ORLANDO, FL- The 28th annual WBO convention kicked off yesterday as hundreds of members from around the world met at the Hilton Hotel in Orlando, Florida for the opening ceremony. The capacity crowd was excited to kick off what promises to be another exceptional year for the WBO, with the opening day featuring a recap of some of the highlights of 2015 for not only the WBO, but all of the regional organizations that makeup the foundation of the WBO.
Kicking off the official reports was WBO secretary Jose Izquierdo, who gave his report on the NABO as well as the WBO Intercontinental. Izqueirdo was pleased to announce an 83% increase in activity from the NABO since 2014. His report was followed by reports from the WBO treasurer, before going over to WBO Vice President Istvan “Koko” Kovacs who presented his report on the growth of WBO Europe. Vice President Jorge Molina followed up with his report on WBO Latino, noting that there were more WBO Latino championship fights than there had been in 2014 and 2013. The success of Molina in Latin America was made all the more pronounced when taken into account that several Latin American countries such as Brazil have been experiencing an unfavorable political climate for boxing in general. Also presenting reports were WBO member Markus Aslani who discussed the success of WBO women’s boxing, noting the runaway success of junior middleweight champion Hanna Gabriel of Costa Rica, who is quickly emerging as one of the brightest stars in the sport.
Perhaps one of the most eagerly anticipated reports came from Luis Batista Salas, who discussed some of the WBO’s most eye opening moves in 2015. In particular, the highly publicized decision to strip Floyd Mayweather of the WBO welterweight title for his refusal to comply with the WBO rules regarding holding belts in multiple weight divisions. The move earned the WBO a tremendous amount of credibility with both boxing fans and insiders, who recognized that the WBO was surrendering what promised to be a tremendous sanctioning fee from Mayweather in order to ensure that its rules were followed by every fighter: even Floyd Mayweather. It may have cost the WBO a great deal of money, but it showed the world that the WBO was an organization that was both fair and just, and that would enforce the same rules and the same standards for all of their champions.
One of the most exciting developments for the WBO came from Vice President Leon Panoncillo, who discussed not only the WBO Asia Pacific and his role in its continued growth and success, but also the growing role the WBO has in boxing in China. Since adding China to his already busy docket (which includes running WBO Asia Pacific, WBO Africa, and WBO Oriental) Panoncillo has seen boxing explode in China. Not only has the WBO China National championship been born, but the WBO now is working with Top Rank and SECA to be part of the exciting League of Fists tournament. The WBO will be awarding the winner of the tournament the WBO Greater China championship belt, which will help propel the winner into the WBO rankings. Without a doubt the future is looking bright for the WBO and boxing in China.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, Panoncillo also was making moves to expand WBO Africa into Ghana, giving the WBO an even stronger international presence.
Closing out the opening day was President Francisco Valcarcel’s President’s Report. President Valcarcel took time to speak about a program that is central to the WBO: the WBO Kids Drug Free Program. As the WBO convention was titled “more than just boxing” there was little doubt that the Kids Drug Free program would be highlighted, but even the toughest members of the boxing community were deeply moved by the presence of two young men who, thanks in part to the WBO and the Kids Drug Free Program, have turned their lives around. The young men, aged 16 and 21, were first introduced to boxing thanks to a WBO program while incarcerated in a juvenile detention center, and both young men were proud to tell the executive committee and the member’s in attendance how important boxing, and the WBO, were in helping them turn their lives around. It was a moving and powerful moment that exemplified what makes the WBO such a well respected organization all over the world of boxing.