The 42nd annual World Boxing Council convention opened this morning at the Hilton Arcadia Hotel in Phuket, a spectacular tropical beach resort on the southwestern coast of Thailand on the Andaman Sea.
Welcoming speeches were given by Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Suwat Liptapanlop, who represented Thailand's Prime Minister Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra, Police General Kovid Bhakdibhumi, the President of the Asian Boxing Council, and WBC bantamweight world champion Veeraphol Nakhonluang.
In excerpts of his opening speech, WBC President Jose Sulaiman said, "I present my deep appreciation to my friend General Kovid Bhakdibhumi and to the country of Thailand for having believed in the WBC, to reach this moment of victory after passing through some of our most critical moments when we received, recently, quite a few punches.
"Once upon a time there was a boxing manager who was my hero, Cuyo Hernandez, who was a great boxing tactician and a great motivator. Once in a fight, he told his fighter after the first round, when he received a couple of hard shots, 'Well done, that's fine, good study round.' After the second round, when his fighter came bleeding from the nose, he said, 'Good, you are getting him.' Third round, with a cut in the eyebrow, he says, 'He's getting tired, keep it up.' Fourth round, an eye blown up, and he said 'You got him, he's dead tired.' The boxer told him, 'Don Cuyo, if that's the case, please take the goddamned referee out of the ring, because somebody is giving me a hell of a beating.' So guys, take the referee out of my ring.
"During my long journey from my home, Mexico, to visit beautiful Thailand to present my report of the end of the administration term, I couldn't help but let my mind wonder about my life in boxing since I was elected president for the first time in 1975 in Tunisia, north Africa. It was a very long flight, about 24 hours, that felt, however, very short when there came to my mind almost 30 years of memories and momentos that will live in my heart forever. Much happiness, but also sadness. Laughter and tears. Histories of struggles and controversies. Loyalties and betrayals. Failures and many achievements. Mistakes and accomplishments. Good humor, many funny stories of our friends of yesteryear and today.
"But then, after my landing in Phuket, I woke up into the reality of today, of my family problems, and the fact that only a couple of months ago the World Boxing Council had been forced into backruptcy, for which many people around the world, including many of us, thought that the WBC was finished and pushed to disappear from the world of professional boxing. There is no question that destiny had led my life in the last years to the most trying and difficult times of my life.
"Some of us in the WBC's offices in Mexico City could not stop the tears that came to our eyes when we were forced by the court of bankruptcy to dismiss all of our employees, to close our offices and telephone lines, to shut off our computers and records that had witnessed 42 glorious years, all through which the WBC had become a legend.
"It was shocking for us to imagine professional boxing without the traditional and beautiful green and gold belt that has been the dream of boxers in the world for the last quarter century. It was also shocking because the WBC did absolutely nothing but good to Graciano Rocchigiani. We were absolutely and totally innocent to no doubt. If anything was done bad to the boxer, it was not the WBC.
"But there were also some of us who never lost faith, who would die rather than surrender and would fight to the very end, and just like Julio Cesar Chavez did by knocking out Meldrick Taylor only short a few seconds before the end of the fight when he was losing on all the cards, the WBC got up from the canvas in the very last second and with courage, determination, and a good strategy, got back into our world of boxing, and came victorious to this convention to continue writing history in the sport of our love.
"We stood up on our friendship, our unity, our commitment of service to others through boxing, and the unwavering loyalty of all of you here, as well as those who could not make it to Phuket. And I take one minute here to extend my deepest gratitude to General Kovid Bhakdibhumi, who was one of those who never lost faith, to host this great convention of loyalty to be remembered as one of the most important ever.
"I also give my heart to all our great and loyal WBC world champions, to our dear great promoters, some of whom acted vigorously with advice and action in our favor, to our former champions of the world who openly stated, together with many friends of boxing in the boxing media, and proclaimed in favor, absolutely, for the WBC to continue.
"I will end, forever, this dramatic passage by firmly stating that the World Boxing Council has always respected and worked within the laws of the different countries where our title matches take place. And that if we were ruled against by a court of law in New York, even when we didn't like it, and stand firm in believing in our innocence, we will respect it. We will pay the price. So let's forget about it, and let's continue with our lives.
"We are now happy that our WBC champions, the best that there are in the world, will retire or lose their belts in the ring and not in court. We are happy that the 355 WBC belts that have been presented to champions who have won them in the ring, in the fantastic number of 1,460 WBC title bouts in our 42 years, will still shine in the homes and hearts of all our WBC world champions.
"We are proud to feel that we in the WBC will continue giving our pensions of food, medicines, and hospital care to many former boxers, which had been discontinued. We are also proud to have our permanent medical research continue, which in the case of UCLA is so very advanced in the brain injury research program that it has discovered a protein that might produce a medicine for the prevention and treatment of brain injuries, which will be, hopefully, the greatest accomplishment of the WBC or any other sports institution in the world, in the history of sports.
"If you add to the above our 12-round rule, the official weigh-in 24 hours before the fight, the pre-weigh-ins 30 and seven days before bouts, the hospital and life insurance, and so many things the WBC has done, I can be assured that all of you, members of the WBC, have done more for boxing in the last quarter century than every person or institution in the 300-year history of boxing, since it started to be regulated.
"In the old days, I would like also to mention, that only heavyweights, middleweights, and occasionally welterweights were shown by television. Thanks to the many stars produced by the WBC, television today show matches of all the divisions. Everybody remembers that Sonny Liston, Archie Moore, Jose Napoles, among many others, being in the number-one rating who waited for years for an opportunity, due to the monopolies of the champions of the old days. We in the WBC changed that serious injustice with our mandatory defense championship bouts.
"Never, ever before had the boxers made the purses of today when Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, and Oscar De La Hoya, for example, made about 30 million dollars in a fight. A super lightweight like Julio Cesar Chavez making over 60 million dollars in his career; the light flyweights Chiquita Gonzalez and Michael Carbajal making two-and-a half million dollars in their fight; a featherweight, Erik Morales, making over a million dollars in every fight. All WBC world champions. I am also deeply proud to have seen the Aztec Stadium setting a Guinness record of 136,274 paid fans for Chavez. Or in Manila, over 120,000 fans for Luisito Espinosa, both WBC title fights.
"I could continue detailing the so many extraordinary achievements that all of you have done for boxing, and the WBC during the 28 years of my presidency, that comes today to an end.
"But I prefer fo make recommendations for the future, as I believe very firmly that even when the WBC did not come to an end, did not pass away, we still must take the WBC and boxing to a new beginning with the strength of the experience of our mistakes, and the great pride of our accomplishments.
"The courage and determination to take calculated risks for change and reform for the betterment of boxing has been the zeal of the WBC since I have been President. Consequently, we must continue with more enthusiasm our leadership to keep up with the times. We cannot allow ourselves to remain in the past, as if we do, we will be letting the third millineum and the twenty-first century leave our beloved sport of boxing behind.
"First, professional boxing would not exist if there were not promoters. They really make boxing, with boxers. Boxing has a common denomination. Boxing is boxers and promoters. Boxing would not exist without either of them. Consequently, I am proposing a seat at the WBC for promoters, for a promoter selected by themselves. Boxing is a professional sport industry and we must look for improvement in the sport with their participation and unselfish advice.
"I take a minute to feel proud of having the cream of the promoters in the world here. Bob Arum is here. He was my friend even before he started promoting. He represented George Parnassus in television networks. We have come to have our ups and downs, but fortunately and thank God, we are in the ups today, and I hope that we always continue that way. I also see in front of me, Peter Kohl, who is today, without question, the best and most important promoter in Europe. He is now throwing a challenge to the American promoters that he is going to invade that country. I also see here, lost in the crowd, many of my dear friends and faces with whom I have had many, many boxing matches with them, but always in the best of faith, and the best of friendship. I hereby vow that whoever becomes the President of the WBC will always render our utmost respect and support to the promoters that have honored the WBC with their participation.
"I am also proposing a seat for a representative of active world champions, appointed by themselves, as well as one seat for the representation of former world champions. We must know the feelings and real needs of the athletes that we are trying to protect. So let's not hurt them, let's protect them, and let's hear from them what they have to say. Never in history has anybody opened the doors for the great importance of the participation in the direction of boxing, precisely by those who are boxing: promoters and champions.
"Second, no promoter, manager, commissioner, nor us at the WBC can be proud of ourselves while we see so many heroes wandering through the streets of the world living with hunger, sadness, and only with memories and nostalgia of their greatness. Thus, I recommend to the WBC the creation of a special committee to be appointed with the participation of active champions, promoters, and the WBC for pension planning and for exploring the possibilities of all types of income, including the possibility of one dollar per-seat, or something like that. We must create a pension fund that could help the boxers that don't have a dollar to eat. We must show them that boxing does not forget its heroes. We must also try to get jobs in the different countries of the world for them in the private industries. We must also create a boxing special rehabilitation program in different institutions, and what is important, the institution of a school program for the studying and training of professional activities for their life after retirement. That will avoid the miseries that those who go live, but they don't know how to live. All that is almost impossible, so difficult that many people would say, 'How?' But I have heard in my life that there are no impossibles. It only takes us a little more time, but we can do what we want to do, and we fight to do it. The welfare of former boxers should be a priority of the WBC.
"Third, there should be an important implementation of a WBC medical website for commission doctors' consultation in an exclusive, confidential, and very selective manner, as an important medical communication system in the world will prevent serious and fatal accidents for travelling boxers, a program for which the first steps have already been taken. We have started the program, it is going to be one of the greatest in the sport of boxing.
"Fourth, there should be implemented a supervisory world committee as, presently, mismatches and a lack of medical intervention are the main causes of boxing's enormous problems. Even respecting the autonomy of the boxing commissions of the world, the WBC, affiliated with so many commissions in the world, should have a committee for positive action in amicable advisory guidelines to have, at least, the basic medical safety guidelines to be implemented and respected even by the smallest commission in the world.
"Fifth, the WBC being a non-profit institution, and having been a part of boxers and promoters making multi-million dollars in our 42 years of service to boxing, it is not fair for us to get not only lawsuits, but also constant lawsuit threats. There's no step that we take that we don't get a threat. The WBC should endorse an appeals system to be in strict accordance with our rules and principles.
"The World Boxing Council has built the WBC into a highly-marketed name due to its seriousness and credibilty. We should accept to get involved in boxing only with those that accept to abide by the WBC rules and constitution. We will be amending at this convention our rules for the exclusive use in the future of a court of arbitration for sports to solve all disputes after the WBC'c compulsory mediation.
"Sixth, the Medical Second World Congress should be mandatorily organized in 2005 to review the results of the first congress and come with new recommendations for the future on safety. The World Boxing Council has been known for its priority of safety, and we must continue strongly on it. As I said many years ago, if boxing is not made safe, boxing should not exist. We cannot do it only ourselves. We need the absolute cooperation of trainers, promoters, boxing commissions, and all the members of the WBC.
"Seventh, the constitution of the World Boxing Council cleaerly states that the Board of Governors should be formed exclusively by boxing commissioners, excepting the United States, because there is a law that forbids it. As the WBC has an outstanding number of actions that require active and positive work by many people, we should be opening the doors to boxing fans who love boxing and want to work with boxing, to former very good boxing commissioners who are no longer in our sport, but would do a fantastic job for the sport of professional boxing. The WBC would be able to accomplish so many objectives that we have in this new beginning, because when I was elected in 1975, I had as a condition that I would not accept the presidency if I would be able only to sanction fights and rate professional boxers. We have to come into boxing and know what it takes.
"Eighth, Muay Thai boxing, which is wrongly called kickboxing, is presently getting enormous popularity in many countries of the world, but with little safety control. I will be recommending the WBC to establish a two-year pilot plan to see if we could, in honor of this great country of Thailand, contemplate the possibility of having world championship fights either of our own, or by joining forces with an established Thai organization, using the marketing value and power of the WBC for safety, good control, order, and opportunities at a world level. There are so many Muay Thai fights in the world, but no championships. Perhaps this could be one other great opportunity for the WBC to bring control and take out the chaos and anarchy that now exists in Muay Thai boxing.
"Ninth, a four-year planning committee should be appointed to review all the existing problems in boxing, to try to bring a line of communication between all parties involved to find solutions via an amicable spirit of cooperation. There is a fact that should be brought into the open: boxing is going through serious and dangerous warnings. The media is starting to reduce or nullify space for boxing and television is cancelling or lowering their opportunities for our sport. Something must be done. This is the time to bury our hatchets. We can all work together. We need each other. I don't want to say that this will eliminate competition, all to the contrary. But we have to come down to the table, sit down, and have the representation of all the people in boxing at all levels, and try to have a plan to recover the sport of boxing, and give it the strength and power that is needed to continue for many, many centuries to come.
"Tenth, and last, I am extremely concerned for the questionable boxing decisions that have brought many controversies, but not from our excellent ring officials. I will recommend the use in a pilot study plan of an aid computer for judges, as well as trying to implement, with all the commissions that are willing to participate, the announcement of the scorecards at the end of the sixth round only. This might be difficult at the beginning, but it will give the importance of the concentration that judges need to have to be made responsible and aware that they are completely given to justice for the boxers. And even when this is not a matter of recommendation, it is important for me to clarify, for the record, that the WBC is not, it has never been, and we have no authority to object to a national boxing commission in the United States. All to the contrary, we see it with empathy and respect, as most of our affiliates are precisely national boxing commissions. The absolute exception is the state commission. We respectfully and humbly offer our unquestionable cooperation. The WBC has no intervention with any country, and will respect all the laws where WBC fights take place.
"Those are some recommendations that I will be making at this convention, which is the last of my present term, hoping that the WBC will continue with the leadership for the betterment of boxing and support for all the people of the industry. We should not look only for ourselves, we should always look for the others, for those people who make boxing, for those people who risk their money, and for those people who risk their health. We are committed to support them, not us.
"At this time, at the end of the present term, what I have stated represents briefly what the WBC has done and some thoughts of what I believe that should be done in the future.
"I am really very grateful for the unity, friendship, dedication, and especially for the loyalty and commitment shown by all of you for the sport and institution of our love, and I will leave forever proud of having been part of a great boxing generation that has positively changed boxing.
"I am afraid today that I might have not have accomplished our dreams and that I might not have been worthy or your trust, especially with the recent happenings.
"During this last year, I was subjected to numerous spiritual and financial humiliations and disrespectful actions; of stabbing in my back, that coming from dear friends, I take as a stabbing of the heart that has hurt me so very much, and has deeply wounded me in a way that I need more time to recover, which will be understood by all those who know me well, and know of the profound sensitivity that I have for integrity and friendship, and loyalty as the most sacred of human feelings and behaviors.
"For those reasons, to avoid more controversy and problems to the WBC, to keep strengthening the organization that I believe strongly that is of great service and need for the sport of boxing, and with the sincerity of my love to the WBC, I am announcing my intentions to step down from the position that I have held for so many years and invite you to elect tomorrow, without commitments or reservations, any person you think might overcome my mistakes and lead our beloved WBC to the accomplishment of our highest goals and ideals.
"At this moment of my being, I am thinking that just like life and death, every beginning has an end, and that they who have success in life are those who know precisely the time to close the cycles previously opened in their lives.
"I want to close the cycle of my presidency myself, under your advise and guidance, and not be pushed to close it. I want to live the remaining years of my life with pride and happiness for my doings in the WBC and not live sorry for not knowing when I should have stopped.
"Thank you so very much for everything you have done for boxing and for me. Please think well of me, and may God bless you all."