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Will the WBC Step Up?
By Bernie McCoy
December 6, 2011


(DEC 6) In early August, the president of the World Boxing Council, Jose Sulaiman announced, at a press conference, that he would propose to his governing board that female boxers, defending WBC titles, be paid thirty-thousand dollars, while the challenger would be guaranteed eight-thousand dollars. He would seek the approval of the WBC board at the organization's annual convention in Las Vegas, which will convene in the middle of this month. Sulaiman noted, at the press conference, that he "didn't expect to make many friends" with his proposal, but he emphasized that female boxers are "all underpaid (and) I don't think it's fair." The news was received in the Women's boxing community with a somewhat skeptical reception, along the lines of "show me the money." A prevailing attitude has existed for some time that the WBC, since it's involvement in Women's boxing began nearly two decades ago, has not fulfilled the organization's goals of becoming a major force for female boxers and that it's efforts behind the sport of Women's boxing were not what was hoped for from the sport's largest and most prestigious sanctioning body. That perception is particularly prevalent in the Untitled States, home to the largest group of talented female boxers, where, over the years, the impact of the WBC has been slight.

Whether Sulaiman will put his full prestige and power, as one of the major administrative forces in boxing, behind a full bore effort in support of his August proposal, when it is brought before the WBC convention, will be answered in a couple of weeks. But, since the startling August announcement there has been little change in the WBC's efforts within the sport of Women's boxing. There continues to be far too many "minor" (Youth, Silver et al.) "title" bouts, which too often match an elite boxer with an overmatched opponent. Most recently, highly regarded Zulina Munoz 30-1-2 was "challenged" by Fredee Gonzalez (6-7-1), loser of three of her last four bouts, and a three time loser to Munoz, earlier in her (Gonzalez) career. The bout, last Saturday, was for something called the WBC Silver Bantamweight title and came to a logical conclusion: Munoz winning 28 of 30 rounds on the three judge scorecards.

Make no mistake, the WBC has, over the years, been a major partner in a number of quality female title match-ups. On December 10, in Argentina, Erica Anabella Faris will defend her WBC lightweight title against Melissa Hernandez in what should be a very competitive bout between two elite fighters. And in July 2010, Jeannine Garside beat Ina Menzer in a FOY candidate in Germany for the WBC featherweight title. Garside, ranked as the top featherweight in the world, recently announced that she was expecting a child in April. Good news for Garside, but for the featherweight division. Not so much.

At approximately the same time Garside was winning the WBC title in Germany, Maureen Shea won the NABF featherweight title against Lilianna Martinez, an 8-10 fighter. Martinez came to the fight without a victory against a boxer with a winning record and Shea dispatched Martinez in three rounds in a bout that did not closely resemble Garside/Menzer. It was Martinez's last fight in a professional ring. NABF plans were for Shea to defend the title against a somewhat more competitive challenger, but such potential contenders were summarily rejected by Shea's management. After several unsuccessful attempts to get Shea to step into the ring for a title defense that would live up to the name, the NABF vacated the title. Shea's next venture was involvement in a "reality" TV show in Mexico, centering on female boxing.

On October 8, [above photo] Shea returned to the professional ring in Baja California Sur, Mexico, bringing her 15-2 record into the ring against Yara Cabanas, who was making her professional debut. The fight lasted two rounds. Three weeks later, Shea was back in a Colina, Mexico ring against Silvia Ramirez, another fighter making her first professional appearance. This bout lasted into the fifth round before Shea advanced her record to 17-2. On Saturday, December 10, in Sinaloa, Mexico, the WBC will determine a new featherweight champion to replace Jeannine Garside. The female featherweight division is a deeply competitive weight class. In addition to Ina Menzer, unbeaten Amanda Serrano, Lindsay Garbatt and Sandy Tsagouris, are among the top ranked boxers currently competing at the weight level. None of these fighters will be in the ring on Saturday in Sinaloa, Mexico. One contender seeking to take Garside's spot as the WBC title holder is Diana Ayala who comes to the bout with a 11-5 record. None of the 11 wins came against an opponent with a winning record. Maureen Shea, coming off her two wins in Mexico, will fight Ayala and the winner will replace Jeannine Garside.

Last Friday in Albuquerque, NM, Anne Sophie Mathis and Holly Holm, two of the best female boxers in the sport, staged an epic battle for the IBA welterweight crown. This Saturday, the WBC will sanction a featherweight title fight featuring two boxers who, in any objective rating, rank in the middle of the pack of female featherweight boxers. When asked about the Shea/Ayala match-up, Jill Diamond of the WBC emailed, "this was an interim title (bout) that went into contract last summer before her (Shea) last two fights (against the pro debutantes)". Diamond added, in closing her comments, that the winner of the Shea/Ayala bout "will have to fight" a more qualified boxer. The fact that the Shea bout "was in contract last summer" seems to logically raise the question on what basis did Maureen Shea qualify for a WBC title bout. Was it a win over a fighter with a losing record for the NABF title? It certainly couldn't have helped Shea's bona fides that she refused to defend the NABF against any number of legitimate contenders. And given that fact, how confident is the WBC that should Maureen Shea win the WBC featherweight title, she will defend it against "a more qualified fighter."

However one feels about the Shea/Ayala bout, it is difficult to place the fight in any but the most expansive championship category. And yet it has acquired the imprimatur of an organization that to many in the boxing world, epitomizes the sport. The fight warrants scrutiny if only because the WBC president indicated several months ago that he was concerned about the state of Women's boxing and that he supports changes in the sport. That was welcome news. The WBC featherweight title fight is not.

I have never met nor talked with Jose Sulaiman. I do know his reputation as a long time positive force in the sport of boxing. It is a reputation that is well earned. I do know Jill Diamond and she is a prominent fixture in the WBC hierarchy and has long championed the cause of female boxers and their sport. If indeed the WBC is going to ramp up it involvement and support of Women's boxing, Diamond would seem a logical and effective conduit. If even a modicum of support for positive change for female boxers comes out of the WBC convention later this month in Las Vegas, it will be a step towards what many in Women's boxing thought was forthcoming when the WBC first became involved in the sport. Will we see any encouraging news for Women's boxing come out of the WBC convention? Who knows. But what we should get is the answer to the question, "Is the WBC ready to step up?".

Bernie McCoy


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