The World Boxing Council’s 53rd annual convention opened this morning at the beautiful InterContinental Hotel in Kunming, known as “Spring City” for its mild year-round weather.
In his opening speech, WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman said, “‘Do the difficult things while they are easy, and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step’ – from Lao Tzu. I think we all can feel how that very long proverb relates to our own lives. We have to do the small things to make the big things happen.
“As we approach the end of this sensational year we find ourselves in Kunming, China, to live the most beautiful week of the year, which is the WBC annual convention.
“As I can see around the room, so many beautiful faces, so many friendly faces, all smiles – old friends, new friends – we are all here because we care for boxing, and what we do every single day is because of our passion and love for the sport. We all try to make boxing better but, more importantly, safer.
“2015 will be remembered as one of the greatest years in the sport, without question: Mayweather versus Pacquiao, which was the greatest event in the history not just of boxing, but all sports; free television is back in the United States after 30 years of being carried only on cable and pay television. The heavyweight division has once again captured the attention of boxing. With the WBC champion Deontay Wilder, the WBC Silver champion Alexander Povetkin,and the gold medalist from the U.K., Anthony Joshua, there is tremendous excitement in the heavyweight division.
“The new antidoping protocols will make boxing safer. It will make the kids aware, so they will understand the dangers of taking illegal substances.
“And there so many great fights this year, like Santa Cruz-Mares, Postol-Matthysse. So many great fights have happened, and will happen – like the three fights of Triple G defending his interim title.
“But, we also have to regret. We have to look and understand that we also suffered four tragic fatal accidents in the ring. We lost four lives, we lost four heroes: Nestor Rojo in Argentina, Mzwanele Kompolo in South Africa, and two events in Australias with Dave Browne Jr. and Brayd Smith. These fighters gave their all in the ring. They stepped in the ring with the dream of becoming a world champion and, unfortunately, they are no longer with us. All of these fights were nontitle bouts, but we have to continue to find a way to make boxing safer. These four heroes, they will be our inspiration for 2016, to work and find elements that can make boxing a less risky sport.
“The WBC has been a leader in research and testing and implementation of countless rules of procedure. We have implemented procedures that have changed the world of boxing: from 15 to 12 rounds, all the medical research, the day-before weigh-in, and so many things that have changed boxing through the hard work of the medical community, the technical committee, and many members of the WBC’s different committees.
“Our world structure, which has been accomplished by the Continental Federations, has to work with the national boxing federations – we need to work together. Only if we work together with them to make those changes and implement the changes, we can have a boxer at less risk. It is the only way to succeed – to work together, hand in hand with the boxing authorities all over the world. There are some commissions that will not accept to collaborate and will not accept to participate, and those things have to be addressed. We will continue to work to make that happen.
“I would like to take another moment to acknowledge and remember the so many great persons who made the WBC what it is today – those who led the pack as boxing commissioners. They are very beautiful people who have gone on the path of no return.
“I can tell you that the speeches of my father during his 38 years as president were the most important moments for him – people used to bet on the length of them, and I’m trying not to keep that same tradition – but this is the only moment that we have the opportunity to sincerely thank you, all of you who are in this room.
“We come from so many parts of the world, many long hours of flights, of discomfort, problems with the airlines, then reaching here and finding this beautiful moment to be altogether to review what we did in 2015 and to get ready and plan for 2016.
“So many of you make an impact with the WBC. This is the effort of hundreds and thousands of people all over the world who really care for boxing and boxers.
“On behalf of my mother, my brothers, and all of the Sulaiman family, I would like to thank the so many persons who, throughout this year, took the initiative to remember and to honor the legacy of my father. We were honored with masses, tournaments, with special events, with special recognitions, naming trophies after my father, and I can sincerely say ‘thank you’ to all of you who still remember José Sulaiman as your dear friend, as your unique friend, and I will do everything in my power to continue to try to be just a little as he was. If I am 10 percent of what my father was, I will be successful.
“My father was my hero. I think of him often. When it gets difficult, I just receive a phone call from someone and that just makes me happy, because the way you have supported me and my family with your care and concern for my father has made the world better.
“Thank you very much.”
The Masters of Ceremonies were Legal Counselor Alberto Leon and International Secretary Jill Diamond, both of the United States. Internatonal secretary Chuck Williams of the U.S. also addressed the attendees.
World champions in attendance included (clockwise from upper left) WBC interim middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, who addressed the attendees; WBC super lightweight champion Viktor Postol; former WBC minimumweight world champion – and China’s first world champion – Xiong Zhao Zhong; and WBC super bantamweight world champion Leo Santa Cruz.
WBC super middleweight champion Badou Jack was also in attendance, as well as a legendary group that included Evander Holyfield and Julio Cesar Chavez (above left), Erik Morales, who rang the 10-count for those in the world boxing family who passed away this year (above right), Larry Holmes, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Vinny Paz, Jeff Fenech, Carlos Zarate, and many others.
Ring officials seminars were held in the afternoon. WBC Ring Officials Chairman Hubert Minn of the United States led the seminar for judges and said, “I believe that this year, the seminar that we’re presenting is very new. It’s going to be basically looking at the criteria for scoring – not changing it so much as re-defining it and making it clear. We’re calling it the ‘Three D’s.’ The first one, when you talk about clean punching, we’re talking about punches that ‘damage.’ The second one is effective aggressiveness – we call that ‘domination.’ The last one we call ‘disruption.’ Through all of this, we’ll show examples. We’ll show examples of close, moderate, definitive, and extreme rounds. We want our judges to know what criteria to use to judge the fight. So we are really pushing the envelope and I believe that when they come to the seminar, they will enjoy it. It will be a very, very innovative type of seminar. We have a PowerPoint presentation that will blow your mind. The man that put it together is Barry Lindeman. Barry is my vice-chair, and we’ve been working on this for a year. We tried a little bit of it at the NABF convention in San Francisco. We had Hall of Fame judges come up to us afterwards saying, ‘This is good stuff! Can I get a copy of this?’ So I think what we’re doing is introducing new ideas in a very traditional sport.
“I had a seminar the other day, I did it for three hours. In addition to about 80 from around the world, there were about 25 Chinese judges. They were novices, about eight had some experience. I think they walked out of there realizing that they didn’t really know much about scoring. There’s so much to know about being an official and the judge, how you carry yourself, what to be aware of, things like that.”
Bruce McTavish of the Philippines led the referees seminar. He said, “The seminars are so necessary because every country, they have their own hometown rules and the seminars are the way to unify it. It’s very important to have these. It’s important to know how to break the boxers, it’s important to know where the doctor is sitting. The referee has to check with the doctor to make sure he has oxygen. It’s little things like that – they seem little, but they’re so important.
“In the ring, I have three minutes in the round to protect two guys’ lives. You see a guy get knocked down – if you need oxygen, you need the doctor immediately. You want to unify the system. That way, you get two things – the more coherent fight, and the people enjoy the boxing because the referee is not making mistakes. It’s very, very important that we have this unified around the world. It’s a package deal.
“This is going to be my last time leading the seminars. Arthur Mercante was my mentor, and after about 10 or 12 years with Arthur, I thought things needed to be freshened up and they put me in the slot. Now I’m putting myself in the same position after 15 years.
“I think I’ve achieved as much as I’m capable of. Now it’s time for some fresh blood, maybe some new ideas, and maybe they’ll still use me for information and to help them, which I’ll do all the time because it’s part of my life. My wife said to me one time, ‘What’s more important, our marriage or boxing?’ I said, ‘I’ll answer that later.’
“This will be my last year to lead the seminars, but I’ll still be on the sideline to help if they want. I’m not going anywhere. I had a seminar for about two hours with Chinese referees yesterday, and we had about 30 of them. There were probably about 40 from around the world. So when they come to the seminars today and tomorrow, they have a basic idea of what the seminars are about.
“It’s a unified deal. You have three judges, a referee, a doctor, and a supervisor. You’ve got six people there, it’s a team. You don’t have a referee by himself, you don’t have three judges by themselves. You’ve got to know who the doctor is, you’ve got to know who the supervisor is. For example, if I see a cut on a guy and I’m not sure if it’s from a punch or a head butt, it’s very important to know the difference. You have three judges and the supervisor, so you can call a timeout and go to them and ask if they saw it. If they all say, ‘Yes, it was a headbutt,’ fine. That’s part of the teamwork. You’re not a referee by yourself – it’s a team.”