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GETTING OFF THE CANVASS FOR A SECOND CHANCE


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The World Boxing Council and the State Government of Morelos combined to create a boxing program for the inmates of the men’s prison near to Cuernavaca, which has just culminated in a tournament showing what hard work, commitment, courage and sheer dedication can do to turn over a new leaf, try to overturn wrongs  and offer those who`ve made serious mistakes in their lives, the chance of  redemption leading to a second chance.

For the last three months a squad of prisoners, have worked their guts and hearts out, in a boxing program. For most of them it`s been the first time in their entire lives, they`ve had to replace selfishness with selfless work as a team and knuckle down to a tough and exacting program  in order to produce results, of which  they can be proud.

Head of Prisons in Morelos Lucio Fernandez Gutierrez had to foresight and wisdom to take this bold step, planting the seed of an idea, which germinated, sprouted and blossomed to fruition...and triumph.

In a golden late afternoon near to Cuernavaca, which is known as the City of Eternal Spring, hope sprang eternal, as the prison boxing team sat side by side, nervous, but eagerly anticipating six one round exhibition bouts, in which young men, who`ve gone astray, showed that they`re finding their way back.

An unforgettable image,  as a slim fresh faced prematurely balding inmate putting  his arm around his son. The boy looked up into his Father`s eyes with such, pride, hope  as well as love.  There was no way he was going to let his boy down.  Another man went over to his Wife and young daughter cradled in her arms. The woman smiled at him and offered encouragement towards achievement.

Inmate Hector Perez who tried his level best in the ring, gave a speech thanking psychologist Dra Eunice Rendon who`d spent many hours coordinating the event,  for giving him a chance and having confidence in him as well as  his colleagues.  His voice faltered and broke as he said how proud his family are of him, and how they`ve come back together, following a long estrangement.  During that  challenging time, his Mother died, but he knows  how proud she was and will forever be in him.  Her love was always there, but her confidence, which he`d shaken,  had been justified as well as restored, and he wouldn`t let anyone down ever again.

As he said these humbling words and made his commitment, a tear trickled down his cheek and then the floodgates opened.  He tried with all his might to compose himself, but his voice faltered, broke... and he cried.  The tough guy image dissolved and was absolved with his tears.  A poignant moment of silence and sympathy, and then a roar of encouraging applause from his fellow inmates lifted his spirits, until  his smiled.  That private made public moment encapsulated what this was really all about.

The action in the ring lasted three minutes for each bout, but it constituted a long and hard journey these men had committed themselves to, undertaken and fulfilled.  Hard punches, but no hard feelings as the bell rang and they embraced congratulating each other.  One fight-two Champions!

It also meant a lot that great Champions Rafael "Bazooka" Limon, Irma Garcia, Alejandra Jimenez and Isaac Bustos were there to cheer them on, give autographs, take pictures with them and tell them: "Well done!"

Dra Rendon, who got the loudest and most prolonged round of applause that this has been an important factor in re-adaption.  She explained that there were thirty six training sessions and six talks.  That there could be no shirking, slacking or half truths because the team members well knew who was pulling their weight and no one could let the side down.  The most important factor was working together to produce positive advances.

Three months ago, almost to the day,  the World Boxing Council came to this prison to help launch the program, pledging to support, advise, equip and help in every way possible.  Now as the Tournament showed the results of all the hard work, WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman presented medals to the fighters and the team who helped them.  

Those medals bear the image of his Father Don Jose Sulaiman. Mauricio said this day was so apt,  because it  was the forty second anniversary of the very day Don Jose was unanimously voted President of Boxing`s greatest organization in the Tunis Convention.  Don Jose went on to devote every ounce of his strength, intelligence and humanity in the remaining thirty eight year of his life, to improving safety for boxers and providing opportunities for so many.  

Don Jose often said that loyalty is the most sacred of all human qualities.

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