On Saturday night, Las Vegas’s Bellagio Hotel and Casino played host to an unprecedented gathering of legendary boxing champions, as they joined the World Boxing Council (WBC) and Swiss watch brand Hublot in auctioning off 12 unique Hublot timepieces to raise funds for boxing’s less fortunate.
The watches and the event, which Hublot referred to as “A Legendary Evening,” are the results of a joint effort between Hublot and the WBC, which began one year ago during a lunch meeting in Mexico between Hublot chairman Jean-Claude Biver, Hublot CEO Ricardo Guadalupe, and Mauricio Sulaiman, executive secretary of the WBC and son of WBC president Jose Sulaiman. At the press reception on Friday afternoon, Guadalupe told WatchTime that Hublot, known for both its high-profile sports marketing as well as its charitable initiatives, was looking for a way to enter the world of boxing in a way that was creative and different. “We wanted to work with legendary champions, but were also really touched by the idea of raising funds for retired boxers who have been less successful,” Guadalupe says. “For every one who succeeds, there are 100 or more who don’t.” The meeting led the WBC to establish its very first WBC pension fund to raise money for those retired pugilists that have fallen on hard times. Hublot’s contribution was a King Power timepiece that would be limited to 12 pieces — one for each boxing superstar who took part in the initiative — and sold at auction to raise money for the fund.
The timepiece itself has a huge, rose-gold case with green highlights and a green crocodile leather strap; boxing enthusiasts will recognize the inspiration for the design and color scheme as the WBC’s famous championship belt. The watch is a chronograph with a boxing-specific touch on the minutes counter: similarly to the King Power watches created for the Manchester United and FC Bayern Munich soccer teams, whose counters track the 45-minute periods of a soccer match, this one is calibrated to the three minutes in a round of boxing. What makes each watch unique is its caseback, which is engraved with the signature of one of the 12 boxing legends. The roster of names involved, nearly all of whom were in attendance for the weekend’s events, reads like a “who’s who” from boxing’s modern heyday: “Iron” Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Lennox Lewis, Larry Holmes, Tommy “Hitman” Hearns, Roberto Duran, Julio Cesar Chavez, Oscar De la Hoya, George Foreman, Australian champ Jeff Fenech, African superstar Azumah Nelson, and the legendary Ken Norton. Only De la Hoya and Norton were not in attendance. Larry Holmes commented to us about the watch and its massive gold case: “It’s a beautiful watch and you’ve gotta have some muscle to wear it! It really lets you know you’ve got it on your arm!” Guadalupe said, “We chose the King Power because boxers are strong guys and the name fits. We chose to do a gold watch because it represents Vegas, the capital of boxing.” Click here for a wrist shot of the watch.
The festivities began Saturday afternoon, at a formal press conference for select media, held inside a staged boxing ring and moderated by longtime boxing broadcaster Bob Sheridan and Jose Sulaiman, during which each boxer was presented with his personal watch by Guadalupe. Sulamain and Guadalupe then spoke about the inauguration of the WBC pension fund and took questions from the audience. Each fighter, sporting his new King Power timepiece, addressed the crowd and thanked the WBC and Hublot for their efforts on behalf of their needier constituents. (Biver, who was instrumental in the project, was ill and unable to attend the event.)
That evening, after red-carpet arrivals of the boxing champs and other VIPs in attendance — which included boxer Evander Holyfield, legendary promoter Don King, musician and reality-TV star Flavor Flav and NFL player Jeremy Shockey — 300 guests were treated to a cocktail reception with a Hublot-sponsored bar and then seated for the formal dinner and auction. And who better to host such an event than the voice of boxing, Michael “Let’s get ready to rumble” Buffer? The world-famous ring announcer led the live auction, held in cooperation with the international auction house Bonhams. Malcolm Barber, CEO of Bonhams, joined Buffer on stage and used his own auctioneering expertise to build excitement and sale prices for the 12 timepieces. Each winning bidder had the unforgettable experience of receiving their new watch personally from the boxer whose name it carries. By the end of the evening, more than $1 million had been raised for the WBC’s retired boxer’s pension and emergency fund. (Sugar Ray Leonard’s watch went for an astounding $140,000.)
Jose Sulaiman summed up the significance of the event in his opening remarks. “Today is the happiest day of my life,” he said. “To have the 12 greatest living champions of all time together here with us, and to know that they care for other boxers who came to the end of their life without even a piece of bread… I congratulate Hublot for joining the WBC to start for the first time in the history of boxing a pension plan for those boxers of a certain age all over the world who are suffering in poverty. Boxing cannot forget them.”
Guadalupe told WatchTime that Hublot wanted to begin its boxing initiative with “something limited” that would provide funds for charity (there were actually 24 watches in total; each boxer received his own model to keep, without the personalized signature engraving on the casebacks of the 12 auction models), but indicated that it was possible that at some point, Hublot would release another limited-edition version of the watch that would be available to the public. Click below to see a slideshow of images from the gala event.
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