On Saturday, February 27, the super middle champion of the World Boxing Council, Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez of Mexico, will defend his green and gold belt against the mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim from Turkey. This combat coincides with the mission of Pope Francis, whose historic trip to Iraq on March 5 will be the first by a Pontiff. The Canelo / Yildirim event will celebrate the World Boxing Council’s commitment to BoxVal, an integral part of Scholas Occurentes, His Holiness’s non-religious foundation, which fosters and promotes world peace, especially among young people.
Scholas has designated Canelo vs Yildirim “Fight for peace” as a tribute to inclusion and an ongoing effort to build bridges and promote peace in the world. BoxVal (Boxing with Values) is Scholas’s boxing program that reaches all corners of the world through our sport and is administered by the WBC.
This meaningful and heartfelt handshake is very meaningful before the fight, depicted in white boxing gloves specifically designed to show the world the genuine solidarity and unity of boxing. The fact that Canelo and Avni are rivals in the ring does not diminish their respect and consideration for each other.
In true sportsmanship, while Avni is a devout Muslim, Canelo is a practicing Christian. Both men, who have even trained together before, take pride in representing their communities and countries. In keeping with the WBC brotherhood tradition, both boxers are proud to be members of BoxVal, symbolically planting olive trees.
The solidarity of this unit was previously shown in the lead-up to the Canelo Vs Amir Khan championship match, which was the first Fight for Peace event under the auspices of BoxVal. Amir is the president of the newly created WBC Middle East Federation. The World Boxing Council is embarking on an initiative to advance boxing throughout the Middle East region, to bring all nations, religions and creeds under the umbrella of union.
Boxing is a great tool for equality, which unites young people who seek and share common ground, through training, fitness and sports competition.
As the great once said Nelson Mandela:
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to bring people together in a way that few other things do. Speak to young people in a language they understand ”.
Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq is another tremendous opportunity and enabler, spanning multiple regions and beliefs. A first, but certainly not a last meeting of minds through great leaders, who want to set an example for all of us.
His Holiness will meet and be received by the Shiite leader, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali-Husaymi Al Sistani. Together they will sign a special document for the benefit of Human Fraternity and World Peace.
His Holiness will also visit the ancient city of Ur, the birthplace of the prophet Abraham, and then on to Erbil where he will be greeted by civic and religious leaders from Kurdistan.