By Mauricio Sulaimán – President of the WBC – Son of José Sulaimán
Boxing is going through a complicated period of adjustments, as a new era is beginning, eliciting a transformation.
The announcement by the Showtime network to end its boxing programming, after 37 years of being one of the world leaders, has come as a considerable surprise to the world, creating uncertainty and concern for many members of the industry of our great sport.
Boxing is the oldest sport of humanity, and its modern version began more than 300 years ago, in England. People gathered on vacant lots to watch and bet on bare-knuckle fights between two sturdy individuals, basically devoid of rules. Eventually it became regulated, took shape, formulated and by the beginning of the 20th century, it was a highly popular sport throughout the world.
It has been 100 years since the first million-dollar box office, which was previously unthinkable. For decades, the world’s stadiums and arenas were full, week after week, and the entire boxing business depended upon ticket sales. . Eventually radio arrived, and fights were broadcast on the airwaves of that medium, generating additional income. Then television arrived, and that took the sport by storm. From thousands of fans in stadiums to millions at home, it completely metamorphosed the business model.
Broadcasting rights became a million-dollar income, and the paradigm changed.
At the beginning of the 90s, pay-per-view arrived, bringing about another great change, which led to it becoming a multimillion-dollar business for a few, taking away the people’s ability to watch fights on open television. The North American networks HBO and Showtime made a great combination of fights on cable, building rivalries and then doing the big fights on pay-per-view.
Sophisticated technology arrived, and along with it, another transformation: streaming…
Various platforms came to boxing, especially DAZN, which shook the world by signing a $350 million contract with Mexican Superstar Saúl Canelo Álvarez.
Showtime is leaving, just as HBO did. Back then, nothing happened. The promoters adjusted, and the world’s fans won by continuing to lustily demand boxing.
Our sport is great, it generates emotions that no other show achieves, and it will be a matter of seeing in the coming months what models will be developed for the continued growth of boxing.
Long live Boxing!
Something that does hurt me a lot is the fact that many people that I have known for decades seeing them at least several times a year, will be losing their jobs this coming December 29th. From the president of Showtime Sports, producers, public relations and commentators, to the cameramen, who have spent their careers creating and crafting brilliant broadcasts of historic fights.
It was on Showtime that the whole world saw how Julio César Chávez filled the Azteca Stadium. The world also shook when it saw Mike Tyson ripped off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear, and so there are countless stories that will remain in the collective memory of fans, media, promoters and boxers.
I am very motivated by the great program that the WBC agreed with Sedena, the Mexican Secretary of National Defense. There have already been two weekends in which it has been activated in Mérida, Mazatlán and Zacatecas, and this Saturday, it will be in Cancún.
Sedena takes the war band to the venue where the fight takes place and the honors to the flag are celebrated, as well as singing the National Anthem. The public has been thrilled, and the pride of being Mexican has been exalted by witnessing this solemn act.
I am in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to witness the fight billed as “ Battle of The Baddest”, between the World Boxing Council heavyweight world champion, the British Tyson Fury, against the former UFC heavyweight world champion, Francis Ngannou. Anything can happen when 250 kilos and two meters 15 combined face each other in the ring, one titanic punch can change everything.
Speaking of new ways of doing boxing, the Middle Eastern countries are coming in strong with different models that have already transformed football, golf in a certain way and, without a doubt, boxing will find great cards and events in this region.
What will follow is Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk, in the highly anticipated battle between champions, where all four belts will be at stake; It is the first time that there will be an undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis, 20 years ago.
DID YOU KNOW…?
On Saturday, boxing returns in a big way to Cancun with the Mexican Eduardo Rocky Hernández, seeking the WBC super featherweight world championship, against the champion O’Shaquie Foster, from the United States. The promoter Pepe Gómez, together with MatchRoom, bring this great card, and that shows that this destination is an epicenter of boxing. Cancun has been a hub for International boxing since 2006. The efforts of Pepe Gomez with vision and dedication has opened the doors to many promoters and networks who have found in this destination unique atmosphere to promote the sport of boxing.
One day, a young man from Tabasco came knocking on my dad’s door with ambitious plans to bring boxing to Cancun. This is how it began with the Night of Champions, in 2006 when 98 world champions gathered together in a memorable extravaganza, the third World Medical Congress, four WBC World Conventions and the only heavyweight world championship fight, in Mexico when HBO produced the Samuel Peter vs Oleg Maskaev thriller. Legendary promoters such as Don King, Oscar de la Hoya, Akihiko Honda, Dan Goossen, Lou Dibella and others have presented fights.
My dad enjoyed going to Cancun: “My son , here I feel free, calm, I love sunbathing and I even have a margarita; Cancun has it all, and everyone loves coming to enjoy Mexican hospitality. I will never forget the Night of Champions. Everyone had turned their backs on Cancun after Wylma, but we came in support with Artemio, Jesús and Pepe, and we clearly showed the world that Cancun and Mexico were still standing resolute, unbowed and proud.”