The sport of boxing has a habit of polarising sports fans, whether its the boxers themselves or the sport itself.
One thing that is a constant is ask any boxer which of the many World Championships there are in the modern era means the most, and almost every single one will say that the World Boxing Council (WBC) title is the most sought after and respected.
The reason for that has a great deal to do with the president of the WBC for the past 38 years Jose Sulaiman. Sadly he passed away last night after several months of illness.
Sulaiman joined the WBC in 1968 and was elected president of the sanctioning body Dec. 5, 1975 a position he held right up to his passing aged 82.
Under his leadership, the WBC instituted many rules and regulations that were aimed to look after boxers’ safety and welfare. The most well remembered was the reducing of world championship bouts from 15 rounds to 12, an issue he discussed on “Not The Footy Show” last year. This change was prompted by the regrettable death in the ring of South Korea’s Duk Koo Kim during his 1983 televised WBA title fight with Ray Mancini.
Sulaiman also was instrumental in moving the official weigh-in from the morning of a fight to 24 hours before it. This allowed boxers to rehydrate, if they had to lose weight to make the required weight for their bout. He also created the intermediate weight divisions something that many wish had not actually happened as it has created far too many World Champion categories.
Sulaiman also introduced the World Medical Congress, and through the WBC, the attached thumb glove. He also arranged for the WBC to fund brain injury research at UCLA.
During his time as President the WBC sanctioned more than 1,100 title bouts and 300 boxers won world titles and the WBC expanded its global reach to 161 countries worldwide.
Don Jose as he was known was not a man who distanced himself from the boxing community in his role as President, one of the things that endeared him to many was the fact that here was a man at the top of an International sporting body and he would stop and talk to all who approached him. He was a man of the people running a sport that belonged to the people.
Sadly in December last year he had a heart attack and although he seemed to be recovering at the end of December he suffered complications believed to be related to diabetes. He passed away in Los Angeles last night and his body will be returned to Mexico, the land of his birth where he will be laid to rest.
Jose Sulaiman was a doer, a man who got things done. He was not a president who sat back and enjoyed the position he held for all its perks. He loved the sport he represented and he worked tirelessly too make it a better place for fans and boxers alike. He felt it was his duty to make the sport the best and the safest it could be, and what is more wanted to look after its former heroes far better than the sport had in the past.
Let us hope that one of the last things he was fighting to preserve, the realm of amateur boxing, is a fight that is carried on despite his passing as it will benefit no one in the sport if AIBA president CK Wu is allowed to turn all levels of the sport into professional boxers.
Jose Sulaiman’s leaves big shoes to fill, his legacy will live long in the memory of fight fans. May he rest in Peace.