Day two of the 28th annual WBO Convention kicked off yesterday morning with the executive committee meeting to discuss the status of WBO junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux. The status of Rigondeaux’s championship belt was left in question after the WBO issued an order to “show cause” letter to Rigondeaux back on October 7th. Although the WBO recognized the tremendous skill and talent of the Cuban boxer, Rigondeaux’s inactivity became an issue that demanded the attention of the WBO. The WBO’s October 7th letter required Rigondeaux to show cause as to why he should not be stripped of his championship for failing to defend his title in the last ten months. After the members of the grievance committee left the session to avoid a conflict if Rigondeaux were to file a grievance in the event that he were stripped of the belt, the championship committee and Vice President Luis Batista Salas reviewed the proposed resolution with the executive committee. Although it was undeniable that all members recognized the magnitude of their decision, and the difficultly of removing a title from a tremendous fighter who never lost the belt in the ring, the Vice President Salas noted that the WBO had exhausted every option in giving Rigondeaux an opportunity to keep his belt. 

Although Rigondeaux filed a response through an individual named Jared Lopez and his promoter, Caribe Promotions, ultimately his response failed to address the central issue that troubled the WBO membership: his failure to fight any fighter in the top fifteen or even to offer an alternate name if he was having trouble finding a ranked opponent. Rigondeaux citied two arguments as to why he should not be stripped of the belt. Citing section 1 (b) (20) and (5) of the WBO rules, Rigondeaux’s team argued that he “sought to remain active in compliance with WBO Rules but there is a lack of appropriate opponents available and wiling to fight.” Rigondeaux also argued that “it would be an abuse of discretion to vacate because Mr. Rigondeaux has never failed to defend against the mandatory challenger.” Rigondeaux also communicated his “inability” to land a unification fight with the WBC and IBF champions as well as being unsuccessful in getting the WBA to order a mandatory defense against Scott Quigg. 

However, the WBO championship committee noted that Rigondeaux still had an obligation to fight someone, and he had the option to fight anyone in the top fifteen0. With only three defenses in 31 months and none in the last ten months, the WBO championship committee chairman Luis Batista Salas said that the WBO has given Rigondeaux ample opportunity to make a title defense. 

“We cannot put a world championship in the freezer” Salas said.

Salas stated that the WBO junior featherweight was “totally stagnant” as a result of the layoff, and again reiterated that the WBO had been willing to allow Rigondeaux the opportunity to defend his title against fighter ranked in the top fifteen. Salas prepared a resolution calling for the WBO junior featherweight championship to be declared vacant and for Rigondeaux to no longer be recognized as WBO champion. After the members of the championship committee took a short recess to discuss the proposed resolution, they voted unanimously to send it to the executive committee. The executive committee voted unanimously to adopt the resolution, thus stripping Rigondeaux of his title. 

From there the WBO executive committee opened discussion on the situation in the Dominican Republic with the boxing commission. The high standards demanded by the WBO from all boxing commissions is well known in boxing, but several WBO members communicated disturbing stories of a boxing scene in the Dominican Republic that has seen fight cars that fell far below that standards expected of the WBO from commissions they work with. Most notable, there were concerns over numerous questionable fights taking place in the Dominican Republic. As a result the confirmation of records from the Dominican Republic had becomes extremely difficult.

“We are seeing fighters from Puerto Rico who fought twice in one weekend when they go to Dominican Republic.” Dr. Ramon Pina said of the lax enforcement of standards emerging in the Dominican Republic. 

The WBO elected to have the esteemed Dr. Pina personally verify and certify all records from the Dominican Republic to ensure that the records presented to the WBO were legitimate. The motion passed with no opposition from the board.

From there the discussion went to the location of the 2016 convention. WBO member Gino Rodriguez proposed Puerto Rico, with no other proposal offered. The executive committee voted unanimously to have the 2016 convention in Puerto Rico. 

While the WBO executive committee was working on the issues of the Dominican Republic boxing commission and the status of the junior featherweight title, the WBO boxing judges met in a separate room for their official training seminars. The referee’s training seminars were held in the afternoon. The extensive referee’s seminar, conducted by a handful of the most widely respected referees in the sport, covered new developments in the sport of boxing such as instant replay. The seminar also prepared the referee’s for the “unexpected” such as double knockdowns, fighters getting knocked out of the ring, and the importance of safety in the ring. The emphasis on safety was stressed throughout the seminar, with important lessons such as how to deal with severe injuries in the ring also covered. This emphasis on safety remains a hallmark of the WBO and its commitment to bettering the sport of boxing through both innovation and training and a commitment to protecting the sport and the fighters. 

by David Finger