“All the misery of the world is nothing next to a farewell.” DANIEL BALAVOINE
By Alex P. Vidal
When Don Jose Sulaiman ascended as president of the World Boxing Council (WBC) in 1975, the biggest and the greatest ever world heavyweight championship match in history unfolded in the Philippines known as “Thrilla in Manila” with Muhammad Ali emerging victorious after 11th round via technical knockout (TKO) over Joe Frazier.
Since then, Sulaiman never relinquished the presidency of the Mexico-based world boxing body until his death due to heart ailment last January 16 at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.
A Mexican of Lebanese descent, Sulaiman, 82, was scheduled for cremation on January 19, Sunday, and a Monday Mass was to be offered in his honor at the iconic Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
Before he died, Sulaiman’s wish was granted. This was to see the WBC belt once again strapped around the waste of Manny Pacquiao, whom he considered to be “the best boxer in history next to Muhammad Ali.”
This happened on November 13, 2010 in Arlington, Texas when Pacquiao annexed the WBC light middleweight title via 12-round unanimous decision over Antonio Margarito.
In my one-on-one exclusive interview with Sulaiman inside Polanco, his favorite restaurant in Mexico City shortly after Pacquiao demolished David Diaz via 9th round TKO for WBC lightweight belt in Las Vegas on June 28, 2008, Sulaiman expressed sadness that Pacquiao would leave the WBC and embrace the rival WBO.
“Pacquiao is with the WBC ever since he won his first world crown (via 8th round KO of Chatchai Sasakul in Thailand on December 4, 1998) and I want him to continue fighting with the WBC,” Sulaiman said.
After humiliating Oscar De La Hoya via 8th round TKO in Las Vegas on December 6, 2008, Pacquiao fought for rival IBO light welterweight title and obliterated Ricky Hatton in two rounds in Las Vegas on May 2, 2009.
From IBO, Pacquiao went to the WBO where he destroyed Angel Miguel Cotto (TKO 12) on Nov.14, 2009 and Joshua Clottey (UD 12) on March 13, 2010 in welterweight rumbles.
Then came Pacquaio’s comeback fight under the WBC against Margarito where Sulaiman flew all the way from Mexico to act as supervisor.
“I’m the happiest person in the world because Pacquiao is once again with the WBC,” beamed the wheelchair-bound Sulaiman, who was born on May 30, 1931 in Ciudad Victoria, Mexico to immigrant parents from Lebanon.
For unknown reason, Pacquiao, however, discarded anew the biggest and most prestigious boxing body in the world and fought his last five fights under the WBO: Shane Mosley (UD 12), Juan Manuel Marquez III (majority decision 12), Timothy Bradley (lost, split decision 12), Juan Manuel Marquez IV (lost, KO 6), and Brandon Rios (UD 12).
“Was Jose Sulaiman tenacious? You bet,” boxing analyst Bob Newman remarked. “Dedicated to the sport he loved? Without a doubt. Was he unconventional? Perhaps. Then again, what is conventional in the irregularly regulated sport of boxing? There are so many contradictory rules and disagreements in this sport, who is to say who’s right and who’s wrong? In keeping with the theme song that accompanied slideshows at the annual conventions, he did it his way. As he often did during the portion of the WBC convention where members of boxing’s fraternity were remembered, we now sound the bell for a count of ten in remembering and paying respect to him.”
Sulaiman, who was the longest president in any world sports body according to the Guinness Book of Records, is survived by his six children- Jose, Lucy, Hector, Fernando, Mauricio and Claudia and his loving wife of over 50 Martha.