Philippines, 14 Dec 2018
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WBC women’s convention a rousing success

The third WBC Women’s Convention was held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) starting last weekend with some 500 delegates from over 17 countries participating in the two-day gathering organized by the Games and Amusements Board (GAB), the local government agency supervising professional sports.

GAB chairman Abraham Mitra said it took over a month of tedious logistical preparations "to ensure a varied program for the continued development of professional boxing, networking opportunities and an enjoyable stay.” Mitra himself was in charge of forming different working committees from security to transportation to board and lodging to media coverage to close coordination with the WBC.

It was the first WBC Women’s Convention to be staged outside of Mexico after the inaugural edition in Playa del Carmen in 2014 and the second in Tijuana in 2016. The Philippines, however, has hosted the annual WBC Convention thrice, in 1967, 1970 and 2007. When the WBC was ruled by two Filipinos, Justiniano (Jun) Montano as president and Atty. Rudy Salud as secretary-general in 1967-71, Manila staged the annual convention twice. Montano was succeeded by Ramon Velasquez of Mexico in 1971 then Don Jose Sulaiman took over in 1975. Sulaiman's son Mauricio became the WBC president in 2014.

Mitra said the convention tackled critical issues confronting the sport. “There were discussions on the past, present and future of the sport of boxing, to address challenges, possibilities and risks and celebrate and honor the many strong and powerful men and women who have made an impact, inside and outside of the ring,” he said. Beyond the program proper, Mitra arranged a visit of WBC Cares to the Tuloy Sa Don Bosco Streetchildren Village in Alabang where P100,000 worth of groceries and toiletries, footballs and sports equipment were donated by the WBC and GAB yesterday. He is also providing a tour of Corregidor for the delegates today as an extension of the weekend. Mitra said the convention was an opportunity to showcase the Philippines as a tourist destination, too.

WBC Cares international chairperson Jill Diamond of the US described the convention as inclusive and interactive, a window for fresh ideas and directions. The convention had an added dimension as an Asian Summit where officials of the WBC Asian Boxing Council, Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation and WBC Muay Thai got together. WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman’s wife Christiana Manzur delivered the welcome address during the kick-off rites last Saturday morning. WBC women’s championship committee chairman Malte Muller-Michaelis of Germany, WBC women’s featherweight champion Jelena Mrdjenovich of Canada, the Guinness Book-recognized oldest female world boxing champion 51-year-old Alicia Ashley of Jamaica and Haiti's former WBC silver superfeatherweight champion Melissa St. Vil also spoke during the opening general assembly. A special guest at the convention was 37-year-old transgender Muay Thai fighter Parinya Charoenphol whose life was immortalized in the 2003 sports biographical movie “Beautiful Boxer.” Another special guest was former WBC superwelterweight champion Mia St. John who ascended the throne at 45 in 2012. St. John retired from the ring in 2016 with a record of 49-14-2, with 19 KOs. She was once featured in a Playboy Magazine 11-page pictorial.

Last Saturday night, the convention honored several outstanding boxing figures at the Gala Dinner. Among the awardees were WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman, OPBF president Tsuyoshi Yasukochi, WBC/ABCO Muay Thai president Gen. Khovid Bkahdibhumi, WBC silver championships committee chairman Michael George, Hall of Fame referee Bruce McTavish, Donnie Nietes as the longest reigning Filipino world champion, former Filipino WBC titleholders, former GAB chairmen and current Filipino world and GAB rulers. Four former Filipino WBC champions showed up to receive their awards----Rene Barrientos, 75, Rolando Navarrete, 61, Rolando Pascua, 53 and Sonny Boy Jaro, 36. Barrientos won the WBC superfeatherweight title on a 15-round decision over Ruben Navarro in Manila in 1969. Navarrete wrested the WBC superfeatherweight crown from Uganda's Cornelius Boza Edwards in Italy in 1981. Pascua stopped Mexico's Chiquita Gonzalez to claim the WBC lightflyweight title at the Forum in Inglewood in 1990 while Jaro halted Thailand's Medgeon 3-K Battery for the WBC flyweight diadem in Bangkok in 2012.

Yesterday morning, a boxing clinic was held with WBC Cares executive committee secretary Mo Noor, former Canadian Women’s Hockey League commissioner and sports marketing guru Brenda Andress, Ashley and promoter/trainer Dominik Junge of Germany as speakers. The clinic was attended by an overflow of promoters, managers, boxers, trainers and matchmakers. WBC ring officials chairman Hubert Minn of Hawaii presided in a judges seminar while in the afternoon, WBC referees Frank Garza of Detroit and Edward Collantes of San Francisco took charge of the referees seminar. WBC Muay Thai rules and regulations co-chairman Dej Sri-Ampai conducted a Muay Thai training seminar in the morning and afternoon.

Mitra said the program wouldn’t be complete without a boxing card. So last night, promoter Brico Santig staged a six-fight event called “The Big Challenge” with WBC silver supermiddleweight champion Azizbek Abdugofurov of Uzbekistan staking his crown against China’s Wuzhati Nuerlang in the 12-round mainer. In the undercard, there were two women’s championship bouts, one men's title fight and two Muay Thai matches, one between men and another between women.

Photo: GAB chairman Abraham Mitra (second from right) with (from right) WBC Cares international chairperson Jill Diamond, WBC women’s championship committee chairman Malte Muller-Michaelis and WBC Muay Thai rules and regulations co-chairman Dej Sri-Ampai.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joaquin Henson.

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