▲ Left: Dr. Jose Sulaiman, the President of the World Boxing Council, sits with Jeju weekly to talk about the future of the sport, medical research and Philanthropy. Photo by Kim Gyong Ho, Right: Governor Kim Tae-hwan accepts an honorary WBC belt on behave of Jeju. Photo courtesy Jeju Provincial Govt.
The world of boxing united this past week at the Ramada hotel in Jeju-si for the forty-seventh annual World Boxing Council [WBC] convention where promoters, fighters and trainers dropped their guards to discuss the future of boxing, not only as an honourable spectator sport, but as a means of aiding impoverished communities across the world.
The convention took place from Nov. 1-6 with 579 elite members of the boxing community, including 50 from Korea. They participated in lectures, forums and listened to medical reports with the hopes of improving the conditions of the sport.
“I believe that it was one of the best, productive conventions ever,” said WBC President Dr. José Sulaimán to The Jeju weekly after the closing ceremonies. “We [WBC] decided to go ahead with the Amateur World Cup, the Preliminary Professional Fighters’ World Cup, and medical research for before and after fights for the brain.”
To combat the growing concern of losing “idols” to retirement and a shortage of competitors to take their places, the WBC established the Amateur World Cup with the hopes of infusing the boxing world with new blood. “We want to produce more boxers,” said Sulaimán during the closing ceremonies, “to find new heroes for the future, of national amateurs to compete for Olympic medals. And we would also like to find the seeds of the new heroes of professional [boxing].”
Though the future of the sport was a prominent issue during the convention, the health and well being of its competitors took precedence. Sulaimán, in his continual pursuit to make boxing safer recommended that a doctor be present for the training of all champions and challengers due to findings which suggested that “many of the problems have happened during the training period and in the gymnasium.”
Along the same vein, Sulaimán advocated for the creation of a national boxing medical committee for every country involved with the sport. He also proposed that the World Medical Congress for boxing occur every 5 years instead of the current timeline, which is once a decade.
In the past, to prevent injuries, Sulaimán curtailed world championship fights from 15 to 12 rounds, established the World Medical Congress, made the attached thumb glove mandatory and contributed funding to brain injury research at UCLA. For these efforts, and numerous others, Sulaimán has been honored with several humanitarian and medical awards, including The Legion of Honor in 2006 from his native Mexico.
The topics of discussion during the convention were not limited to the arena of boxing. Great concern was shown for those affected by the recent flooding in the Philippines. WBC raised $10,000 through the sale of merchandise and donations. Sulaimán made a personal donation of $5,000 bringing the total to $15,000 to be distributed to those in need.
When asked by The Jeju Weekly where the future of boxing was headed Sulaimán said, “Boxing is going to go up. As long as there is hunger in the world. And hunger, starvation, poverty will always be in this world. The governments of today are not really fighting for the poor people. If they were to spend the money that they spend in war on the poor people of the world we would have a different world.”
During the week long convention 25 WBC Cares Goodwill Ambassadors had the opportunity to visit the Jeju Orphanage where they presented the children with small tokens of encouragement. Echoing Sulaimán’s personal mandate, Jill Diamond, chairwomen for the North American Boxing Federation, a subsidiary of the WBC, stressed the importance of reaching out to those less fortunate: “Our athletes come and they embrace the children and they teach them not only how to inspire, because most of them come from poor circumstances, but that gyms are safe places, that they’re havens, that boxing is one avenue out.”
The final ceremonies on Nov. 5 were an impassioned event fueled by Sulaimán’s bittersweet closing speech, which was full of optimism for what they had accomplished during the week, but also touched with melancholy as the aging President, 78, reflected on his own mortality.
The night concluded with the ceremonial passing of the WBC flag from South Korea to the hosts of the forthcoming WBC 2010 convention in Cancun, Mexico. As these stalwart competitors linked arms and broke out in song, they brandished the flag above their heads. The singing filled the banquet hall as boxer embraced boxer, donations were passed forward, bottles were drunk; the fighting will continue tomorrow.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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