The opening ceremonies of the 52nd annual World Boxing Council convention were held this morning in the Mirage Event Center at the The Mirage in Las Vegas, which has hosted numerous legendary fights.
The masters of ceremony were Jimmy Lennon Jr. and WBC legal counselors Robert Lenhardt and Alberto Leon.
A truly incredible gathering of world champions, past and present, was also on hand.
In his opening comments, Lennon said, “We welcome you to the beautiful Mirage in Las Vegas for the opening ceremony of the 52nd annual World Boxing Council convention. This grand and historic WBC convention is taking place in the fight capital of the world, Las Vegas, and in the spectacular setting of The Mirage, home of so many memorable battles, from Douglas versus Holyfield, Leonard-Duran III, Azumah Nelson-Jeff Fenech, and where Grand Campeon Mexicano – Julio Cesar Chavez – defended his title four times.
“This week, in hosting the 52nd annual WBC convention, The Mirage adds to its place in boxing importance. This year proves to be an historic convention with over 100 world champions and legends in attendance. There are more than 1400 delegates here. Guinness World Records will be presented to Don José Sulaiman, Julio Cesar Chavez, Bernard Hopkins, and Floyd Mayweather, as well as to the WBC for sending its belt into space to the International Space Station.
“Additionally, of course, regular business of the convention will take place throughout the week. And a special note – we have a tremendous program planned for you tonight at our gala dinner. A tremendous program is planned, as well, this morning. There are many items to cover, so we’re going to get right into it.”
Former WBC two-time welterweight, middleweight, super middleweight, and light heavyweight world champion and 1997 International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Sugar Ray Leonard addressed the assembly and said, “I don’t quite know how to articulate the feeling of being on here, joining some of the legendary fighters, champions, the current-day boxers and champions, and future world champions. It is indeed a pleasure of mine to be here, also having the opportunity to remember a great man, a great individual in José Sulaimán. José meant a lot to me, as he meant to so many boxers, because he really, really cared about his boxers. They were like his extended family.
“The WBC has implemented a number of ways to minimize injuries for boxers, such as the reduction of rounds from 15 to 12, and studies have shown that signs of human endurance. The thumbless gloves are reducing eye injuries. In fact, I was one of the victims of that. There are so many things that happened for the betterment of boxing because of the WBC, and because of José Sulaimán.
“That great belt, that championship belt – without question, that is one of my most prized possessions. I cherished it from day one.
“Mauricio, I want to say to you that I know that your dad is watching and is listening to us. And we will continue his vision. Thank you so much. God bless you all.”
In his opening speech, WBC President Mauricio Sulaimán said, “It is very, very, very exciting and very important and very emotional for me to see all the friendly faces, the very dear persons who are with us here this morning.
“Today, we are closing the chapter with a memorial for my father. We are putting an end to a life which was dedicated exclusively for boxing. I would like to thank my mother for being 55 years next to my father, for always allowing him to go out and dedicate his life for boxing, taking care of the kids and the grandkids, because she is the best mother in the world.
“Also, I would like to thank every single person in this room. You have been very warm, very kind, and very caring for my mom, my brothers, my wife, my sisters, and the grandkids.
“It has been a very lonesome year at some times, but it has been a very special time when we see each other, when we talk to you, when you call us, when you send us a message. We have felt like what the WBC family is really about.
“Your closeness to the Sulaimáns has been instrumental for us to continue. I would like to express very special feelings for two persons – I call them ‘my second fathers’ – and they have been very important in my life: my second father, my ‘papa,’ Don King, and my second father, Mr. Akihiko Honda. Thank you for all you have done for me.
“I would like to thank my wife, Cristiane, who is here. She has been holding my hand, she has been extremely supportive. It has been a difficult year, and she has taken care of my kids. I miss them so much. There is no way I could be here, standing, feeling so proud of having a wife like you.
“When I grew up, I was always looking at my father traveling, my father working late nights when he was in Mexico. I felt, in a way, very jealous because we had to share our father with so many persons. These were each single boxers. If he was a four-round amateur fighter or Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, or any of those sitting here, they are like brothers and sisters to the Sulaimáns.
“So for me to see so many great champions, each one of you know what my father felt for you, and thank you for giving him so many moments of glory, and thank you for being so loyal to the WBC, because this is your home. Thank you so much to all the fighters.
“My father had the opportunity to feel very special moments in Nevada. I would like to thank, in a very special way, Cisco. [note: Nevada State Athletic Commission Chairman Francisco Aguilar] Because my father, after many years of not coming regularly to this state, this great venue of Nevada, Las Vegas, he found in you, Cisco, and your commission, a feeling of feeling at home. When my father passed away, he passed away as he started in boxing – loving Las Vegas and Nevada.
“To the WBC Board of Governors, to all the committee chairmen, to all of those who participate in the day-to-day activities of the WBC, all I can say is thank you so very much for all you do.
“We are just taking the banner, we are following the footsteps, because you all share the same principles, the same integrity, in always looking out for our fighters. We’ll continue to do so as the WBC because we care about the boxers, the men and women who step up into the ring, giving everything to make their family and their country proud.
“So today, we are finishing with a celebration of the life of José Sulaimán, and we are starting with a celebration of the so many world champions who are here at this convention.
“We are going to have lots of fun, and I hope that everybody enjoys this convention as much as we expect.
“We are going to finish this morning’s session with a few very special awards. I’m going to begin with the first award, which is the ‘Man of the Year Award.’ Every year, the WBC Board of Governors votes to elect these very special person who made the difference and represented boxing to its fullest. Richard Sturm, who is here, also Pope Francis, Carlos Slim, Nelson Mandela, and many others have received this honor.
“I would like to welcome Mr. Andrey Ryabinsky, who is the Man of the Year for 2014. Andrey is from Russia. He’s a very quiet, low-key person who has been helping a boxer who had an unfortunate accident in the ring, Magomed Abdusalamov. He had to go through several surgeries, and Andrey is taking care of Magomed through all the rehab, and his family, his wife and his kids. Thank you so much.
“Of course, we also honor the Woman of the Year. We have a very special person who has a leader. She has a network called Women Network. It is a world-wide organization. She’s a leader, she’s searching to have unity, and it is my real pleasure to present the Woman of the Year Award to Michelle Patterson.
“The Lifetime Achievement the highest recognition that a boxing commissioner can accomplish. It is my extreme privilege and honor to present the Lifetime Achievement Award to one of the greatest commissioners in the history of boxing, Mr. Ken Morita of Japan.
“So tonight, we have our banquet. We have the awards for the champions. As you can see, we have all the WBC Generation 6 belts, which will be awarded to the two greatest fighters of each division and the current champion. We expect to have at least 100 champions in the room.
“I would like to thank everybody, every champion, all the members of the media and the press, every boxing commissioner, every family member.
“Thank you so very much. Welcome to the WBC 52nd annual convention.
“Let’s celebrate the lives of our great champions – the WBC green and gold.”
A video tribute to the life of José Sulaimán was presented, produced by Tom Sarkis.
Also addressing the convention delegates were North American Boxing Federation President Duane Ford, WBC Convention Chairman Chuck Williams, former WBC super bantamweight and featherweight world champion Jeff Fenech, Dr. Gerald Finerman, and Richard Sturm. Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval welcomed the convention in a video presentation.
Carlos Martinez of the Guinness World Records said, “It is a great honor for us to be here. Guinness World Records and the WBC have developed together a special relationship over the last years. Through them, Guinness World Records have been able to award some of the most important world records to boxers and people related with this lovely sport.
“We would like to start our ceremony of Guinness World Records awarding certificates with a very special one. Since 1963, the WBC has been trying to reach and go beyond the limits with the world of boxing. There’s no better way for a sports organization to represent itself. The green belt of the world champions of boxing through the WBC is the main representation of a global achievement in this sport.
“Now, the WBC has managed to take this belt beyond any known limits and orders. From July through November this year, the WBC belt went to space and reached an unheard-of, unprecedented 433 kilometers high. That’s 270 miles altitude. It is a great honor that we start this awarding ceremony with a Guinness World Records certificate for the highest altitude ever reached by sports trophy in the world. Congratulations.”
WBC Lifetime President José Sulaimán received a certificate for the longest tenure as the president of a global sports organization – 38 years and 41 days. Julio Cesar Chavez was awarded a certificate one for the highest paid attendance at a fight for his 1993 WBC super lightweight title defense against Greg Haugen – 132,274.