By Mauricio Sulaimán / Son of José Sulaimán / President of the WBC  

{November 1, 2023) – It will be very difficult to describe in this column everything that happened this week in the monumental event called The Battle of the Baddest, via which Riyadh Season opened with the fight between the WBC heavyweight world champion, Tyson Fury, against the former UFC heavyweight monarch, Francis Ngannou.
I had never experienced anything similar. The promotion, prepared by His Excellency Sheik Turki Alalshikh, with the co-promotion of Top Rank and Queensberry, was spectacular in every way. The number of legendary boxers and athletes was a dream come true: Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Larry Holmes, Manny Pacquiao, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Durán, Érik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Lennox Lewis, Ricky Hatton, Naseem Hamed, Amir Khan, Joe Calzaghe, Frank Bruno, Riddick Bowe, Shannon Briggs, Buster Douglas, Roy Jones Jr., Michael Spinks, Jared Anderson, Artur Beterbiev, Dmitry Bivol, Badou Jack, Tim Bradley, Bakhodir Jalolov, Antonio Tarver, Miguel CottoConor McGregor, Randy Couture, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Eminem, Liam Payne, and a huge number of other superstars.

The card was divided into two parts: the first was all the preliminary fights, all heavyweight, including knockouts by Joseph Parker, Martin Bakole, Arslanbek Makhmudov, and Moses Itauma. This part took place in an open-air arena with three thousand spectators and just 100 meters away, a spectacular arena was built for 22,000 fans. It’s important to understand that the arena was built in less than three months!
Around 1:00 a.m., the musical show began, explosive, spectacular with light and laser games with pyrotechnics, dancers, and a gigantic stage with high-definition screens and thunderous sound, but there was no ring! At the end of the show, the huge central platform retracts, and the ring appears from underground! In just 10 minutes, everything was ready for the big fight.   The entrance was also a spectacle to behold: Ngannou and Fury, first sitting in thrones, made their individual ways to the ring, and after the national anthems, the first bell rang.   Since the announcement of this fight, the criticism for matching the King of Boxing against the King of MMA did not cease, but in the third round, the surprise occurred. Ngannou landed a tremendous counter left hook, sending Fury to the canvas to the astonishment of millions. Drama and expectations followed until the last bell, ending the fight. It was a tactical fight, and Fury managed to overcome adversity, winning a split decision.

Tyson Fury is brave and must be commended for his wisdom in weathering the storm. Ngannou made a huge impact and deserves all praise. He is for real. Everything is ready for the first undisputed title fight in 20 years when Fury faces Oleksandr Usyk on a date to be defined. It was speculated that it would be December 23, but after the tough, full-duration fight that Fury had, it will surely be moved to 2024. For his part, Francis Ngannou arrives at the heavyweight division, earning his place, and will surely be ranked in our next world convention in Uzbekistan.
The hospitality that everyone experienced was out of this world. His Excellency Turki and his incredible team, led by Dr. Rakan, made sure every single detail was unique and memorable.   Hours later, one of the biggest fights of the year took place in Cancun. World-class boxing returned to this paradisiacal destination, and Matchroom, in co-promotion with Pepe Gómez, presented the mandatory defense of the WBC world champion, O’Shaquie Foster, against the official challenger, Mexican Rocky Hernández, who is one of the great national prospects!
Round 11 is a strong candidate for Round of the Year. It all started with a right uppercut that hurt Hernandez, and he was hit hard during the next minute when it looked like the referee would stop the fight. Rocky hit Foster, hurting him and putting him on the brink of knockout. Finally, Round 12 was fateful, and Foster defeated the brave Mexican, knocking him down a couple of times, and referee Héctor Afu, wisely as well as humanely stopped the fight. The crowd enjoyed every second, and the atmosphere was electric.

DAZN has been broadcasting boxing on its digital platform for some years. They became known with Canelo Álvarez’s multimillion-dollar contract, with the fight where Mexican Andy Ruiz surprisingly knocked out Anthony Joshua, and a series of high-level boxing cards. This past weekend, DAZN had boxing in Italy with the defense of champion Michael Magnesi’s silver super featherweight title, the extravaganza from Saudi Arabia, and the aforementioned from Cancun.   The national boxing community is saddened by the tragic situation caused by Hurricane Otis in the state of Guerrero. Last year, Acapulco hosted the World Boxing Council to celebrate one of the most magnificent conventions in the history of our organization. Palacio Mundo Imperial amazed attendees with great hospitality, and unforgettable memories were created.
It is time to show absolute solidarity and do our best to provide support in any way possible. Our champion, David Picasso, took in the company of his father the initiative to drive to Acapulco to deliver 15 tons of food and water. The New Jordan Gym will be a collection center to deliver everything collected to the Mundo Imperial and Autofin facilities. We invite you to join and get into the ring in support of Guerrero. Water, milk, and cans of food are the priority. We will be making frequent trips to make continuous deliveries.   Did you know…? The last undisputed heavyweight world champion was Lennox Lewis, who retired as champion in 2004 after his final defense against the now Mayor of Kiev, Ukraine, Vitali Klitschko.
Today’s anecdote… My family has strong Middle Eastern roots. My grandfather, Don Elías, arrived from Lebanon, and my grandmother, Wasila, from Syria. We grew up educated with established Arab customs, hospitality, kindness, and respect. My dad dreamed of seeing boxing develop in the lands of his forebearers.   On one occasion, he traveled with a group of countrymen led by beloved, greatly missed, and forever cherished Archbishop Antonio Chedraoui, and had a meeting with the then-president of Lebanon, Émile Lahoud. An agreement was reached for Mike Tyson to defend his title in Beirut. Unfortunately, the plan ended when another war broke out. Years later, the first world title fight was held in the history of the Middle East, when the WBC straw world champion, Chinese Chaozhong Xiong, defended his crown in a very small promotion. Today, Don José is smiling when he sees that it is a reality that boxing is big and developing in this area of the world.
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