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Jose Sulaiman: The Death of "The Godfather"

The "boss" of the fight family, no politician-like fight figure ever did more for boxing.
The "boss" of the fight family, no politician-like fight figure ever did more for boxing.

A black cat once walked by me- but then he came back.

Not really thinking this was bad luck, I kind of felt honored, almost to the point where I was going to go buy some Dos Equis beer.

But then things changed.

As I turned to joke with a friend- while not quite so sure that this unlucky cat wasn’t feral- I began to feel something crashing against my leg.

What just had to be the offspring of Sylvester James Pussycat from Looney Tunes was kicking dirt at me. I remember thinking; just what exactly is he trying to say? Or what did he just do?

I have a feeling that Jose Sulaiman would have been able to tell me.

If I found the symbolism attached to a wild animal attempting to bury me alive intriguing, he would have found it amusing. Born of Lebanese and Native American descent by way of Mexico on May 30th in 1931, Sulaiman died on January 16th of this year.

He served as president of the WBC for almost 40 years, and is a widely despised man- right now. He was viewed as a very controversial and dark figure. Depending on who you ask, everything about him was corrupt, from his heavy association with gangster (let’s keep this real) promoter Don King and his fighters, to his bending of WBC rules to line his pockets, to even the widely asserted fixing of fights.


He did in fact have very strong ties with Don King, and who in close boxing circles could forget about King’s murderous ways in Cleveland? Or that Don ran gambling houses, embezzled many fighters you would know out of millions of dollars, and generally had a way of lying in ultra smooth ways while in tandem with Sulaiman from the 70’s well into the new millennium.

Oh wait, you mean he was just like a politician?

I can still remember as a boy how angry Lou Duva was after Pernell Whitaker was victim of the worst robbery in the history of boxing. You thought Pacquiao got robbed against Bradley? Compared to that- Bradley won every round.

Duva kept calling Sulaiman “a thief” and Whitaker’s manager Shelly Finkel flat out said, “King and Sulaiman fixed the fight, no question about it.”


But if you’ll show me a saint- I’ll bet he has a sinful past.

No one really went broke in that fight and Whitaker was able to make a lot of money with Don King under the guise of Jose Sulaiman throughout his career. I’m not saying what happened to him was right- or many other instances that can be considered the same.

But if boxing is peanut butter then politics is jelly, the two are then sandwiched by the bread of corruption. This is a fact. The onus is then on the managers, advisors, trainers and fighters themselves to be as diligent as they can in securing themselves and their future.

It reminds me of something that Micheal Corleone, son of Vito, said to a politician pretending to wear white, when he said: “Senator, we’re all a part of the same hypocrisy.”

Don King was pardoned of his crime in 1983 by the US government and has been a fixture in White House affairs for what its worth.

I look at Sulaiman with reverence.

You can’t be raised as a poor youth in Mexico, then learn to speak Spanish, English, Arabic, Italian, Portuguese, French and then successfully operate an international medical supply company out of Mexico without being great.

It is he who was responsible for so many new rules and regulations regarding boxers’ safety and welfare. He reduced championship bouts from 15 to 12, made official the weigh-in 24 hours before each bout, created intermediate weight divisions, created the world medical congress, gave us the attached thumb glove and funded brain injury research programs at UCLA.

During Sulaiman’s time, the WBC sanctioned over 1,100 title bouts and some 300 boxers have won world titles. As the most dominant sanctioning body or entity in all of boxing, Sulaiman expanded the WBC’s global reach to over 160 nations.

While some scoffed at his inclusion in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2007, I can think of so many in there far less deserving than Sulaiman.

Just the fact that he was an amateur fighter, a trainer, a promoter, a referee and a judge before he ran the WBC is good enough for me. I mean, he was on the boxing commission in Mexico at 16.

His influence made brighter the star’s of all-time greats such as Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Tyson, Holyfield, Chavez, Jones, Hopkins, Trinidad, Pacquiao and Mayweather to name a few.

He was a citizen of the sport and an ambassador for the fighter.

He was for all intents and purposes “The Godfather” of boxing.

He was a Don.


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