By Mauricio Sulaimán / Son of José Sulaimán / President of the WBC
Boxing is going through a sensational time, with a significant number of top-level champions, very good fights scheduled on the calendar for the following months, and idols in various countries.
There is a high expectation for the fights that could take place between great fighters, and there are several divisions that are putting together tournaments that will result in many fights of the highest level.
There are also several television platforms that are airing boxing and competing to win the ratings with their programming: there is cable tv Showtime, which has aired our sport in its programming since the 80’s; ESPN in the United States, and ESPN Knockout for all of Latin America. FOX, nationwide in the US; DAZN, a digital platform worldwide, Space and many networks from all the countries of the world that broadcast boxing such as Azteca and Televisa in Mexico, Wowow in Japan, Sky, and many more in England, and of course, Triller seen as the new kid on the block by the industry.
While our sport is enjoying what could very well be a golden era, we are also experiencing various complicated issues that are creating great controversy worldwide, with conflicting opinions among members of the boxing community.
One of them is the return of legendary champions to the ring. It all started a couple of years ago, before the pandemic, when the great Mexican champion, Julio César Chávez, got into the ring to give an exhibition with the popular Jorge “Travieso” Arce.
They did it to raise funds for the medical care of a boxer who suffered an accident in a sparring session, this being the son of José Luis Castillo. The event was a great success, the arena was filled, the television rating was extremely high and the objective of financially supporting a noble cause was gloriously achieved.
Chávez and Arce did two more exhibitions; One was precisely the last event before COVID-19, creating a full house in Hermosillo, selling out 14,000 seats, and the other in the middle of the pandemic, behind closed doors, in Tijuana.
These events were very simple and clear: exhibitions with a social responsibility cause, using head gear, 16-ounce gloves and only three rounds. All three events were great entertainment to the public, with good action, but full of fun and positive vibes.
Erik “El Terrible” Morales also got into the ring with Mikey García in California, also wearing head guard, 16-ounce gloves, and to raise funds, and it was an absolute success.
Mike Tyson again shook up the world when with a tremendous display on November 28, along with Roy Jones Jr. This one was different, with no head guard, 12-ounce gloves, and was scheduled for eight two-minute rounds.
The California Boxing Commission imposed an important protocol of mandatory medical examinations and there were also anti-doping tests of the VADA clean boxing program. The WBC participated actively, and at the end of the event presented a commemorative belt to both contenders in recognition of their great show that entertained millions during the darkest moments of the pandemic.
Already in 2021 there are a lot of exhibitions, and even fights of many legendary boxers who have been retired for many years. Evander Holyfield, 58, will fight Kevin McBride, 47; both have 11 years of not fighting. Oscar de la Hoya will fight a mixed martial arts rival in July; Julio César Chávez will give an exhibition with Macho Camacho’s son, Juan Manuel Márquez and Miguel Cotto will also give an exhibition, as will Marco Antonio Barrera with Jesus Soto Karass.
There is a very fine line between exhibitions and fighting, and great concern for those who are doing it without being in optimal condition, or regardless of the consequences this may have on their health, or are doing it for the wrong reasons.
There is concern about the jurisdictions where these events take place, as that is where the protection locks are put in place in many aspects such as: medical examinations, continuous check-ups, event rules, quality of the referee, medical services.
Celebrity boxing is also catching on. This will be the subject of my next column, as there is a great division of opinion about this current phenomenon.
DID YOU KNOW…?
The great Muhammad Ali traveled to Japan to engage in an exhibition against a local wrestler named Antonio Inoki. The opponent decided never to get off the canvas and crawled on it for 15 long rounds, kicking Ali … the end result was declared a draw. It was a total financial success, but one of the worst sporting events in history.
There was a journalist who was characterized by systematically attacking boxers; there was no good side, everything was negative, fraud, dirt. One day this man met with my father and Don José, after a long conversation, suggested that he do an experiment: train boxing and one day get in the ring.
He accepted and started a training program; He really took the challenge seriously, and spent more than four months getting in shape and training in the gym, hitting the bags, doing the rope and shadow boxing.
Later, my dad called him to see how he was doing and he had gained an impressive confidence, so he suggested that it was time to get in the ring and show how boxing was something that anyone could practice.
A close friend of my father managed to secure a training session for this man, with an amateur boxer much smaller than the journalist. Upon entering the ring, he made fun of the size of his rival and asked that the session be without head gear, which was not accepted.
The bell rang and the guy failed to land a single punch, but received such an amount of leather that at the end of the first round, he decided to take off his gloves and get out of the ring, leaving the gym without saying a single word. A negative boxing note from him was never read again.
Many years later he called my dad and said: “Thank you José, it was you who saved me in this life; That experience gave me sensitivity and respect for the work of others, gave me discipline and saved my career as a journalist. I call you today, after receiving the annual award of the sports writers association, and it was all thanks to what I learned in boxing.”
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