Report & Photos by Boxing Bob Newman
The 51st annual WBC convention officially opened on Monday morning in Bangkok, Thailand at the Centara Grand Hotel. With over a thousand delegates, current and former champions, and world press on hand, Thailand’s General Kovid Bhakdibhumi, a Thai Senator and WBC board member, welcomed the attendees. Kovid invited the board and ring officials to commence with their important work and then to reward themselves with the enjoyment that can be found in the “Land of Smiles.”
WBC Executive Secretary Mauricio Sulaiman greeted the attendees, “With a heavy heart, not to replace my father, but to carry out his orders for the success of this convention.” Sulaiman explained that Don Jose has suffered several complications throughout his nearly five weeks of post-operative care, but will definitely recover to run the Council once again.
Record setting former WBC Flyweight champion Pongsaklek Wongjongkam addressed the audience next and welcomed all to Thailand. “I am happy to have been a WBC champion and just as happy to have you all here in my country. Enjoy!”
Veteran boxing commentator Bob Sheridan addressed the gathering on his affinity for sanctioning bodies and their work at the annual conventions. “Many of my colleagues are quick to criticize the sanctioning bodies, but yet they never attend the conventions. They never see the work that is getting done here. I’d like to see them show up and then see what they have to say.”
Several video greetings were sent, most notably from boxing’s “other heavyweight champ,” Wladimir Klitschko. Wlad joked, “Even though I can’t be there, I have sent a good representative, my brother Vitali!” Hall of Fame promoter Don King also sent his regards to the Council and stated that he’d be visiting the WBC president at UCLA Medical Center as soon as possible.
A video homage to the passing of boxing notables including insiders, promoters, managers as well as fighters who passed in the last year was played. Most notable were the passings of former world champs Emile Griffith and former WBC heavyweight champion Ken Norton.
Mauricio Sulaiman again took the microphone to deliver the president’s annual report, as well as address several of his father’s primary concerns for the betterment of boxing in the immediate future.
He first ran down noteworthy statistics on the number of regional, silver, male, and female WBC world title fights. Sulaiman then shared his father Don Jose’s wish list for boxing in 2014:
-Improving scoring methods for close rounds versus comfortably won rounds. Perhaps half-point scoring in such close round situations.
-Electronic scoring implementation. The WBC has been working with Mohegan Sun Casino where an electronic scoring modality has been instituted in recent fights and has been used by judges with improving success.
-AIBA. Jose Sulaiman has championed the cause against the alleged monopolization of amateur boxing by it’s supervisory body AIBA (International Amateur Boxing Association)- essentially allowing fighters to fight pro, then fight in the Olympic games after their “practice” pro fights. Those fighters would then be allowed to turn pro, but under the auspices of AIBA, again, an amateur regulatory body. Many entities in the pro ranks have united against AIBA, from promoters to the sanctioning bodies.
-Certification of approved gloves- from approved padding material to the gloves weight variation among weight classes.
-Continued improvements in the medical field in boxing. The recent death of Frankie Leal just over a week ago, as well as recent life threatening injuries to heavyweight Magomed Abdusalamov and flyweight Tyson Marquez were noted. In the case of Leal, he had left the ring on a stretcher and was hospitalized after a knockout loss to current IBF featherweight champ Evgeny Gradovich in March of 2012, and had five fights in the ensuing 19 months, with two losses.
-Unity in boxing. Don Jose Sulaiman continues his call for unity especially between television broadcasters and sanctioning bodies. “Together we stand, divided we fall,” quoted Sulaiman.
Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Police General Pracha Promnog officially opened the convention after his welcoming speech with the sounding of a ceremonial gong.
Several recognitions were handed out during the opening ceremony. Brazil’s 95 year old Newton Campos, a devotee of the WBC since it’s inception in 1963 received one such recognition.
WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko was recognized for his work outside the ring. Klitschko’s work against bullying was praised as well as his upcoming run for the presidency of Ukraine in the 2015 elections. Klitschko echoed the sentiment, “In order to win, you have to fight.”
The WBC Lifetime Achievement award went to Carlos Rodriguez.
Several former and current world champs were called up on stage to be recognized, including Jeff Fenech, Vitali Klitschko and such Thai legends as Pongsaklek Wongjongkam, Saman Sor Jaturong, Napa Kiatwanchai, Veerapol Sahaprom, Venice Borkorsor, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (current WBC super fly champ), Eagle Kyowa, Jelena Mrgdenovich, Xiong Zhao Zhong (current WBC straw weight champ) and Suriyan Sor Rungvisai.
After lunch, meetings commenced in various halls and meeting rooms. The ring officials met in several of the “Lotus” suites to discuss business and training sessions. WBC head of ring officials Hubert Minn conducted the ring officials seminar. Select rounds of several fights, (16 rounds in all) were screened and scored by all attending judges as a scoring exam. The refereeing seminar will be conducted on Tuesday.
The NABF met with recently elected president Duane Ford at the helm. The 2014 convention for the North American body has been decided to take place in Chicago over July 4th weekend at the Hyatt regency.
The WBC medical board met and discussed several topics. Dr. Clive Noble of South Africa discussed glove use among weight divisions, the re-use of gloves in some regions and the newer closed-cell padding. Dr. Helen Clausen of Australia looked cognitive evaluation of fighters and their reaction times over varying post-fight periods.
In the evening, the opening awards banquet took place in the World Ballroom. Several recognitions were made to both champions and WBC staff alike.
Mauro Betti- 27 years of consecutive conventions and Committee of the Year
Charlie Giles- Confederation President of the Year (BBBC)
Duane Ford- Confederation of the Year (NABF)
Lawrence Cole- Ring Official of the Year
Masao Suzuki- Promoter of the Year
Jill Diamond- Human Equality Award (World Boxing Cares)
Frank Garza- Humanitarian (World Boxing Cares)
Alberto Reyes- Edmund Lipinski Good Fellow Award
Stephen Blea & Raylene Sanchez Carbone- Boxing Couple of the Year
Guido & Maria Cavalleri- Boxing Couple of the Year
Ricky Hatton & Jeff Fenech- Honorary WBC belts