SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Just like almost every other boxing outpost, increased fighter safety was on top of mind as World Boxing Council president Mauricio Sulaiman spoke to reporters Wednesday at a Boxing Commissions convention.
Along with former world champion Ray Beltran, and Sulem Urbina, a top prospect in the women’s flyweight division, ways to prevent further tragedies in the ring were heavily discussed.
“It’s a matter where every single one of us needs to be better,” Sulaiman said. “We plan on doing everything we can to make the sport safer,”
The conference comes after two deaths occurred in the same weekend following fights. Russian junior welterweight Maskim Dadashev and Argentine junior welterweight Hugo Santillan passed away just two days apart from injuries sustained in fights.
Among the issues brought up were the way fighters struggle to make weight, not being at their physical best because they’ve drained themselves too much just to make weight to the point it’s dangerous.
“With our 30-, 14- and 7-day weigh-ins, our goal is to collect as much data as possible to make sure we are doing what’s best for fighters,” Sulaiman said.
One thing that will never come back, according to Sulaiman, are same-day weigh-ins. Fighters now weigh in the day before the fight.
“It’s already hell for a fighter to make weight,” he said. “Adding another day will cause even more problems. Six hours doesn’t give them enough time to rehydrate.”
Other issues discussed were slow response time to fighter emergencies, as well as trainers and referees who didn’t recognize a fighter was in peril until it was too late.
“As a fighter, I’m never going to give up. That’s the attitude you need to have to become champion,” Beltran said. “So it’s up to my trainer to protect me because I’m never going to do that for myself.”
In the United States, only the referee can stop the fight. In other places, more people, such as a doctor, can stop a fight. While there have been issues in the past where doctors have stopped fights prematurely due to corruption, Sulaiman is open to any and all suggestions to make the sport safer.
“We have to look at everything,” he said. “We need to make sure everybody — trainers, officials, everybody — is better educated.”
Of course, comprehensive drug testing is at the forefront of any talk regarding safety in boxing. It was further escalated by a fight Saturday in England between Dillian White and Oscar Rivas. White, despite failing a drug test administered by the UK Anti-Doping group, was allowed to fight, and neither Rivas or the WBC was informed until after the fight.
White, who was WBC interim champion and the mandatory challenger to champ Deontay Wilder, was removed from both designations.
“Dillian will get his day in court to present his side of the case before we move forward,” Sulaiman said “We are obviously disappointed in how everything occurred.”
“You have to be so careful with what you put in your body. It’s kind of scary, because there are so many confusing words and you can take something illegal by accident,” Urbina added.
Other boxing notes, courtesy of Sulaiman:
• On women’s boxing moving from two- to three-minute rounds: “Women’s bodies are built different. The WBC will never sanction a women’s fight with three-minute rounds until a doctor comes up with physical proof that it’s safe for women to do so,”
• On Canelo Alvarez being designated franchise champion at middleweight (160 pounds): “He’s a rare fighter where he can fight at 160, 168, 175 and even 154 pounds. This allows him to pursue those fights without having to face mandatory challengers.
“I knew I was going to take some heat for it, but I think eventually, people will see that I was right.”
Sulaiman added there are no plans to make anybody else a franchise champion.