Report and photos by David Finger
The WBO 25th annual convention kicked off in front of a nearly packed conference center at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida this morning with elections moving to the forefront to start off the event. Although not scheduled until later in the day, the executive commite voted to move the event to the morning session. WBO President Francisco “Paco” Varcarcel briefly turned over the reins to Luis Batista Salas during the election process. A question on whether exiled Cubans would be allowed to vote for Cuba was raised before the candidates were announced. Valcarcel, who had an opponent in 2008, was unopposed in his bid to remain as WBO President. Luis Perez was also unopposed in his election for international commissioner. Adolfo Flores was unopposed in the race for treasurer and four candidates put their names forward in the campaign for the four vice president vacancies (although the candidate for 4th VP, Andrew Smale, withdrew his name before the election to take another position with the WBO). In the only contested race, 10 WBO members sought four vacancies to the executive committee. Markus Aslani , Porfirio Betegon, Jose Castillo, Edoardo Ceccoli, Arthur Ellensohn, John Handelaar, Erno Labega, Rafael Lopez Santos, Rolando Marcos-Hermoso, and Igor Mazurov all were candidates. After the votes were counted, the elected executive committee members were Markus Aslani (with 43 votes), John Handelaar (with 26 votes), Rafael Lopez Santos (with 36 votes), and Igor Mazurov (with 35 votes). John Duggan was elected first VP with 52 votes, Jacinth Bryan-Labega was elected second VP, Rudy Paz was elected 3rd VP, and Rolando Marcos Hermoso won as a write in candidate after Andrew Smale dropped out in the race for 4th VP.
Once the election was certified and Luis Batista Salas surrendered his interim duties to President Valcarcel, the event continued with a Combate Space video tribute and interview with President Valcarcel where he discussed everything from his humble upbringings to the failed “coup attempt” against him in the early years of his reign as WBO President.
From there, the event turned to an exciting and unexpected development as Luis Batista Salas discussed an exciting WBO event coming up at the end of the year where Afghan born Hamid Rahmini will fight for a WBO title in Kabul on the 31st of this month.
“Violence is part of humanity,” Batista Salas said about the historic fight card, “we took that violence that is used in wars to kill, or to duel, we gave it a discipline, a sense of living. A purpose. In that sense, we have expanded into the four continents in the last four years. Our next project is to go wherever war is. To go where there is less understanding. To show peace is better than war. To give some kind of hope. Some kind of discipline. In Afghanistan it has been dominated by misery and violence. They have been fighting for the last 30 years. 1.5 million were killed during Russian invasion. In 1996 the Taliban came to power. We have initiated a program to go to Afghanistan and give what we can offer.”
John Duggan added that “the opportunity presented itself to the WBO to host a fight on October 30 2012. The concept of this event is to have one day of sport and one day of peace, we are hoping it will contribute to rebuilding their civilization. We are happy to be involved in this. We hope to do more events in similar situations.”
At this point Don King arrived and received a lifetime achievement award as the “Greatest Promoter.”
After the King award, a short video highlighting the accomplishments of the WBO Kids Drug Free Program was shown, highlighting the accomplishments fo the WBO all over the world with its highly successful Kids Drug Free Program. This video was followed by a brief vote to amend the bylaws to create a senior advisor position. After this amendment, information on the one year old web page was discussed, with discussions on how to make the rankings page more accessible, and also information on the live stream on the web page. With a goal of making the web page as “user friendly” as possible, it was announced that the WBO webpage averages over 50,000 hits a month, making it a rousing success since it was updated last year.
After the discussion on the web page, WBO Asia Pacific Vice President Leon Panoncillo suggested making the upcoming Manny Pacquiao versus Juan Manuel Marquez fight to be for the “WBO Champion of the Decade”. The idea was immediately embraced by President Valcarcel.
“It will be part of the advertising, and give the WBO a boost,” Valcarcel said, “both fighters are allies of the WBO.”
Still, there were concerns raised that such a title could dilute the WBO championship belt.
“We don’t want to fall in that interim champion problem,” Valcarcel added, “I don’t like interim titles except in rare instances.”
After Lunch the Executive committee met while the referees engaged in a training seminar. New Mexico judge Levi Martinez helped lead a session in which all of the boxing judges watched the Brandon Rios versus Richard Abril fight from April without sound to discuss judging techniques. Almost all of the WBO judges in attendance had Abril winning the fight, which ultimately went to Rios in a controversial decision.
During the executive committee, several new ideas were briefly discussed before the regional reports kicked off. Richard De Cuir discussed the suggestion by several networks to extend the time in between rounds from one minute to seventy seconds to accommodate television advertisers. From there a brief discussion on open scoring (which almost every executive committee member was opposed to) was raised before the regional reports.
Kicking off the regional reports was Mark Reels, vice president in charge of the NABO and the WBO Intercontinental. Reels oversaw 19 NABO fights (which brought in $56,365) and 23 WBO Intercontinental fights (which made $83,480 in sanctioning fees).
From there, Andrew Smale of WBO Africa discussed the progress on the African continent. Although the activity slowed down somewhat in 2011, Andrew Smale still oversaw 21 fights, with 9 fights from August to December of 2010 (in which the WBO earned $10,800 in sanctioning fees) and 12 WBO Africa fights from January 1, 2011 to October 31, 2011 (in which the WBO earned $50,275 in sanctioning fees).
“It’s been a relatively good year,” Smale added, before discussing the instability in the Ghanaian commission which slowed progress in Ghana down.
After Smale’s report, WBO Asia Pacific Vice President Leon Panoncillo gave his report starting with promising news on the WBO’s entry into Japan. The WBO had met with stiff resistance from local boxing authorities in Japan, but recently they have made progress there, with four championship fights last year in Japan.
“Japan is opening its doors to us in 2013,” Panoncillo said, “I’m very proud.”
Panoncillo oversaw 18 Asia Pacific championship fights since January 1st (raising $23,806 in sanctioning fees) and 14 Oriental championship fights since January 1st (raising $15,106.55 in sanctioning fees). Panoncillo also raised $800 in sanctioning fees from two WBO Asia Pacific Youth title fights since January 1st. Panoncillo’s success in Asia earned him praise from the WBO President.
“We have more champions in Asia than all of the other organizations put together” Paco said of Panoncillo’s continued dominance in Asia.
At this point Panoncillo introduced the new WBO International Belt, which earned praise from the executive committee.
Istvan Kovacs kicked off the WBO Europe report with a PowerPoint highlighting the success of the WBO in Europe as well. Kovacs oversaw 38 fights in 2012: 12 WBO Intercontinental fights, 4 WBO International fights, and 22 WBO European championship fights. He also discussed the long term success of the WBO Europe, with 53 fights since it’s inception in 2009 involving 12 WBO European Champions, 9 of whom who would go on to fight for world titles and one of whom who would win the WBO world title. He also discussed the growing income of the WBO Europe, from making only $9,200 in sanctioning fees in 2009 to making over $78,450 last year in sanctioning fees.
Rounding off the Vice President’s reports, Jorge Molina gave his report on WBO Latino, defending the quality of the fights for the WBO Latino belt and the diversity of the championships, with 37 Latino title bouts in five countries since the last convention.
Rounding off the day’s activities was the “Oldies Party” in which numerous attendees dressed up in costumes from their favorite time period. During the ceremony, President Valcarcel handed out awards to numerous promoters and fighters, including Sammy Gello-Ani, Arthur Pelullo, Tony Auad, Ruslan Provodnikov, and Juan Carlos Burgos.