Report/Photos by David Finger
The final day of the 36th Annual WBO Congress continued Thursday morning (October 12th) at the Barcelo Bavaro Palace Resort and Convention Center in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic with a cordial introduction of a special guest in IBF president Daryl Peoples. Although the relationship between sanctioning bodies can often be a contentious one, there is little question that both the IBF and WBO are the exception to the rule as both organizations clearly have a very healthy working relationship with each other.
“As Paco said, that man is my brother,” Peoples told the executive committee, “the WBO is our sister organization. Many of you here, most of our membership we share, so that makes it easy to work with the WBO. If there is anything I can do to support this organization, you got it.”
WBO President Francisco “Paco” Valcarcel shared the sentiment and offered to assist the IBF with their upcoming convention next year in Puerto Rico.
From there came the most notable part of the Convention, the WBO ratings committee meeting. And although it is common to see fireworks and shakeups at these meetings, this year’s meeting saw several top contenders in a holding pattern as they waited for the results of several big fights later this year.
Things kicked off in the 105-pound division, where representatives of champion Oscar Collazo requested an extension on his deadline to make a mandatory defense, which would be due in March of next year. The request was granted as Collazo was scheduled to fight in February. The request was conditional on the winner of the February fight fighting the mandatory challenger next.
In the 108-pound division, champion Jonathan Gonzalez was scheduled to take part in a unification fight on October 27, but due to an illness called microplasma, the fight had to be delayed. Valcarcel reiterated that the WBO would require the winner to fight the mandatory challenger next. Eric Gomez of Golden Boy requested an elimination fight for his fighter, #2 ranked Angel Acosta. It was a request that Valcarcel was reluctant to sign off on.
“My personal opinion is when you have an elimination bout, you get handcuffed,” Paco added. “Then we have to order the fight. And if the unification comes, then we have problems because if you paid the sanctioning fees for the elimination fight then you have a right to fight. I prefer not to do any eliminator. But he is a former champion, and he is the International Champion. More sooner than later he will be fighting for the title. But we have to move that division.”
“We’ll keep him busy,” Gomez told Valcarcel. “we are talking about maybe January or February.”
After this discussion, Tuto Zabala spoke on behalf of WBO Latino champion Rene Santiago, the #4 contender who is slated to fight the #15 ranked contender later this month. Zabala wanted the WBO to keep his fighter in mind for an advancement, particularly if he looks impressive on October 27th.
At 112-pounds, Kevin Rooney of Matchroom Boxing requested that the #10 ranked contender, Galal Yafai, be moved up to #6 to replace Felix Alvarado since Alvarado was scheduled to fight in an IBF title eliminator this week.
At 115-pounds, champion Junto Nakatani briefly spoke to the ratings committee, and he was advised he had nine months before he was required to make another mandatory defense. Nakatani, who most insiders feel might move up in weight, told the committee that he was “considering what he’s going to do” and talk to his promoters and managers and decide what he wants to do next. When a representative for the #3 ranked Christian Eduardo Bacasegua requested a possible fight with the #1 ranked Kosei Tanaka, Valcarcel discouraged the idea, noting that “it doesn’t benefit the fighter to do a fight with the #1 contender since Nakatani just fought a mandatory and has nine months to defend and may end up doing a unification fight.” Valcarcel advised fighting for a regional belt instead.
At 118-pounds, a representative from Shesei Promotions wanted to see hard-punching #5 ranked contender Daigo Higa move up. Higa scored an impressive knockout over a Thai fighter named Sirichai Thaiyen back in June. The Thai boxer was coming into the Higa fight with a 65-4 record and held several regional Asian belts.
At 122-pounds, WBO super champion Naoya Inoue is scheduled to fight in a unification with Marlon Tapales on December 26 in Japan. Noting that Inoye is a super-champion means that he has a full 18-months to make a mandatory defense. So therefore the winner of that unification fight has 18 months to make another mandatory defense. Queensberry Promotions moved to have Liam Davies move up the rankings. For Davies, the current WBO International champion and #10 ranked contender, Queensberry Promotions was wanting a top three ranking. Queensberry also moved to have Dennis McCann move up from #13.
At 126-pounds, the WBO advised Carl Moretti of Top Rank that champion Robeisy Ramirez has until March to make a mandatory. Queensberry Promotions made a push for Nathaniel Collins from Glasgow Scotland, (13-0, 6 KOs) to move into the rankings and for #6 ranked Nick Ball, who is fighting Isaac Dogboe, to move up if he wins. A request from Argentina also came in, seeking to have the #15 ranked Latino champion Alberto Ezequiel Melian, to move up the rankings. Melian has made three successful defenses of his WBO Latino title.
At 130-pounds, newly crowned super champion Emanuel Navarrete is scheduled to fight on Nov. 16. There was a strong push for Thomas Mattice (21-3-1, 16 KOs) to move into the top 15. A former #7 ranked contender at 135 who lost a majority decision to Isaac Cruz, it was noted that he beat four undefeated fighters and beat two undefeated in a row as well as fighting on Shobox six times in his career. Also receiving a strong push was #1 ranked Albert Bell, the NABO champion. The ratings committee were advised that he has an upcoming fight with an opponent in the top five. However, it was advised that he would be better served to make his push for an elimination bout or exercise his mandatory status later, after Navarrete fights next month.
At 135-pounds, Devin Haney is super champion who will be fighting at 140 in December. Valcarcel admitted that everyone was sort of in a holding pattern until then. But it was noted that the WBO put “no restrictions” on his title so he could return to 135 pounds as champion after December. Valcarcel also noted that #1 ranked Shakur Stevenson was fighting next for WBC belt and that there were rumors that #2 ranked Vasyl Lomachenko was talking about retirement. As a result, #3 ranked Dennis Berichynk will be the next available contender and Angel Fierro (#5) after that. Sean Gibbons did interject and add that #4 ranked Isaac Cruz was still available. He did admit that although there was talk about a fight with Tank Davis, it was not a done deal yet, and he would let the WBO know when and if that fight was finalized. Promoter Alex Krassyuk of K2 Promotions expressed his concern, noting that “this is the fifth year in a row I have asked for a mandatory for Denys Benichyk.” Krassyuk also added that “Berynchk is on the frontline in Ukraine” and he wanted to get some sort of clarity on his status so K2 could give him a training camp. He also put in a request for an interim fight, which Valcarcel shot down. Following that there was a petition on behalf of #15 Maxi Hughes and unranked George Kambosos to move into the ranking. Valcarcel noted that George is the current IBO champion and that was why he was dropped from the WBO rankings and every sanctioning organization tends to drop champions in other divisions out of the rankings.
“That’s the only reason he is not in the rankings.”
At 140-pounds, Teofimo Lopez is a super champion who, the ratings committee was advised, was currently in training (although it was added that there was a desire not to reveal his plans yet) for a fight in five to six months. #6 ranked Elvis Rodriguez, a Dominican who was present at the meeting, moved to enter into the top four.
At 147-pounds, Terence Crawford is a super champion. President Valcarcel advised that Crawford told him that Errol Spence wanted to exercise his rematch clause, although it was unclear if that might be at 147 or 154.
“Right now he is still undisputed welterweight champion of the world,” Valcarcel added.
Eric Gomez from Golden Boy, representing #1 ranked NBO champion Alexis Rocha, who is fighting #5 ranked Giovanni Santillian, wanted to fight for the world title.
“If he (Crawford) is to move up to 154 we would like to fight for the world title,” Gomez said, “Alexa Rocha is ready to fight for the title.”
“You are in a great position Eric,” Valcarcel noted, “because you have #1.”
Matchroom Boxing put in a request to have Conor Benn reinstated into top five, noting he is under no suspension in Britain after a report that he failed a drug test for a PED called clomiphene back in October. However, it was conceded that Benn has his own attorney who is handling that situation, and that although he is listened in the UK he nonetheless can’t fight there at this time. However, he is licensed in Texas and Florida, and he took VADA tests as part of that application process.
At 154-pounds, Tim Tszyu was recently elevated to champion.
“We put a condition that once the [Canelo-Charlo] fight starts Tim Tszyu will be champion,” Valcarcel added, “now Tim is fighting this weekend against Brian Mendoza. Once he fights Mendoza then he must fight a mandatory commitment.”
This created another holding pattern as it was unclear if that mandatory would be none other than 147-pound champion Terence Crawford.
“We don’t want to go to the mandatory now because we have to wait for Terence Crawford to decide what he wants to do,” Valcarcel added, “if he also wants to be designated mandatory challenger for Tszyu.
The WBO then got a push for a world ranking from Jorge Garcia Perez, a fighter who won the WBO Intercontinental title last night during the convention, to enter the top ten. With a big win in Punta Cana and a record of 27-4, 22 KOs, the WBO ratings committee seemed favorable to the idea. Eric Gomez from Golden Boy Promotions then added that Virgil Ortiz was moving up from 147-pounds and that he wanted to be rated at 154.
At 160-pounds, champion Zhanabek Alimkhaunly is scheduled to fight Saturday in a unification fight with the IBF champion, which also put the middleweight division in a holding pattern. Kevin Rooney from Matchroom Boxing wanted 15-0 Austin Williams (#3 in IBF) to enter the WBO rankings.
At 168-pounds, representatives of #3 ranked Diego Pacheco wanted to move from #3 to #2 since it had been announced that #2 ranked Demetrius Andrade is fighting for a vacant title for another sanctioning organization. As a result, they were asking to replace Andrade in the rankings. Francis Warren from Queenberry Promotions wanted Zack Parker back in the rankings, noting that he is back from recovering from surgery on his hand.
At 175-pounds, Artur Beterbiev remains the champion of the WBO and also the IBF and WBC, and he has a fight on January 13 against WBC mandatory Callum Smith (who is also #2 in WBO). Alex Dromboff of DiBella Promotions wanted Juan Carlos Carillo to jump from 15 to 14 in light of Joe Smith’s recent defeat. Also made was a request for #13 ranked Willie Hutchinson to move into the top ten.
At cruiserweight, former WBO Youth champion Tim Voessing, who aged out of his belt, came in person to advise how much he wanted to continue to fight for the WBO.
“We are looking to follow the future and wants to fight for WBO title.” Voessing said.
At heavyweight, it was noted that Oleksander Usyk just fought and that he is fighting Tyson Fury. There was a recognition that the only detail remaining was the date and that the fight would be in Saudi Arabia. Alex Krassyuk of K2 Promotions also confirmed there is a rematch clause, which everyone recognized could tie up the WBO heavyweight picture for some time. Manager Tommy Lane spoke on behalf of WBO interim champion Zhilei Zhang.
“This is life-changing for Zhang and he thanks the WBO,” Lane said, “we are excited about Fury versus Usyk, we think that is great for the sport.”
But Lane did seek some clarity on when the super champion will fight the interim champion.
After a short break, the discussion went to the rankings in women’s boxing, in particular the investigation of doping made by the State of Michigan against WBO junior lightweight champion Alycia Baumgardner. It was noted that Michigan has not completed its investigation, although it is unclear if the change in administration there had added to the delay. Alex Dromboff and DiBella advised that he thought that the time might have come for the WBO to initiate a process in which Baumgardner could be stripped of the title, although Dromboff recognized that Baumgardner’s due process rights would require a hearing. Nonetheless the WBO seemed inclined to issue a show cause letter in regard to the alleged adverse test result to initiate that process.
From there the discussion went to where next year’s convention should take place. Despite an impressive presentation by Jackie “Sunshine” Smith to host the convention in Atlanta, ultimately Puerto Rico won out over Atlanta, Budapest, and Orlando. However, Kissimmee, Florida was named the backup location for next year’s convention.
After a short break, the Tropical Gala dinner closed out the event, where several awards were handed out including WBO Fighter of the Year, which went to Terence Crawford, and WBO Fight of the Year, which also went to Crawford. Junto Nakatani won a special recognition award for “rising star in boxing” and the female fighter of the year went to Amanda Serrano, who was also present for the gala.
For the WBO fans and officials in attendance, 2023 proved to be one of the most successful congresses ever. Perhaps most notable was how international the WBO congress was this year, as there were major players in the sport of boxing from Asia, Europe, South America and even India (where Shahe Ali, founder of the Pro Boxing League Private Limited, hails) in the Dominican Republic to celebrate the sport and the World Boxing Organization.
* * *
FIGHTER OF THE YEAR
TERENCE “BUD” CRAWFORD
WBO SUPER CHAMPION, UNDISPUTED WELTERWEIGHT
BEST POUND FOR POUND
3-DIVISION WBO CHAMPION
FIGHT OF THE YEAR
TERENCE CRAWFORD VS. ERROL SPENCE, JR.
UNDISPUTED WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
T-MOBILE ARENA, LAS VEGAS, NV – JULY 29, 2023
EMANUEL “VAQUERO” NAVARRETE
3-DIVISION WBO CHAMPION
NAOYA “THE MONSTER” INOUE
UNIFIED JR. FEATHERWEIGHT
3-DIVISION WBO CHAMPION
OSCAR “EL PUPILO” COLLAZO
WBO MINI-FLYWEIGHT CHAMPION
RISING STAR IN BOXING
WBO JR. BANTAMWEIGHT Champion
2-DIVISION WBO CHAMPION
ROBEISY “EL TREN” RAMÍREZ
WBO FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPION
WBO BANTAMWEIGHT CHAMPION
TEOFIMO LOPEZ, JR
WBO SUPER CHAMPION
WBO JR. WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPION
SAUL “CANELO” ALVAREZ
UNDISPUTED SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHT
3-DIVISION WBO CHAMPION
WBO SUPER CHAMPION
UNIFIED HEAVYWEIGHT & FORMER UNDISPUTED JR. HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION
FEMALE FIGHTER OF THE YEAR
AMANDA “THE REAL DEAL” SERRANO
WBO SUPER CHAMPION
UNDISPUTED FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPION
6-DIVISION WBO CHAMPION
FEMALE FIGHT OF THE YEAR
AMANDA SERRANO VS. ERIKA CRUZ
UNDISPUTED WBO FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
NEW YORK, NY MARCH 4, 2023
CLARESSA “GWOAT” SHIELDS
UNDISPUTED 154 LBS & 160 LBS CHAMPION
UNDISPUTED SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPION
BRIAN “BOMAC” MCINTYRE
TEAM TERENCE CRAWFORD
GREAT BOXING EVENTS
NEW ERA PROMOTIONS
NO LIMIT BOXING – AU
PROMOTER OF THE YEAR
TRAILBLAZER PROMOTER OF EXCELLENCE
TOP RANK, INC – NV
EUROPE PROMOTER OF THE YEAR
NEXT GENERATION PROMOTER
BOXXER, LTD – UK
FELIX “TUTICO” ZABALA
GREAT MOTIVATION, TRUST, AND LOYALTY
ALL STAR BOXING, INC – FL
PROMOTOR LATINO DEL AÑO
NUEVA ERA DE BOXEO Y PROMOCIÓN
OR PROMOTIONS – ARGENTINA
LEGENDARY PROMOTER OF EXCELLENCE
THE NEW GENERATION
WORLDWIDE BOXING PROMOTER
EXCEPTIONAL PROMOTER & INNOVATOR
QUEENSBERRY PROMOTIONS – UK
DETERMINATION TO EXCEL
TGB PROMOTIONS – CA
WBO & BOXING BULLIES ALLIANCE
EUROPE FIGHTER OF THE YEAR
DAVID “BIG D” ADELEYE
BOXEADOR LATINO DEL AÑO
ALBERTO EZEQUIEL MELIÁN
CAMPEÓN PESO PLUMA
WBO ASIA PACIFIC FIGHTER OF THE YEAR
WBO AFRICA FIGHTER OF THE YEAR
WBO INTERNATIONAL FIGHTER OF THE YEAR
WBO ORIENTAL FIGHTER OF THE YEAR
JR. FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPION
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