By Mauricio Sulaimán / Son of José Sulaimán / President of the WBC
It would take me many columns to be able to describe what happened during this incredible and so memorable 59th annual Convention of the World Boxing Council in Mexico City, but despite the daunting odds due to Covid, it was possible to safely and magnificently fulfil the dream and exceed, by far, the expectations.
I am deeply grateful to those who stepped up and tirelessly worked flat out with all their heat and soul plus ingenuity, to make this unforgettable event possible viable and so very successful. The staff of the central office selfless gave of themselves day and night with many sacrifices, so that everything flowed efficiently and perfectly. A large number of volunteers constantly, concisely and consistently at work at the Presidente Intercontinental Hotel, as well as at the Arroyo Restaurant, and friends who loyally supported the Convention are the ones who get the final and so deserved round of applause.
It was an honor to have Dr. Claudia Sheinbaum, major of Mexico City at the opening ceremony, and effective immediattely , we will get to work to achieve the objectives set during her speech: to achieve the Guinness Record, with the largest boxing class in the world; Return the Tournaments of the Barrios, activating Boxing for your health in Paseo de la Reforma, and pledging to bring at least one great card to the Mexico City in 2022.
The Band of the Secretariat of the Mexican Navy made a clarion impact, by honouring the flag, and the National Anthem was majestically sung by the all-time great artist Manuel Mijares, who did it five times during the JC Chávez fights. The choir of the National Polytechnic Institute sang the WBC melody We are the World, with crystal clear harmony, and there was the presence of the flags of the 170 affiliated countries.
The presence of Floyd Mayweather was spectacular. He never tired of saying: ” I love Mexico.” He actively participated in the Grand Inauguration, in the work sessions at the hotel, and received a unique award, the original and vintage Green and Gold first generation belt, which was the one awarded in the 70s, of which Muhammad Ali was the first recipient.
Sugar Ray Leonard was truly magnificent. He had two historical and emotional encounters, one with with his arch-rival, but now soul brother, Roberto Manos de Piedra Durán, the other as he found a sincere friendship with Floyd, with lengthy, insightful and fascinating talks, where both of them recognized plus celebrated each other with great warmth; Furthermore, he ran into and was arm in arm with Donny Lalonde, whom he defeated in that dramatic fight in 1988.The greeting between Leonard and Canelo at the TV Azteca facilities was absolutely wonderful.
Larry Holmes was present as a spokesperson for the elite division of champions. Larry is one of the great champions in history, who rescued boxing, our sport was in agony after the retirement of Muhammad Ali but there Easton assassin emerged as the power force making 15 title defenses of his WBC heavyweight championship.
Charismatic Julio César Chávez, as always, was the epicentre of attention, friendly, warm, delightful and smiling. He was accompanied by many, many all-time great champions from Mexico: Ricardo López, Érik Morales, Carlos Zárate, Lupe Pintor and dozens of other Mexican heroes.
The women also attended were led by The Three Empresses: Ana María Torres, Jackie Nava and Barbie Juárez, in the company of many more from Mexico, plus the Canadian Star Jelena Mrdjenovich and the German sensation Tina Rupprecht.
The tribute to the bravest man in the world, Bridger Walker, who saved his four-year-old sister from a horrendous dog attack , was awarded in The Arroyo, when he met on stage Oscar Rivas, the first world champion of the newly created Bridger division.
Young Bridger proudly presented Oscar Rivas with his belt, who in turn, gave him the gloves with which he won his fight. Dr. Sheinbaum gave him a piñata with his image, and Floyd presented him with a replica of the Teotihuacán belt.
Eddy Reynoso was deservedly recognized, for the third consecutive year, as Trainer of the Year, and was crowned champion by receiving the highest award- the WBC belt. In the same way, he received a deserved recognition, in the Senate of the Republic, from the hands of Senator, Ricardo Monreal.
Jimmy Lennon Jr. was present as Master of Ceremonies and was agreeably surprised and delighted receiving a trophy as a fitting recognition for his brilliant career. Chávez and Azabache Martínez presented him with this accolade. The fight between these two warriors was the first championship battle in which Jimmy announced a world title bout, it was the vacant WBC super featherweight title , from then he took the baton from his beloved father.
The sessions, the workshops, the certifications of judges and referees, and the multiple agreements made for 2022 were demanding and extensive, but the results give rise to continue to lead boxing worldwide. The presence of the Presidents of the WBO, Francisco Valcarcel, and Daryl Peoples, of the IBF, demonstrate the unity that exists and that we are willing to do everything possible to improve our sport.
Canelo Alvarez presence during the closing ceremony was the cherry on the cake. All attendants were as awe with his humble and graceful attitude. Canelo is the pound for pound king and is on top of the world. The WBC did something unprecedented while processing the yearly awards for the best of 2021.
It is the first time in history that the Boxer of the Year was designated without a vote. Saul Canelo Alvarez received this recognition as he had an outstanding year, becoming the first fighter to conquer all four super middleweight belts, fighting four times in just eleven months .
At the 1980 convention in Mexico City, the great sensation was Larry Holmes and the expected fight in turn was against the “great white hope” Gerry Cooney. My dad summoned them to be at the inauguration of it, and when they found themselves in the lobby of the now-extinct Hotel Continental, they faced each other, and when things got hot, my dad moved in to calm them down, only to absorb a jab to the jaw thrown by Cooney. When he got home, my worried mother questioned him: “Viejita, I took a blow, in trying to separate the giants, but they didn’t knock me down, so you can see that I can take a punch!”
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