Gilberto Jesús Mendoza has learned to have thick skin. As Vice-President of the World Boxing Association [WBA], critics, both fans and some media alike, tend to direct their displeasure with decisions in the sport of boxing towards the leaders of the respective governing bodies, with the WBA being a particular target in recent years due to the proliferation of title belts.
Mendoza recently met with his World Boxing Council [WBC] counterpart Mauricio Sulaimán to discuss a number of subjects of concern for the most prestigious governing bodies and, to look for solutions to problems which arise, not limited to anti-doping issues, judges’ scorecards and, as Mendoza explained to BoxingScene, the issue of being able to create a unified world champion for each weight class.
Despite the professional rivalry, and the perception from some that the respective leaders of each organization may be at odds with each other for one reason or another, Mendoza detailed the positive relationships with his counterparts at the WBC, World Boxing Organization [WBO] and the International Boxing Federation [IBF].
“I have excellent communication and empathy with Mauricio Sulaimán. I’ll tell you how it is with each organization. With Mauricio I have a lot of empathy and affection for him because we both grew up in the same environment. We’ve known each other since we were very young through our fathers, we used to meet up with each other and we’ve grown up through boxing.
“With Daryl Peoples from the IBF we also have a good chemistry even if I didn’t have as direct of a relationship with him as I did with Mauricio. When he was with his uncle (founder of the IBF) we met each other as he was at various boxing events.
“With Paco Valcárcel [WBO], I respect him as if he were a member of my family, like an uncle, because I met him when I was 13 years old. He was Wilfredo Gómez’s representative. Gómez trained in the city where I grew up which was Maracay in Venezuela, so I saw Paco on a regular basis. I used to train at that gym as well and on one occasion I had the pleasure and good fortune of sparring with Gómez. After we finished we had dinner with Paco and that’s where my respect for him started. By coincidence, tomorrow [note that this interview was conducted last week] I will be seeing Paco. He’s coming to Panama and we’ll be meeting to exchange a few ideas.”
There have been various meetings between the major sanctioning bodies in recent months including one in Cancun, Mexico last September in which subjects such as instant replay and weigh-in protocols were discussed. In addition to that, the affable Mendoza outlined some other key issues up for discussion at the present time.
“We want there to be a single unified champion. With the Danny García versus Lamont Peterson fight, it would be great if that is made at 140 lbs because we could ask for it also to be for the vacant WBO title and, we could have one unified world champion. But it’s not going to happen because he (García) can’t make the weight. But I think there’s something even more important that can have an impact on the fans. We want to also have an agreed policy on anti-doping testing pre and post fight and try to have a more fair scoring system. So having a unified champion is the first point.”
“The second point is that we are not at all in agreement with the decision of AIBA to enter into professional boxing. It seems that they want to compete with us. There feels like a hint of monopoly with what AIBA is doing. What would be good is if all four of us could meet with the President of AIBA to put forward our ideas. Thirdly, there needs to be a unified criteria among the organizations just like there is with the MLB, the NFL or FIFA.”
With regards to multiple belts in different weight classes, Mendoza understands that it causes upset among many fans but also sees the other side of the coin.
“For every active boxer, for their possibilities to rise and improve, even if it’s a silver belt or an interim belt, they deserve the chance to climb the ladder. It’s a controversial topic. You have to look at the positives as well as the negatives.
“If Scott Quigg fights Guillermo Rigondeaux it would be for the super champion belt. I have spoken with Quigg’s promoter to see if there could be a date for negotiations. It’s a fight that a lot of people are asking for, it’s one I would like to see happen but we have to see when the right moment will be for it to happen.”
It has been said by some observers that belts are not needed for the very best fights to be made, after all, would anyone complain if Manny Pacquiao versus Floyd Mayweather occurred without a world title on the line? Nevertheless, that is a fight at the top end of the scale and is a rarity. For fighters to progress, the logical thought would be that titles are needed and it is most boxers’ ambition to become a world champion. Mendoza continued:
“It’s true that some boxers get to a position in which they have the advantage of being recognized already. But before all that they need to have a title, like those that have gone through the Olympic process. There will always be a young guy in boxing who wants to achieve his dreams and the way to be recognized is to become a world champion for one of the big governing bodies. At the end of the day it is something that carries weight and has value, just like an Olympic medal.”
“If there is a fan who says that titles don’t mean anything, that’s a fan who knows a lot about the sport because he knows who is and who isn’t a world champion. It’s a group of select fans. There are radicals like Dan Rafael who says there should only be one champion and eight weight classes and he closes his mind on that. I can respect that as I grew up with the sport in the way that it was.”
Mendoza has been the brunt of harsh criticism on Twitter from certain well known journalists in the boxing world. But how do they behave when they meet in person? Do the insults fly as easily face-to-face as they do online?
“I’ll give you an example. With Emilio Marquiegui from Marca in Spain, I had an exchange with him on Twitter and then I met him in person. We spoke well, we understood each other and we respected each other. With Dan Rafael, unfortunately sometimes he doesn’t accept an invitation to have a coffee or something like that, but I’m not a person who focusses on the personal side of things. I understand each person’s job and I understand their position if they’re not in agreement with me. If at some point you wrote something bad about me without giving me my right to reply, I will ask you to listen to my opinion or write it. But I’m not a person who insists.”
“In the boxing world the pressure is constant due to the amount of interests that exist. You’d be amazed at the amount of pressure we get here because of a world title. It’s a job that has a lot of pressure. Sometimes you go a lot of days without seeing your family and in the end we are all human beings. I have the opportunity, and I am thankful for it, to be the spokesman of this organization but not all the decisions are taken by me. We are an organization in which decisions are taken by 21 people, but at times people just focus on one person without realizing it.”