of Xcaret about an hour outside of Cancun.
At the opening session this morning, members of the local government thanked the NABF for choosing Cancun as the convention site, especially with the recent Swine Flu outbreak creating such a stir in the news. A representative for governor Felix Gonzalez expressed gratitude to not only the NABF board, but to their parent organization the WBC for supporting the state of Quintana Roo twice within the last four years, the first time after Hurricane Wilma hit the area in 2005, devastating Cancun. The WBC acted by holding the historic Noche de Campeones (Night of Champions) which brought in over 90 past and present world champions for festivities and a stellar fight card, showing the world that Cancun was back on it’s feet and ready for tourists to come back. The mood is the same now and is being expressed with T-shirts and hats emblazoned with the colorful words- “Vive Mexico!” to show the world that Mexico has risen once again above its difficulties and are ready for the world to come back to its beaches and cities.
Outgoing president of the NABF Rex Walker greeted the attendees bilingually, welcoming all to this, his last convention as president, having reached the term limit. Elections for the office of president, as well as several other sub-federation posts, will be held Friday morning. WBC president Jose Sulaiman spoke a relatively brief twenty seven minutes (!) at the opening and announced that he would be presiding over the officials seminar later in the day.
Local fight promoter Jose “Pepe” Gomez thanked the NABF for the opportunity to showcase two NABF fights this weekend in his home state of Quintana Roo. Gomez was presented with a WBC logo statuette for his dedication to promoting boxing in and around Cancun.
Legendary multi-weight former champion Roberto “Manos de Piedras” was in attendance and received an honorary WBC belt for his loyalty to the organization.
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The afternoon session of the NABF convention began with a ten count honoring six members of the boxing community who have passed away this year: Stan Gallup, Tony Castellano, Edmund Lipinski, Benjamin Flores, Toby Gibson and Raul Macias. Committee reports were then presented with the consensus that the economy has definitely affected the number of fights, but not the quality of the fights or fighters.
Awards presented were:
NABF Fighter of the year- Chris Arreola (Arreola is the WBC #1 rated heavyweight at 26-0)
Matchmaker of the year- Tom Brown (Brown has been with Arreola since the beginning of Arreola’s career)
NABF Vice-President Joe Dwyer introduced Brown as “A man who defies age.” Dwyer also added that Brown was being given the award during the general assembly because he had to jet back to Los Angeles to attend his son’s high school graduation! Brown left the stage to a standing ovation from the membership. (Special thanks to Jill Diamond for this information!)
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Mayan Challenge in Xcaret Press Conference!
The beautiful Mayan Peninsula resort of Playa Del Carmen hosted the press conference Thursday afternoon for Saturday’s fight card dubbed “Mayan Challenge at Xcaret!” Twenty fighters were on hand to meet the gathered media, answer questions (of which there were few) and pose for photos. The event’s promoter Jose “Pepe” Gomez, who is also the director of the local newspaper “QueQui,” short for “Que Pasa Qintana Roo?” or “What’s Happening Quintana Roo?” opened by introducing the fighters and more local officials and municipal leaders.
Among the ten scheduled fights are three twelve rounders. In an NABF welter title fight, champion Saul “Candelo” Alvarez of Guadalajara defends against Brazilian Jefferson Goncalo. Alvarez promised an action fight for the fans, but refused to predict a round in which he’ll dispatch of his opponent. For his part, Goncalo expressed his eagerness to engage in this fight in Cancun, “Because I too come from an area that survives on tourism, I understand the need to let people know that it’s safe to return to Cancun and that’s why I’m comfortable taking this fight here.” Goncalo presented his foe with a ball cap in the national Brazilian colors of green and yellow and “Brasil” across the front.
The NABF Flyweight title will be contested between Cancun’s Wilberth “Huracan” Uicab and Cadiz, Philippines’ B.J. Dolorosa. Both promised to fight for their countries, with Dolorosa dropping the name of pound for pound countryman Manny Pacquiao as an inspiration for all Filipino boxers.
In a rematch for the WBC final mandatory slot at Light Fly, former WBC champ Omar Niño Romero of Guadalajara and multi-time title challenger Juanito Rubillar of Manila, Philippines will square off. Last year, Rubillar beat Romero in The Philippines, but Romero vows to be the victor this time around. For his part, Rubillar plans on repeating the trick again in Romero’s homeland. Mauricio Sulaiman of the WBC assured the Filipinos that neutral judges will be used and to expect fair officiating throughout the night.
Also on the card will be the returning former WBC feather champ Rodolfo “Rudy” Lopez, a local Cancun product, in a scheduled six rounder, and Jorge “Maromerito” Paez Jr., son of former IBF feather champ Jorge “Maromero” Paez in a scheduled ten. And what would an appearance by the former “clown prince” of boxing be if the assembled crowd wasn’t left laughing their heads off at Paez’ antics? Such was the case again today, as Paez didn’t disappoint.
Rounding out the list of former champions appearing on the card will be former WBC Light Fly champ Eric Ortiz in a scheduled six against perennial contender Gilberto Keb.
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In a very emotional and spectacular ceremony, WBC President Jose Sulaiman announced the name of Rex Walker´s successor as President of the North American Boxing Federation. Amid loud applause from the attendants, Commissioners, many of them from 19 commissions of 40 countries, Joe Dwyer´s name was clearly heard, as he will take the position in a few hours, as the statutory 4 years for Rex Walker as leader of the organization have finished.
Dwyer (70) is an American man who has been involved in boxing during most of his life, first as an amateur fighter, shaping a remarkable career of 59 fights with 56 wins, 27 of them by knockout, and only losses in the Middleweight division. Born in New York, Dwyer has subsequently held important positions in boxing: New York Athletic Commission Inspector in 1953, New York Athletic Commission Chief Inspector in 1984, Judge, and Vice-President of the organization he will be chairing as of today.