January 6, 2015
January 6, 2015
bradleypacquiao

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SOME of the most common complaints in professional boxing involve bad judging, too many champions, mismatches in the ring, and drug abuse outside of it.

Mauricio Sulaiman, who presided over his first annual convention as president of the World Boxing Council last month, left Las Vegas with what he hopes are solutions for what ails the sport.

Sulaiman, 44, was elected last year to succeed his father, longtime WBC President Jose Sulaiman, who died in February.

The son wasted no time trying to implement some changes in a sport that has been slow to change.

Sulaiman, who had worked the conventions behind the scenes with his father for 40 years, preparing materials, being a gofer and “looking after every single detail and running around everywhere,” was running the show and laid out his organisation’s proposals:

A tournament of champions for each weight division, with the winner from among the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO champions being the only one who can rightfully be called a “world champion.” Sulaiman said all but the WBO are currently on board.

“It’s just a matter of time, we’re doing things to go in that direction,” Sulaiman told USA TODAY Sports this week. “We’re trying to bring everybody on board. Each organisation has their mandatories and their own situations they have to clear before going into such a tournament, but there are some divisions that are much easier to begin with.”

Rating of ring officials, something that is already being implemented. In light of a rash of bad decisions by ringside judges the last few years, including one in December in which the Timothy Bradley-Diego Chaves fight was scored a draw, after HBO’s Harold Lederman and much of the media at ringside scored Bradley as the clear winner.

Bradley, of course, was involved in perhaps this era’s most infamous judging decision when he was scored the winner over Manny Pacquiao in 2012 in a fight that seemed to be one-sided in Pacquiao’s favour.

Sulaiman said there are 167 countries affiliated, divided into 10 continental federations. Each federation submits the list of their officials with their classification. There is continuous training in seminars and conventions, and seminars available online. There is online scoring to monitor each judge’s and referee’s performance, and after each fight, a score is given for the performance of the official.

“Officiating will always be controversial, because there is no scoring (system),” Sulaiman said. “There is no way of putting in numbers, so whatever (a judge) sees, he scores.

“However, there are things that can be done to prevent (bad officiating). Ring officials should be appointed to a specific fight. In championship fights, we call for neutral nationalities, to have officials from neutral countries not belonging to either boxer. That’s a natural way of being as fair as possible.

Sulaiman says judges, like baseball players, can have slump

“Concentration is a key. If one has personal problems, he’s not going to be able to concentrate,” Sulaiman said. “It is just a matter of being in close contact with your officials and having the possibility of working with the local boxing commissions to appoint the best officials to a given fight.”

A mismatch prevention system. Sulaiman said they have designed such a system with Boxrec, one of the sport’s record-only web sites.

Fighters worldwide are assigned levels, which has two intentions, Sulaiman said. “To prevent mismatches, which are very risky for the health of fighters, and to give the fans action-packed, quality fights.

“This proposal is intended to help matchmakers, to look at fights that are being set, and to raise the quality of fights,” Sulaiman continued. “We’re going to use it for our WBC affiliated championships and we will not accept fights that do not fall into this system. For example, a fighter in level 8, and a good prospect on level 3 or 4, cannot fight. The only fights that will be approved are one level up or one level down.”

Beginning on January 1, 2015, the WBC will begin a program with VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) to do year-round random drug-testing.

“This is new and very exciting,” Sulaiman said. “We’re going to be working very hard around the world to basically have an awareness and prevention program for young athletes. We have learned that using human growth hormone (HGH) shrinks your brain. That is a tremendous side effect for those people who take it. Later in their life they will suffer terrible consequences.”

Accordingly, the state of boxing today, Sulaiman said, is “wonderful, and at the same time, challenging.

“There’s so much confusion. There’s a war going on between some promoters, and TV networks. There are fights that should be made that the public wants to see. There are some certainties that will happen,” he said. “But quality-wise, I see great activity in several countries, I see great champions, future stars, a heavyweight division that is coming back to the interest, a middleweight division that is full of so many great matches that can be done.

“I think it should be a great year, but we have to keep very active and keep young people interested in boxing (through social media).”