By David Finger
For over 18 years, WBO President Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel took a very different approach to boxing than many other people in the sport of boxing. He was very much a “fly under the radar” sort of executive and through his management the WBO seemed keen on avoiding the controversy and the scandals that at times plagued the sport, with the WBO even sporting an undefeated record in litigation over the course of over 25 years. The WBO President didn’t seem like the type to relish the spotlight or to point fingers, which makes this year so…interesting.
It may not capture the same amount of attention as Floyd Mayweather’s very public feud with rapper 50 Cent, but a recent war of words has emerged between the WBO and the other sanctioning organizations (in particular the WBC) that has many boxing insiders wondering if the status quo has just been shot out of the water. Valcarcel is no longer content to sit back and take the quiet approach: he is making it abundantly clear what he thinks about the proliferation of champions and championship belts in the WBA and WBC and he is taking to social media to make his case.
It all started in June, when the WBC hosted a Boxing Summit in Cancun, a rare opportunity for the presidents of all of the sanctioning organizations to come together to discuss several proposed changes in the sport, including things like PED testing and the standardization of division names. Notably absent was Valcarcel, who then went on social media to vent his frustration over something that wasn’t up for discussion: the proliferation of lesser belts like the WBC Silver Championship belt.
“I find it odd that my friends at the summit did not discuss the elimination of aluminum, copper, silver, interim, recess & emeritus titles,” Valcarcel tweeted that month, a clear jab at the WBC and its Silver Championship.
The jab prompted a sharp rebuke from WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman, who was quoted by ESPN Deportes as saying that Valcarcel’s attitude was “very low” before adding “I thought he was a person of greater class.”
Rather than shy away, Valcarcel expanded his hit list to include the WBA, chiding them just last week on Facebook for their excessive number of world champions.
“Our friends at the World Boxing Association / Asociación Mundial de Boxeo (WBA) have 38 champions in 17 weight divisions,” Valcarcel wrote on the WBO’s Facebook page on August 15th, “the World Boxing Organization only recognizes the highest one for unification purposes. In the case of the middleweight division we recognize Gennady Golovkin.”
Valcarcel however is finding support from a fair number of boxing fans who have long clamored for the very same thing: less champions and more unification fight. It has been a cause that seemed to fall on deaf ears for decades, but right now it seems that the pro-unification camp now has a very influential spokesperson in Valcarcel. Who knows, maybe this is the day that the winds of change blow across the sport of boxing and we finally see an era where unification fights are the norm and not the exception. Valcarcel took some time to talk with Fightnews about the WBO Kid’s Drug Free program, the upcoming WBO Convention in Las Vegas, and the war of words between the WBO and the other sanctioning organizations in recent months.
Fightnews: Mr. President, thank you for taking time to speak with us today. What are some of the things the WBO will be discussing during the upcoming 27th Annual Convention in Las Vegas?
Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel: We are going to talk about the ABC seminars for judges and referees. And also we have seminars planned for supervisors. That’s the main concern of the WBO in the convention. They will need top certification (from the ABC). Also, we are going to have a discussion about weigh-in procedures. We may be discussing possible changes in those procedures. Also, during the convention we will talk about (implementing) replay in boxing for different circumstances. We want to make boxing, and the decisions, more accurate. Also we plan to work with commission in the USA in relation to the sanctioning organizations compliance according to the (local) laws. We are going to have ratings and sanctioning committee together and discuss title bouts; for male and female champions. And at the end we are going to recognize our champions and we will commemorate Oscar De La Hoya and Joe Calzaghe, two Hall of Famers. Also we will deal with the different countries in which we are working with the kids, to help the kids in their teens and to keep them in school. We are in 25 countries around the world.
Fightnews: That is a good segue into my next question. What are the developments in regards to the WBO Kid’s Drug Free Program?
Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel: We are working different teams and different associations to work with the kids. We plan ways to help the kids directly. Sometimes they need equipment to practice in the gym. Sometimes they need school supplies like books, notebooks, pencils. Sometimes they need help. Now we donate about $60 per kid to help kids obtain school items here in Puerto Rico. Our goal is to keep all the kids we bring to the gym in school and to make sure they stay motivated. To make sure they recognize that they need to stay in school and can stay in the gym at the same time. Discipline and education. Also we work with different associations with the handicap, to motivate them and give them a role model. We want to keep the kids motivated. We want to bring our champions to the convention, so that they know that when they become champions they have a responsibility to the kids as well. Most of the champions came from poor neighborhoods. They had to fight against drugs…against poverty. They didn’t have the support. They only had a mom, who had to be a father and mother. We want those champions to work with the kids all around the world.
Fightnews: What are some of the more exciting developments this year with the WBO?
Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel: If you talk about boxing, we have champions who are making real money and exiting fans. But if you are talking about the whole purpose of WBO, it is that we are improving and we have more participants with the WBO Kids Drug Free Program. We are giving more money to the program all over the world and we made a difference. You can check with others, when you see WBO every week we are working with kids all over the world. Check our webpage and you can see how we are working with kids all over the world. If you check the others, they have boxing. But I can say WBO is more than just boxing. We have a commitment with kids all around the world.
Fightnews: This is another good segue into my next question. You mentioned “the others” here, which we can assume is in reference to the other sanctioning organizations. To many boxing insiders, it appears that in the last year something of a rivalry emerged between the WBO and the other sanctioning organizations. The WBO was notably absent from a recent boxing summit hosted in Cancun back in June, in which the Presidents of the WBA, WBC, and IBF met to discuss some changes and uniformed policies regarding the sport. You raised some eyebrows afterwards when you criticized the proliferation of belts in the other organizations. Just last week on Facebook you took a jab at the WBA, criticizing the fact that they have 38 champions in 17 weight classes. Would you care to comment on this growing war of words between the WBO and the other sanctioning organizations?
Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel: We are against interim championships. We are against three champions in one division. We are against having super champions and regular champions. Now we do have a few “super champions” but this is to (allow them to) work with TV. Klitschko is a super champion. That is the way he can fight with the right opponent that people will enjoy. We also have Manny Pacquiao. All the fans know Manny all over the world. This (super championship) only gives them more time to work with their mandatory. They fight the right guy and the right guy for TV, and the guy people want to see on TV. For that point of view with have the super champion, but we don’t have another champion and a super champion! We are also against copper, aluminum, silver championships and all those types of belts. Now we have international champions since sometimes you have a good fighter from one continent, so this is an intercontinental type of belt.
But the reason we didn’t show in Mexico is that it was inconsequential. You go, the media is there, but then nothing happens. Because you still have three champions and a bunch of aluminum and copper champions. Regardless of my relationship, we are talking about different concepts. We are against that concept and they promote the concept of three champions in one division and the proliferation of titles in the sport.
Fightnews: So can we confirm that the WBO is in favor of unification fights between the sanctioning organizations?
Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel: Yes. When a champion wants to unify a title that is fine, and that is also good for boxing when we have unified champions. We have different champions who unified as well, we have three or four unified champions. We also have female champions who unified. It is good for boxing and it is something fans want to see. But because we are different sanctioning organization we end up with more champions. But I don’t have to go to Mexico to say that in public. For all these years I have been president of the WBO that has been my position.
Fightnews: So do you feel the other organizations discourage unification fights?
Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel: They didn’t want their champions to unify. You remember what they (the WBC) said to Canello Alvarez when he became the WBA champion? (Author’s Note: Prior to the Saul Alvarez-Austin Trout light middleweight unification fight the WBC announced that the winner would have to choose one title or the other and would not recognize a unified champion).
Fightnews: The WBO is making major inroads in Africa and in particular Asia. What do you attribute that expansion to and what are the WBOs long term plans regarding Asia and Africa?
Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel: Because we start working with different fighters regardless of whom the promoter was. We have the right people to work in that country. In Asia we have Leon Panoncello working with the organization, to work with boxing and also the different kids. We use the WBO Kids Drug Free program to keep those people in the gym and then later they become fighters and they have the opportunity to be regular champions. We have the right people in Asia and Africa. We try to influence different commissions as well, not just with boxing but with WBO Kids as well.
Fightnews: Any final words Mr. President?
Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel: We will invite anyone who wants to show up at the convention as we discuss all the issues in front of the press and the public. We don’t do anything behind closed doors.