The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has had an impact on the world of boxing, particularly concerning the WBC's stance on sanctioning contests involving Russian fighters. Mauricio Sulaiman, the President of the WBC, expressed his personal pain when questioned about how WBA 175-pound champion Dmitry Bivol is affected by the WBC's refusal to sanction fights involving Russian boxers.
Sulaiman clarified that the WBC's decision is not personal against Bivol or any other Russian fighter. He mentioned that the WBC is a sanctioning body that advocates for peace, justice, and against abuse of power, discrimination, and aggression. On these grounds, due to the actions of Russia that he feels do not align with the WBC's views, Bivol can not fight for their title. While it is unfortunate that Bivol is caught in the middle of this tricky situation.
“At this moment, we can not sanction a fight where (Dmitry) Bivol is involved," Sulaiman said when speaking to Izquierdazo. “...every time that someone asks me about that, it hurts me, because I have many Russian friends, fighters, trainers, judges, and members of the Government Board that are from Russia”.
Bivol had expressed his disagreement with the WBC's position, arguing that sports and politics should be separate. Bivol further reflected that the WBC allows Artur Beterbiev, another Russian fighter, to hold their light heavyweight title because he lives in Canada. Bivol believes that since he only spent four months in Russia last year he fits into this category.
Sulaiman stated that if Bivol wishes to address the issue, he needs to approach the WBC and submit a petition, this what Beterbiev did in order for his bouts to be sanctioned. Beterbiev proved that he had lived in Canada for 15 years, along with various documents to prove that.
“Our position is not personal, and we are very sorry if it hurts anyone," Sulaiman said. “In this case, [it impacts] Bivol because he is Russian, but it is nothing personal against him. We are a sanctioning body that fights for peace, for justice against abuse of power, against discrimination, against aggression, and it’s very unfortunate, [Bivol] is a victim in this situation, but this is something that neither he nor we can control."
"[Bivol] knows our position, he knows what he needed to do in the past and what he needs to do now," said Sulaiman. "If he has a situation against our sanctioning body, the process is simple. He needs to get a petition like Beterbiev did, [and Beterbiev] proved that he has lived in Canada for 15 years, that he has a Canadian residence, that his kids are Canadian, that he has a Canadian passport, and a Canadian boxing license."
The WBC's position remains unchanged unless the governing body decides otherwise.