By David Finger
Day two of the WBO 22nd Annual Congress continued today in Budapest, Hungary as President Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel issued his President’s report to start things off in the morning. The first order of business President Valcarcel touched upon were the recent situations that the WBO has had to deal within Europe, most notably, the problem arising in fights involving the British Boxing Board (the sanctioning organization for such titles as the British Commonwealth title and the British title). The BBB has taken a position in which that organization will not allow Commonwealth and British title fights to take place when another organization (including the WBO) has sanctioned the fight for a title as well. President Valcarcel remained optimistic that the position of the BBB would be softened over time, expressing hope that the numerous boxing insiders in Great Britain who have expressed their desire to see the BBB drop this policy would be able to persuade the BBB to do so.
However, Valcarcel was less optimistic about the recent issues that emerged in regards to the conflicts that the WBO has had in connection with the European Boxing Union (EBU). The actions of the EBU, which some felt has shown favoritism towards the rival WBC and prejudice against the WBO, clearly angered Valcarcel, who didn’t mince words when describing the EBU.
“We have to stop the EBU,” Valcarcel said, “we have good boxing shows, but the EBU is still representing the WBC in Europe. If they still work like they do now we are going to be in court, sooner or later.”
Upon the close of the President’s report, WBO attorney Andy Horn discussed the legal situation of the WBO so far this year, another year in which the WBO has not only survived another round in the heavily litigious sport of boxing, but has thrived. The WBO has not lost a lawsuit since Horn has come on board, and with the victory in the recent Arizona lawsuit filed by the WBO, Horn had reason to be happy.
“The WBO remains undefeated in the legal arena since I’ve been on board,” commented Horn, “and last year was no exceptions. (It’s been) fourteen to fifteen years of knockouts.
Horn and Valcarcel then discussed a recent incident in which an internet sports site was threatened with a case of defamation. A writer named Glen Wilson, a writer for a regional website with a large internet advertising chain, had been accused by Horn of “slandering the WBO significantly”. Wilson’s article called the WBO “corrupt”, “crooks,” and further accused the organization of “taking payoffs.”
“In the law, a statement calling someone a prostitute or crook is slander per se.” commented Horn, “No one with good sense would dare make a public statement that malicious”.
Horn discussed the actions of the WBO in response to the Wilson article. Citing the law in the United States, where there is a statutory requirement that you give seven days to an offending party to retract a statement and publish a retraction in the same format; Horn discussed the WBO letter to Wilson. “Within…less than twenty four-hours we issued a demand for a retraction and public apology,” commented Horn, “Mr. Wilson immediately withdrew the statement and issued a retraction that was unacceptable, pulled that, and then issued another statement.” The second retraction complied statutorily and included a public apology, in which Wilson cited the motivation for the statement at his anger at a fight.
Horn also discussed the situation involving the WBO and the EBU, describing the actions of the EBU as “tortuous interference” (which is described in the law as a negligent act, in which some party intervenes in a binding contract).
Horn finished his summary of the legal arena of the WBO on a positive note. “There really aren’t any lawsuits pending” commented Horn, who added that the WBO is currently only involved in collecting damages in lawsuits they have already won. “Other than that it has been another quiet year.”
President Valcarcel then discussed an issue involving current WBO welterweight champion Miguel Cotto. Valcarcel expressed concern over some of the recent statements and actions of Cotto, and added that Cotto’s attorney is also a high ranking member of the WBC. He then discussed the WBO’s role in the upcoming Pacquiao vs. Cotto fight and the sanctioning of that fight while taking into account some of the actions by Cotto.
From there the topic of discussion moved to one that many boxing insiders and fans were curious to here opinions on, namely the position of the WBO on female boxing.
Although President Valcarcel indicated that the WBO is prepared to deal with female boxing, he also admitted that in the last ten years the WBO has not yet done so.
Although the opinions of many of the WBO members were generally positive in regards to women’s boxing, and may believed there would be a role that the WBO can play in the near future in regards to women’s boxing, the near unanimous consensus was that the time was not yet ripe to capitalize on it.
“I think we have a full plate…with male boxers.” Commented vice president Rudy Paz, “ I don’t mind sharing the wealth if we need to, but my opinion is that we have a full plate with what we are doing. I am just giving an opinion based on business.”
“I don’t have anything against women fighting,” added Leon Panoncillo, chairman of Asia-Pacific zone, “but just leave it to the men, that’s how I feel.”
Richard De Cuir, vice president of North America, shared the sentiment of other WBO members when he said “I don’t believe we should shut the door, but I do believe we have much, much going on this year. I also don’t believe we should take on too much more today.”
“It’s all about the activity, and there is not enough activity and there is not enough demand.” Added NABO vice president Mark Reels, “In due time, when it is there, we can get involved.”
However, the WBO embers were unanimous in their opposition to mixed gender fights such as the one proposed several years ago involving Ann Wolfe (who was scheduled to fight a man).
The discussion had an interesting spectator who was asked by President Valacarcel to speak to the members, a noted former two time female world champion from the Ukraine was in attendance.
“All of you know that the next step after amateur boxing is professional boxing,” commented the fighter, “female boxing is now in the Olympic games. Of course my opinion is that the WBO should open the door to female boxing.”
Andrew Smale, the new vice president of the African region discussed the divergent role of and popularity of women’s boxing in the continent, “there is a huge market in Ghana and Nigeria,” commented Small, “but it has not taken off in South Africa.”
Closing out the discussion, one Argentine WBO member (where women’s boxing is currently thriving) stated “who are we to tell them not to box. I am absolutely in favor of woman’s boxing.”
Taking statements from the floor, President called on some noted boxing insiders such as Eric Gomez and Bobby Goodman for their position on women’s boxing.
“We worked with women for many years,” commented Bobby Goodman, “Christy Martin really popularized boxing. At one point we were paying Christy martin six figures. That was unheard of.”
“Female boxing today can be very popular,” added Goodman, “you have some excellent females boxing today, and they are learning more. Back then they were top level of boxing but not much depth, but those who could fight and did have good styles like Christy Martin could popularize female boxing around the world.
“The WBO has a history of helping fighters of all races and creeds,” commented Andrew Horn, “the WBO stands for equal opportunity and stands for minorities. I feel when female boxing is recognized by the Olympics it should be considered by the board as long as it is a prudent business decision.”
President Valcarcel suggested expanding the WBO’s role in women’s boxing. “Maybe we can recognize some female fighters as WBO champions,” commented Valcarcel.
The next recent issue discussed by the WBO was the emergence of the instant replay, which was just adopted by the State of Nevada. Speaking on the parameters of the new instant replay rule, Nevada referee’s Joe Cortez and Robert Byrd engaged in a question and answer session with WBO officials. Ultimately it became apparent that there were still a lot of questions as to how prevalent the instant replay will end up being in Nevada (New Jersey referee Eddie Cotton also took part in the Q & A to discuss NJ’s use, or lack thereof, of the instant replay citing the rule in NJ in which the promoter has to agree to its implementation before the fight). The discussion ended with a motion to wait and see how the new policy will work out in Nevada.
Rounding off the day were numerous seminars including a judges training seminar as well as a referee’s seminar. Both proved to be highly in depth, a testament to the impressive standard the WBO has in its officiating throughout the world.