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Giant WBO Convention Wrap-up

Big news in all weight divisions....

Report and photos by David Finger

The final day of the WBO 25th Annual Convention concluded yesterday with the championship and rating committee meetings, one of the most exciting, and contentious events of the convention.

Mini-flyweight/Junior-flyweight: Almost immediately, fans were excited upon learning that WBO mini-flyweight champion Moises Fuentes was looking to move up to 108-pounds, and hoping to be named mandatory challenger to junior flyweight champion Donnie Nietes. The news that the mini-flyweight champion was moving up created ripples in the division, as President Valcarcel ordered the #2 ranked Raul Garcia and the #3 ranked Luis De La Rosa to work out a fight for the vacant title in 15 days. The winner would have to fight the #1 contender Carlos Buitrago in his first defense within 90 days. Buitrago was unable to fight for the vacant title due to a cut.

Flyweight: Brian Viloria was given some leeway over his next mandatory defense, with the WBO noting his recent mandatory defense.

Super flyweight: #1 contender Daniel Rosa received a push for a title fight while Japanese #14 ranked Hiroyuki Hisataka received a strong push from Japanese matchmaker Ulysses Sato Garo to move into the top ten. Undefeated former Olympian Joe Arroyo also received a push to enter the world rankings as did undefeated Paul Butler from the UK.

Bantamweight: In a division where the title is currently vacant, the executive committee authorized 90 days to negotiate a title between the new champion Pungluang Sor Singyu and the newly named #1 contender, Namibian Paulus Ambunda before it goes to purse bids. A title fight for the Namibian would be a major moment for African boxing. Former Latino Champion Oscar Escandon (20-0) received a push as well. The Colombian, who fought in the 2004 Olympics, is looking to enter the WBO rankings. #14 ranked Rolly Matsushita received a push to move up the ranks while Alex Componovo from Thompson Boxing pushed for Glenn Porras from the Philippines.

Junior featherweight: Several familiar names had representatives push for entry into the world rankings with Jhonatan Romero looking to move up into the top #4 while former contender Chris Avelos (20-2) pushed for a world ranking. Ramon Morales and Panamanian Ricardo Cordova (29-3-2) also had representatives arguing for his entry into the top 15.

In one of the most emotional moments of the week, WBO president Francisco Valcarcel and the executive committee passed a motion to express support to WBO Latino champ Orlando Cruz, who recently became the first professional boxer to come out as homosexual. The motion, in which the WBO expressed public support for his decision, was warmly received. “We support Orlando Cruz’s decision to to reveal his human condition,” President Valcarcel said, “and he will receive all of our support.”

Featherweight: Another high profile incident was addressed in the 126lb ranking sessions, as Juan Manuel Lopez was reinstated and allowed to fight for the organization in December. Lopez was suspended after his bizarre rant against referee Roberto Ramirez Sr., who stopped his fight against Orlando Salido in which he accused Ramirez of having a “gambling problem”.

“All of us refute the expressions made against the WBO officials because we know their quality,” Championship Committee Chairman Luis Batista Salas said, “but we also know they were made in the heat of the moment of losing a close fight and we accept the repentance of the boxer and avail our referees for having understood that they are the best in the world and giving this boxer the opportunity to restructure his career.”

President Valcarcel also added that he knows how hard the suspension can be for a professional like Lopez. “The commission suspended him for 1 year for his reproachable conduct against two members of the WBO,” Valcarcel added, “he(Roberto Ramirez) and his son are very honest people, and I spoke to Roberto Ramirez and Roberto Ramirez Jr. because my understanding that Juanma was doing his community work and had publicly requested both pardons. The Puerto Rican press was hard on Lopez and the world of boxing as a whole. After Juanma presented his excuses, everything was repaired. I don’t want to be suspended for a year, I was suspended for three months as an attorney and for three months and I felt it. The Puerto Rican Supreme Court disbarred me for three months for some things said, so we will include JML in the ratings this month.”

The final word was expressed by the referee at the center of the controversy, Roberto Ramirez Sr. “The Ramirez’s are professionals,” Roberto Ramirez Sr. said to the executive committee, “we do not bear grudges. We don’t hold a grudge against Juanma. We had closed this matter in our hearts. And we showed as much. I didn’t sue. My son didn’t sue. To us this is a closed case.”

Also at featherweight a move was made to move Australian Joel Bunker from #3 to #2. At 130 pounds a request for an elimination fight for Gary Sykes, the #12 ranked fighter, to possibly position him for a world title fight against Roman “Rocky” Martinez.

Lightweight: A move for #7 ranked Ji-Hoon Kim from Korea to move up the rankings, as well as a move for Cuban defector Angelo Santana to move into the ranks. Puerto Rico’s Best Boxing made a move for #3 ranked Jose A. Gonzalez, the WBO Latino Champion, to move into the #1 position since the top two ranked fighters had commitments with other sanctioning organization. The WBO executive committee, agreeing to the request, moved Gonzalez to #1. WBO Africa champion Samuek Amoako also had a push to move into the top #10, as well as former contender John Murray.

Junior welterweight: The discussion was over the Mike Alvarado versus Brandon Rios fight as well as a push for Kendall Holt.

Welterweight: The executive committee expressed concern over the nine month layoff for champion Timothy Bradley, and expressed a firm position that Bradley will need to fulfil his commitments as WBO champion. #7 ranked Shawn Porter made a push for entry into the top five, while Dean Powell pushed for undefeated Frank Gavin. Also, there was a move that was coolly received for Josito Lopez, who was coming in off a loss in his last fight. President Valcarcel expressed a desire to see Lopez get back in the win column before he was moved up.

Junior middleweight: A push for #13 ranked Joey Hernandez to move into the top ten was made. Hernandez has won three straight since entering the world rankings. Also a move for Frenchmen Michel Soro and a discussion on #1 ranked James Kirkland, who is currently ranked #1 but engaged in managerial disputes that threaten to sideline him. Arthur Pelullo pushed for a fight between his undefeated prospect Demetrius Andrade and #7 ranked Javier Maciel to be declared a elimination fight.

Middleweight: Wilfred Sauerland made a push for undefeated Patrick Neilsen while Billy Joe Sanders, Gary O’Sullivan, and Cory Spinks all had representatives speak on their behalf.

Super middleweight: Dean Powell pushed for #2 ranked George Groves to move to the #1 position while Mario Mendoza pushed for his fighter, #8 ranked Ezequiel Maderna, to move up the ranking. #13 ranked Serbian Geard Ajetovic also pushed for a #10 ranking, while the WBO Africa champion, #12 ranked Willbeforce Shihepo pushed for a move into the top ten as well.

Light heavyweight: #11 ranked Marcus Olivera offered himself to step in to fight champion Nathan Cleverly next month. “If the champ needs an opponent, well, I have been ranked for two years and I’m ready to fight.” Olivera told the committee. Dean Powell indicated that he might be open to the fight, as Cleverly has an opening for his upcoming title fight next month.

The 175lb division remained a contentious place, as promoters and the WBO expressed concern over the relative inactivity of the champion (who fought three times in the last two years) from the United Kingdom, and the fact that he has yet to make a mandatory defense. Dean Powell pointed to difficulties with a proposed Bernard Hopkins fight as the reason for the delay recently, but his fighter was still ordered to make a mandatory defense against Robin Krasniqi, within 30 days of his November 10th title defense, as well a subsequent defense against the winner of the upcoming fight between #4 Eduard Gutknecht and #2 Jurgen Braehmer, which was declared a WBO eliminator. Jackson Junior also received a push to enter the top ten, as did Vyacheslav Uzelkov.

Cruiserweight: The winner of Marco Huck’s next title fight will be ordered to fight Ola Afolabi, the interim champion, in their next fight. B.J. Flores also expressed his desire to fight the champion in his next fight, while Lateef Kayode received a push to move up the rankings as well.

Heavyweight: The big winner was former two-division champion David Haye, who appeared poised to score a coup over undefeated #1 contender Denis Boytsov. Haye, coming in off his big win over Derek Chisora in his last fight, received strong support to be put into the number #1 slot, while representatives from Team Boytsov pushed to hold onto their ranking, citing a possible fight with Tyson Fury at the end of the year that would make their prospect the more attractive contender if he were to win. Robert Helenius, who has been fighting injuries for much of 2012, made a push to move up the rankings while Tony Grano, Mark De Mori, Joe Hanks, David Price, Jonathan Banks, and Frenchman Johann Duhaupas all received support to enter the top 15. Sauerland also pushed for undefeated German Edmund Gerber.

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Wrapping up the day’s events was a brief discussion over the recent arrest of WBO European middleweight champion Ante Bilic from Croatia. Bilic was charged with murder in Spain, and his arrest has put the WBO in a unenviable position. The executive committee asked for a report from WBO Europe before deciding how to handle the situation.

At the dinner gala to wrap up the convention, awards were given out to representatives for Top Rank (for Promoter of the Year), Nonito Donaire (Fighter of the Year), and to female 108-pound champion Yesica Bopp (Female Fighter of the Year). The Manny Pacquiao versus Juan Manuel Marquez fight was named fight of the year, while Fernando Beltran was named Latino promoter of the year.

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