The family of Jose Sulaiman remained at his bedside in the intensive care unit of the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. They did that daily until yesterday when the longtime leader of the World Boxing Council (WBC) passed away due to heart failure at the age of 82.
And during that time as Sulaiman tried to make a comeback, his son, Mauricio, who is expected to assume his father’s role, and the family continued to distribute a weekly update about the WBC. Jose initiated the updates via e-mail to members of the WBC and to news media outlets that covered boxing around the globe.
Jose Sulaiman, who was elected president of the WBC in 1975, was a pioneer of the most reputed sanctioning boxing organization in the sport. And though controversial at times, he loved the sport, assured safety of the fighters, and was always looking to make things better.
It was a controversial reign because Sulaiman made all the decisions from WBC headquarters in Mexico City. He was proud of his Mexican heritage and at times that made the job more difficult. You see, this is boxing, a sport that can be as good or bad as you want it to be.
And though Sulaiman always tried to make it better, when a Mexican fighter saw something go his way, especially with a WBC decision, well the controversy would erupt. Sulaiman, it was said, never ruled against a Mexican fighter. It appeared to be that way.
Remember this is boxing. And when was a ruling ever fair in a sport that is dominated by sanctioning organizations? Except, Sulaiman made sure the WBC was structured properly and there was no time for foul play. The exception was bylaws of the WBC that had a different perspective of things from those of the WBA, IBF, WBO, and so many other sanctioning organizations in the sport.
Boxing has struggled for an identity. Sulaiman was one to make sure that his beloved sport had an identity. The WBC was that identity. Years have come and gone, the green and gold championship belt has been proudly been around the waste of icon names in the sport.
Sulaiman proudly has his name enshrined in the international Boxing Hall of Fame. Despite the talk of influencing Hall of Fame promoter Don King, an alliance that was often criticized, business was conducted to assure that the sport had quality fights and often.
The alliance with King, as was alleged, was a part of that favoritism towards certain fighters. But, then, Sulaiman kept boxing in the headlines. King, along with Bob Arum, of Top Rank, was the prime promoters of the sport. Sulaiman was always in the middle trying to keep the peace.
“He was a great man to me and respected what I was doing for boxing,” commented Alex Ramos, a former fighter who heads the retired Boxers Foundation in Simi California. Ramos has been a vocal advocate for safety of the fighter and making sure they are secured after life in the ring.
Sulaiman, was one who made sure the fighters received their proper respect and recognition. He was the first to attend a charity event with purposes to makes sure the sport and fighter were granted respect. And despite the critics, many who said Jose Sulaiman was just a figure head, he was more than that,
Boxing rules changed under his reign. The 15-round championship fight was reduced to 12 rounds a few months later in 1983 after the death of Deuk-Koo Kim, in a bout that was televised nationally against Ray Mancini for the WBA lightweight title. The WBA and other sanctioning organizations would implement the same ruling that Sulaiman implemented with the WBC.
Sulaiman also saw safety measures expand when boxing gloves with thumbs attached became a new feature in the ring. There was more including weigh-ins for the fighter a day before, instead of the morning so a fighter had time to rehydrate.
And for the fans, though not something that was popular with the fighters and their corner men, Sulaiman was still experimenting with the open scoring format that announced judges scoring at ringside every four rounds of a championship fight.
He would say, “This will hopefully put an end to the controversial decisions of championship fights.” However, too many, open scoring was taking away the excitement and drama of a decision after 12 exciting rounds of boxing. It was working in certain state athletic commission governing bodies and was quickly catching on.
Jose Sulaiman was an amateur fighter, trainer, promoter, referee, and judge so there was no arguing his passion for the sport and knowledge. And for 40-years as head of the WBC, he could have been called the face of boxing. If there was someone capable of heading a national boxing commission, something he quietly advocated, Sulaiman may have been a perfect candidate.
However, he had that love and passion for the WBC, and worked at making the organization better each day until he fell ill with heart failure. Jose Sulaiman will be remembered and those who proudly wear that WBC title will always do it in his memory.
Comment Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso www.newyorksportsexaminer.com