WBO Day Three Congress Report

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Story and photos by David Finger

The 26th Annual WBO Congress in Budapest, Hungary came to a conclusion yesterday with the ever popular final day event: the Championship and Ratings committee meetings.

The final day’s events kicked off as President Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel and the board entertained motions from the floor from various promoters in regards to their fighters. Although there was little movement in regards to the lighter weights President Valcarcel confirmed that mini-flyweight champion Merilito Sabillo of the Philippines is slated to fight #1 ranked Carlos Buitrago of Nicaragua in Dubai in November. At 108-pounds it was confirmed that junior flyweight champion Donnie Nietes of the Philippines is cut and will be sidelined for a short period of time. #1 ranked Moises Fuentes of Mexico is slated to fight for a International title, a move that will certainly position him for the mandatory slot when Nietes recovers from his cut. At flyweight President Valcarcel and the board confirmed that Mexican champion Juan Francisco Estrada will need to fight a mandatory defense in his next fight. Promoter Fernando Beltran requested that the winner of the November 7th matchup between #1 ranked Giovani Segura and #2 ranked Hernan Tyson Marquez, both of Mexico, declared the mandatory challenger for the champion. The board unanimously agreed.

At junior bantamweight champion Omar Narvaez of Argentina, who is coming off a split decision victory over #1 ranked Felipe Orucuta of Mexico is slated to fight in February. No word on if it will be a rematch of his war with Orucuta, who looks poised to remain at #1. Dean Powell pushed to have Paul Butler (the #13 ranked fighter) move into the top ten after his next fight on September 21st. Butler is slated to fight undefeated Miguel Gonzales for the vacant WBO Intercontinental title. The board seemed receptive to the idea of Butler moving into the top ten if he were to defeat Gonzales. At bantamweight President Valcarcel confirmed that new champion Tomoki Kameda would have six months to fight his mandatory defense as he only recently won his title.

At junior featherweight the discussion was in regards to champion Guillermo Rigondeaux and his first defense. Jesse Magdaleno (the #8 ranked NABO Youth champion) and the #1 contender Chris Avalos (the NABO champion) were both mentioned as Top Rank pushed to have their fighters positioned into a title fight. A big round of applause followed for former world champion Barry McGuigan, who was there to represent undefeated British prospect Carl Frampton (16-0). Frampton, who is ranked #14, now looks poised to enter the top ten.

At featherweight the big discussion was over the fight between #1 ranked Orlando Cruz and #3 ranked Orlando Salido. That fight, which is scheduled to take place on October 12th for the vacant world title. There was a push to introduce Oscar Gonzalez (23-2) into the world rankings based on his impressive win over Rico Ramos as well as a push for undefeated Filipino prospect Jun Doliguez (16-0) to move up the ranks. Doliguez is ranked #9. The next discussion was over a fighter who is quickly becoming the most talked about rookie in recent memory: debuting amateur standout Vasyl Lomachenko. Lomachenko, who is slated to fight tough Jonathan Oquendo in his first pro fight, now will be fighting Oquendo for the vacant WBO International title. Despite some concern over allowing a debuting fighter to fight for a WBO belt, the board was nearly unanimous in recognizing what a unique and special talent Lomachenko is.

“Thank God there was no Lomachenko in my division at the time,” former Olympic gold medalist Istvan “Koko” Kovacs said, “I never saw a fighter like him before.”

The board approved Lomachenko for the title fight, making his planned world title fight in his second professional fight a more realistic scenario assuming he can get past the seasoned Jonathan Oquendo. Representatives for #5 ranked Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo of Thailand asked to have their fighter move up the ranks after the planned clash between the # and #3 ranked contenders.

At junior lightweight the WBO confirmed it was issuing a letter to champion Roman Martinez of Puerto Rico, informing him that he now has 30 days to begin negotiations for a fight with #1 ranked Miguel Angel Garcia.

In the lightweight division it was confirmed that champion Ricky Burns would fight #6 ranked Raymundo Beltran on September 7th. From there the board confirmed that Burns would need to begin negotiations with Terrence Crawford, the #1 contender, by December. Undefeated Denis Shafikov of Russia looked poised to move up as well from the #3 slot. In a bit of a shocker, promoter Fernando Beltran told the board that #12 ranked junior welterweight Jose Zepada was now moving down in weight to campaign at lightweight.

In the junior welterweight division the board voted to approve allowing Juan Manuel Marquez to enter the ring against Tim Bradley as WBO champion on October 12th. Mike Alvarado would then be declared the full champion after October 12th. A request to move #3 Serhiy Fedchenko up also came from the floor.

In the welterweight division Dean Powell asked to have #8 ranked Frankie Gavin move up in the ranks as he is slated to fight on September 21st for the European title. In junior middleweight some controversy arose over the next fight of #4 ranked Brian Rose. Both Charlie Ota of Japan (who is ranked #11) and Javier Maciel of Argentina (who is ranked #5) appeared to have an fight against Rose at the same time. After a round of phone calls it was confirmed that Rose would be fighting Maciel and not Ota in his next fight. Fernando Beltran also asked to have Omar Chavez, son of Julio Cesar Chavez, enter the world rankings. Dean Powell asked to have Liam Smith, who is challenging for a British title, move into the world rankings as well.

At middleweight it was confirmed that #1 ranked Brian Vera (the NABO champion) was slated to fight #2 ranked Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on September 28th. Champion Peter Quillin is slated to fight on October 26th. Several promoters moved to have their fighters positioned for an elimination fight as the Vera-Chavez fight created an opening for other fighters looking to move up in the rankings. #4 ranked Lukas Konecny of the Czech Republic and #5 ranked Max Bursak of the Ukraine look poised to emerge as the frontrunners to take part in an elimination fight. #15 ranked Patrick Neilsen of Denmark looks poised to crack into the top ten as well.

At 168-pounds there was a push to move Paul Smith into the rankings. #4 ranked Arthur Abraham looks poised to move into the #1 slot off the basis of his win last week. WBO champion Robert Stieglitz is slated to fight in October, and may end up fighting a rubber match with Abraham after that. When asked is Stieglitz would be willing to fight Abraham in a mandatory, Hedi Taouab indicated he would be.

“It’s for the WBO to decide,” Taouab said, “we are ready to negotiate and talk.”

Arthur Abraham was subsequently voted into the #1 ranking by the board.

At light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev has 120 days to defend his title. #13 ranked Erik Skoglund of Sweeden is slatefd to gfight #14 ranked Dominic Boesel of Germany in a rare WBO youth unification fight. At cruiserweight Marco Huck is slated to fight #1 ranked Firat Arslan on September 14th. #7 ranked Mateusz Masternak of Poland is slated to fight #14 ranked Grigory Droz of Germany on October 5th and wants to move up in the rankings as well. At heavyweight the discussion was over WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko’s 27-month gap since he fought a WBO mandatory challenger. With Klitschko fighting Alex Povetkin on October 5th, there was an issue over the fact that, according to President Valcarcel, the top ranked contenders of the WBO didn’t meet the “criteria for a mandatory”. #1 ranked Denis Boytsov is now slated to fight #11 ranked Christian Hammer. With #2 ranked Bermane Stiverne now the WBC mandatory for Klitschko it did look likely that Boytsov’s long wait may be over and the WBO may award him the mandatory slot if he emerges victorious over Hammer. There was a push to have #5 ranked Deontay Wilder fight for the vacant NABO title as well, and a push to have #13 eanked Andy Ruiz move up into the top ten. Dean Powell also pushed to have #15 ranked Dereck Chisora move up into the top ten on the basis of his knockout win over undefeated Malik Scott.

“His losses have been only at the highest level,” Powell said, “and some are very controversial.”

WBO Vice President Leon Panoncillo pushed to have Alex Leapai versus Andy Ruiz for the WBO Asia Pacific and WBO Oriental championship in Macao in November as well.

From there several awards were handed out, with Liam Welch being awarded the European fighter of the year award, Tia Yi being awarded the matchmaker of the year for China, and the Sports Management Group being awarded the Promoter of the Year. The Japan Boxing Association presented a letter to the WBO and Mario Margossian was awarded a special recognition award. The location of the 2014 and 2015 conventions were decided as well, with Las Vegas, Nevada being the host to the 2014 convention, with Puerto Rico as the backup. In a bit of a surprise, the Philippines will be the location of the 2015 Convention , with Cebu and Manila as the most likely venues.

Rounding off the 26th annual convention was the gala dinner, held at the Udvarhaz restaurant. Hungarian President János Áder attended the event, speaking to the crowd about Hungary’s proud (and at times) tragic history of great boxers. Ader’s moving tribute to Lazlo Papp brought many of the attendees to their feet as they applauded the Hungarian head of state. Rounding off the evening were the remaining awards which were handed out. Frank Warren was awarded the European promoter of the year while Dominic Boesel was awarded the WBO Youth fighter of the year. Robert Stieglitz was awarded the Gordy Volkman Award for outstanding humanitarian qualities. Poriyakoon Ratauasuban was awarded the WBO Oriental Promoter of the year while Michael Aldesguer was awarded the WBO International Promoter of the year. Felix Zabala was awarded the WBO Latino promoter of the year while Ulf Steinforth was awarded the WBO European promoter of the year as well as the European female fighter promoter of the year. Dean Powell was named matchmaker fo the year while Eddie Hearn was awarded a WBO Intercontinental special recognition award. Wilfried Sauerland was awarded a special recognition award as well. Hungary’s three most noteworthy former champions: Istvan Kovacs, Zsolt Erdei, and Karoly Balzsay were each awarded special recognition awards while Don King was awarded a “Greatest Legend in Boxing History” award. Rounding off the ceremony, Wladimir Klitschko was named WBO fighter of the year.

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WBO Congress Day One Report

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Story and photos by David Finger

The 26th Annual WBO Congress officially kicked off Tuesday morning at the InterContinental Hotel in downtown Budapest as boxing insiders from around the world came to celebrate some of the exciting developments in the World Boxing Organization in 2013. The event kicked off with roll call, followed by an invocation. After approving the prior minutes from the 2012 Convention, the congress moved forward with the regional Vice President’s reports. Starting off was Vice President Mark Reels, who did reports from the NABO and the WBO Intercontinental. Although the NABO and the WBO Intercontinental both saw a slight drop in activity it still was a productive and profitable year for the regional organizations.

The NABO held an impressive 12 championship fights (with revenue of $46,760) while the Intercontinental held 20 championship fights (with a revenue of $68,560). Reels also discussed the success of the WBO in developing world class fighters. Reels discussed how the NABO has seen 54 of the 262 fighters who fought for the belt subsequently fight for the WBO title. Although Reels downplayed the statistic, expressing a desire to see that number rise, it nonetheless impressed many at the table, with President Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel calling it “impressive.”

“Our issue is with quality over quantity,” Reels said during his presentation, “we have criteria for a fighter who is able to fight for a title.” Reels, however, did want to see some leniency on the issue of fighters getting sanctioned for NABO and WBO InterContinental fights, noting some good fighters who technically fell short of the high standards set by the WBO in regards to qualifications. President Valcarcel expressed concern over the idea.

Still, with all 15 NABO championship fights since last year’s convention being televised by a major TV network, Reels had an impressive year by nearly any standard. “As far as activity levels go, it is low,” Reels added, “but we really are recognized the world over.” Reels then discussed the revenue of the Intercontinental, confirming that the WBO Intercontinental collected over $40,000 of the $68,560 income in 2013.

From there Vice President Istvan “Koko” Kovacs presented his report on the WBO Europe. Although he admitted it was a “quiet year” he still was happy to announce that it Iwas still a productive year for the European continent. There were 13 Intercontinental title fights, with 9 taking place in Europe. There were also 14 International title fights, with 9 taking place in Europe, as well as 11 WBO European title fights. There were 6 WBO Youth title fights, with 4 taking place in Europe, 21 female title fights, with 5 taking place in Europe, and 32 world title fights with 10 taking place in Europe. Overall the WBO had 29 fights in Europe, a drop from 38 the previous year. WBO Europe’s revenue in 2013 was $40,500. Kovacs also commented on the previous issue with the British Boxing Board, commenting on how the WBO no longer has any problems working with the BBB. The BBB refused to recognize the WBO in previous years.

Next was Vice President Jorge Molina’s report on the WBO Latino. Molina admitted it had been a “hard year” for the Latino, with “only 25 Latino title fights in 10 months.” Still, Molina was able to point to the WBO Latino’s proud tradition and was able to proudly say that the WBO Latino continued that tradition in 2013. “#7 WBO Latino Champions became world champions,” Molina said, “and four of our WBO Latino champions have become world title holders (this year).” The WBO Latino raised $26,000 in the 25 title fights since the last convention, with 13 planned title fights to round out the year.

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From there a short video on the WBO’s widely successful WBO Kids Drug Free program was shown.

Next was Andrew Smalle’s WBO Africa regional report. Smalle admitted it was a slow year, with 7 WBO Africa fights since the last convention. From November of 2012 to December of 2012 there were three title fights, with revenue of $5,050. From January of 2013 to August of 2013 there were 4 WBO Africa title fights with revenue of $4,800. However, Smalle confirmed that additional income was expected as some sponsorship allocation was expected to kick in before the end of the year. Smalle also commented on the WBO’s commitment to high standards for the quality of the fighters who compete for the WBO African belt. Smalle’s commitment to the highest standards for WBO title fights has resulted in a lower number of championship fights, but also of a growing reputation in the continent.

“It’s been a challenge but I don’t see it as a negative at all,” Smalle admitted, “it can only go up from where it’s at now. We are a young organization, and one of our proudest moments was one of our fighters winning a championship earlier this year.” Smalle noted that despite the low activity, the WBO Africa’s high standard has resulted in it being the only regional African organization that has seen all of its champions ranked in the world rankings after winning a regional belt.

Next came Leon Panoncillo’s report from WBO Asia. Similar to the other organizations WBO Asia saw a slight decline in revenue, but it has continued its commitment to quality. Since the last convention the Asia-Pacific held 14 championship fights, raising $27,700. Panoncillo also anticipated holding 10 more fights before the end of the year. The WBO Oriental title had 5 fights, with 8 more planned for the end f other year. The WBO Asia Pacific Youth title had three title fights, raising $3,750. Although Panoncillo admitted that the Youth title has “not taken off” he was optimistic that a major Filipino television network was interested in partnering up with the WBO Asia-Pacific to award a youth belt to the winner of a “Contender” like reality series involving young prizefighters in the Philippines. Panoncillo’s biggest coup came with the exciting developments of his newest title: the WBO International championship. In just one year the WBO International title has become a highly prestigious belt, with Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios fighting for the vacant belt in Macao on November 24th. Panoncillo confirmed that the WBO has custom made a new belt for the winner of that fight.

The next report came from Zhang Tao on the China Zone. Although the WBO China Zone held only 7 fight shows, the WBO is still making headway into the world’s largest market, and Tao informed the board that he looked forward to hosting the WBO in China. Joe Hernandez then spoke of the Cuban boxing scene, and his desire that the situation in Cuba would soon open up. “When it (Cuba) does come free, the WBO will be at the forefront.”

Markus Aslani followed with his report on female boxing in the WBO. He proudly announced that the WBO had a good year, with an emphasis on quality in regards to female championship fights.

After lunch there was a brief discussion on ratings by Luis Perez, followed by a report by Luis Bautista Salas, which not only focused on “loyalty” but also discussed the successful year of the WBO, with 54 total championship fights (33 men’s championship fights and 21 female championship fights). There was a brief discussion on the growth of the WBO in the British boxing scene.

“We have good working relations and we want to see how we can continue this in the future,” President Valcarcel said.

A discussion from representatives from the Japan Boxing Commission followed, which was a clear sign of the WBO’s success in breaking into a new market. At the last congress in Budapest in 2009 there was a controversy over the WBO’s inability to operate in Japan. The growth in Japan since then was a clear victory for the WBO as it moved forward in Japan.

Next came the legal report, in which the WBO legal representatives discussed several pending legal issues. Several issues regarding trademark registration was discussed, with several brands extended into 2018. They then followed up with a discussion on the recent litigation in Puerto Rico. Some confusion emerged in 2012 in regards to the administrative level, with the Puerto Rican Department of treasury moving forward with legal action against the WBO in regards to its tax exempt status.

“It’s confusion over what we actually do,” one of the legal advisors for the WBO said, “It’s a lack of knowledge of the working issues of the organization.” Although the WBO is confident that they will prevail, several members understood that even if they do not prevail in litigation, it will have little major impact on the WBO. If there is an issue we will simply change the way we disperse funds,” one legal advisor of the WBO said.

Rounding off Day One, WBO President Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel gave a special shout out to WBO Asia Vice President Leon Panoncillo over the impressive developments in Macao and the Philippines.

“We control Asia from A to Z,” Valcarcel said, “everything that occurring Asia is very important to us.”

Rounding off the night, boxing insiders visited the Lázár Lovaspark, where they were delighted by a traditional Hungarian horseshow as well as a traditional Hungarian dinner.

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