Report/Photos: Boxing Bob Newman
The WBC 51st convention officially came to a close today in Bangkok, Thailand on Thursday, November 7th. Although the closing gala banquet takes place tomorrow and the World Ballroom at the Centara Grand Hotel, all business matters were completed in a timely, efficient fashion, including final committee reports, more awards and presentations and of course, the heavyweight title situation.
Executive Secretary Mauricio Sulaiman opened the final day of meetings with some awards and recognitions. First up WBC merchandising chair David Walker of the U.K. was recognized for his outstanding work in promoting the WBC brand through continuous and innovative marketing and merchandising strategies. Also, Karen Marfia was acknowledged for her efforts in cracking down on counterfeit WBC belts and other merchandise, that has been offered in such sales outlets as ebay.
The WBC media relations gal Deb Hawkins was honored with the Aileen Eaton Lady of the Year award for all her work with various media outlets concerning WBC events and press. NSAC chairman Bill Brady received the WBC Commission of the Year award.
Mauro Gazcon received a recognition of honor for his hard work in putting the WBC World Cup of Boxing together. As a side note to the World Cup which has been postponed due to the recovery of Jose Sulaiman, Gazcon proposed amending the participants to eight instead of twelve at this time.
Boxing writer and author Tom Hauser was honored for his recent essay on Don King.
Athletic wear manufacturer Under Armour was honored for it’s leadership and innovation in sports wear marketing and entry into boxing apparel.
Boxing agent Don Majeski took a moment at the mic to call for U.S. commissions to join the rest of the world in allowing foreign, non-partisan officials to work title fights in the U.S., much the way other nations commissions allow U.S. officials to work in title fights held in their countries. Majeski pointed out many cases where U.S. officials, especially referees work title fights in other countries, but the reverse can not be said for title fights in the U.S.
Former WBC super middleweight champion Nigel Benn was on hand for the convention and was awarded an induction into the WBC hall of fame by board member and fellow Brit Charlie Giles. Benn proclaimed that his son Conor will definitely be “Better than me and he will fight for the WBC belt one day!”
WBC heavyweight silver champion Bermane Stiverne was honored for his annexation of the silver title. He took photos with retired champions Nigel Benn and Humberto “Chicquita” Gonzalez.
Mauricio Sulaiman discussed the success and continued need for open scoring and instant replay. “In virtually every other sport, the participant as well as the crowd knows who is winning. Boxing shouldn’t be any different. If a boxer is losing, he can adjust his strategy. As for instant reply, it is used in American football- the NFL, baseball is starting to use it, tennis uses it. Many times a referee wasn’t in position to see if a cut was caused by a punch or a clash of heads. This is only fair.”
Finally- it came time to discuss the heavyweight picture as Bermane Stiverne, the WBC silver champion and mandatory challenger for champ Vitali Klitschko, was in the room. Mauricio Sulaiman has accepted Klitschko’s request to wait until November 30, 2013 to issue a full statement regarding his future in the ring. There is every indication that Klitschko will fight again, hoping for an early Spring bout in March or April, against Stiverne- his mandatory challenger. K2 Promotions managing director Tom Loeffler acknowledged Vitali’s statement and agreed that this is where Vitali stands at the moment. Stiverne’s promoter, Camille Estephan of Eye of the Tiger Promotions, took the mic and accepted this timetable. It was then that things got strange and a little tense. WBC #6 contender and former Klitschko challenger Manuel Charr took the mic and started to heatedly explain that he was involved in negotiations with Don King to deliver a fight against Stiverne. Charr felt he was being lied to. Stivern’s promoter Estephan then turned to Charr and disavowed anything King had promised, since King is not Stiverne’s promoter and is being sued by the fighter. Charr began yelling even louder and he and Estephan squared off face to face, inches from each other. Charr’s translator Malte Müller-Michaelis and WBC legal counsel Alberto Leon stepped into the fray and separated the two men before things got any uglier. Sulaiman asked Charr to sit down, to which Charr refused several times, instead angrily pleading his case over the live microphone. Sulaiman eventually let Charr finish, then asked him to sit down and gave his own explanation of the situation to Charr. Sulaiman explained in part, “Manuel, I believe there has been a misunderstanding between the parties involved. You have been very loyal to the WBC as the WBC has been to you. This sort of behavior will not serve you very well if you continue to act in this way.” Charr calmed down and eventually left the meeting hall.
Several committee members then delivered their final reports on their convention meetings. Reports were heard from the chairpersons of the medical committee, ring officials, the WBC amateur boxing initiative, Asian Boxing Council, WBC Female committee, and the legal counsel, among others.
The WBC is looking to continue it’s fight against AIBA’s alleged monopolization of amateur boxing and intrusion into the pro pranks with it’s own amateur “brand.” There is a move to develop a WBC Challenge, and form amateur groups world wide such as “WBC Amateur Boxing- Canada,” and so on.
Tomas Yu of Albuquerque, New Mexico pitched a proposal to the WBC Board to look into marketing a WBC MMA brand, delving into the world of mixed martial arts. The WBC currently has a Muy Thai brand.
Convention chairman Chuck Williams spoke briefly on the WBC social awareness program on texting and driving. Quoting from the promotional flier, Williams read aloud, “A boxer without concentration may lose a fight; a driver without care may lose his life and kill other people. Using a telephone to ‘text’ while driving is the main cause of car accidents. Just one second is enough to change your life, the life of your family and the lives of others. CONCENTRATE WHILE YOU DRIVE!” The flier is adorned with images of WBC Middleweight champion Sergio Martinez and former WBC International champion Miguel Cotto.
There will be bids for next year’s convention from Dubai in the UAE, and various Chinese cities such as Sanghai.
Finally a resolution was proposed and passed unanimously to name the recovering president Jose Sulaiman, “WBC President for Life.” Executive secretary Mauricio Sulaiman tried to contain his tears as the room broke into a standing ovation. “I try to think of what he would say every time I speak into the microphone. I try to imitate him and fail many times. I feel his presence here. It’s like a jet with the captain taking a nap and running on autopilot.” WBC Board member and the Thai coordinator for this convention, General Khovid then brought the convention to an official close. Handshakes and hugs were once again underway, looking forward to another year of boxing ahead and the healthy return of the Council’s leader, and president for life- Don Jose Sulaiman.