World Boxing Council (WBC) president Mauricio Sulaiman visited Bahrain over the weekend and was quite impressed by the local talent, a Bahrain Boxing Federation (BBC) official said yesterday.
Sulaiman, 53, who has headed the Mexico-based WBC since 2014, was on a tour of the Middle East and was invited to visit the kingdom by a local boxing gym, the BBF’s technical development manager and national team coach Tony Davis told the GDN in an exclusive interview.
“A new gym – called Round One Boxing – took the initiative to invite Mauricio so that he could assess the state of the boxing scene in Bahrain,” Davis added. “He was very interested in seeing how boxing is progressing in the kingdom, so he, very graciously, agreed to visit.
“He was here for two days and observed a training session with some members of the team. And then came a surprise! At the end of the session – which I was streaming live on social media – Mauricio presented me with a special WBC medal which, he said, was in honour of my efforts to promote boxing in Bahrain.”
Davis, a former British military boxing coach, who also did a stint as a world class performance coach at Sheffield’s GB Boxing – which trains and prepares boxers that compete for Great Britain in the Olympics – fully deserved the honour.
Since he arrived in Bahrain at the end of 2018, Davis set up the BBF, implemented coaching and officiating structures, introduced boxing in schools and helped a Bahraini boxer qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“That’s what I am here for,” Davis said, modestly. “But it is, indeed, a big deal to receive a medal from the WBC. It is probably the most prevalent boxing body in the world.
“Also, Mauricio said that he was quite impressed by what the future seems to hold for boxing here. He added that having passionate people trying to promote the sport bodes well for its future in the kingdom – and that, coming from the WBC president, is a huge thing.
“And he said that they would not only remain in touch but would support the growth of boxing in Bahrain and across the wider Gulf region. Which, again, is great!”
Davis added that, after Sulaiman had watched the young boxers train, he spoke to them at length, stressing again that he was impressed by all the potential he could see.
The WBC is one of four international boxing organisations – the others are: the World Boxing Association (WBA), the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) – which sanction professional bouts, Davis explained.
“Their support would help the sport progress more rapidly in Bahrain,” he added.
And, since Sulaiman’s visit coincided with the 2023 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, Davis said, the WBC president was invited to the kingdom’s premier annual sporting event at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC).
“So lucky to find such an event as I arrive in Bahrain,” Sulaiman wrote on his Twitter account last Friday above a video of an F1 car zipping across the track in one of the practice sessions.
He also tagged compatriot, Red Bull Racing driver Sergio Perez – who eventually finished second in Sunday’s season-opening race behind teammate, two-time world champion, Max Verstappen – writing, in Spanish, “Vamos!” (“Let’s go!”)
Meanwhile, Davis is preparing for a busy few months ahead.
“I am focused on an upcoming Gulf boxing tournament which I have basically put together myself,” he said. “Called the ‘Gulf Golden Globes’, it is something I started working on last year.
“Boxers from Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar will take part in the tournament which we hope to hold in Dammam in July. The plan is to hold it every couple of months.
“And it will benefit not just boxers, but officials too because of the learning curve it will provide to everyone.”
Before that, though, Davis will be doing a fair amount of travelling.
“I’m off to Dubai tomorrow to a training camp for two of our boxers,” he said. “Then, at the end of March, we go to Lithuania for more training before going to GB Boxing in Sheffield. After a month there, we’ll go to Helsinki before coming back to Sheffield.
“After that, we head to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, for the world championships before coming back to Bahrain.”