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A Complicated Legacy

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News spread on Thursday evening that after a long illness, longtime World Boxing Council President Jose Sulaiman passed away at the age of 82. His death left a myriad of responses ranging from sadness to jubilation, depending on the point of view you had on the man. Like most everything in life, describing his impact and legacy isn’t as simple as black and white; there is a deep gray area most aren’t willing to accept.

Was he a heavy-handed dictator, who used boxing to line his own coffers or a benevolent leader who loved boxing and those who participated in it?

Truth is he was probably a lot of both.


Sulaiman was that guy who would routinely defend the indefensible when it came to bad decisions favoring certain fighters (oftentimes Mexicans or big money earners for his sanctioning body) and lay down rulings that seemed to defy logic but satisfy the WBC’s own self-interest and bottom line. But he was also an individual who put forth important health and safety measures that improved the most dangerous of sports. There are many fighters whose medical bills were secretly paid off by Sulaiman and his organization long after their days in the ring had expired.

And despite whatever faults the WBC had (and there were many), its belt remains the most highly-coveted belt to this day. Say what you want about its bizarre ratings; when you had this title (and no, I’m not counting any “interim” or “diamond” belts), it meant you had made it and your value as a prizefighter increased. Yeah, the “real” belts matter and for some reason, none mattered as much to a multitude of fighters as Jose’s.


As the news of Sulaiman’s death spread, you quickly saw the messages of condolence from the likes of Julio Cesar Chavez, Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns. It’s clear that among boxers, he had staunch loyalists who would always stand by his side. And for good reason because Sulaiman didn’t just act as a sanctioning body but as a protector of these fighters and, quite frankly, the WBC’s own financial interest. Marquee fighters meant bigger sanctioning fees for them. They were good for business, which honestly was exactly what the WBC is - a business. This is why current-day pugilists Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Saul Alvarez and Floyd Mayweather have seemingly played by a different set of rules than their colleagues. Whether it was stripping of titles on their behalf or their never having to make mandatory defenses within a certain time frame like most others, they were Jose’s boys and that absolutely mattered.

But as Bernard Fernandez of www.thesweetscience.com deftly points out, not everyone who wore Sulaiman’s green belt was a favored son (http://www.thesweetscience.com/news/articles/17868-sulaiman-was-a-lightning-rod-for-controversy). Case in point was Pernell Whitaker, who found it more difficult to defeat Sulaiman’s judges than deal with the likes of Jose Luis Ramirez and Chavez because he had the temerity to be promoted by Main Events and face boxers under Don King’s banner. I’ve been told this story a few times from Sulaiman’s associates that a year or two after that infamous 1993 draw in San Antonio, they were driving past the Alamodome. As he looked out the window, Sulaiman said in all seriousness, “There’s where they did that terrible thing to Julio (against Whitaker).”

Yeah, the man was as steadfast as he was perhaps delusional.

Who can ever forget how Sulaiman basically tried to take the WBC title from Buster Douglas alongside King after Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson in 1990 in Tokyo? It was as brazen an attempt to overturn history as the sport has ever seen (perhaps why when I ran into “Iron” Mike at the airport in Las Vegas, he was actually on his way to visit Don Jose in the hospital: http://www.maxboxing.com/news/max-boxing-news/mile-high-thumping).

Sulaiman had many loyalists who spoke highly of him. But of course, it could be argued that nothing less could be said by partners-in-crime like King and Top Rank Promotions’ Bob Arum. Those who benefited from his power and influence of course will defend him till the end. But on the other side of the spectrum, a large number of promoters, managers and fighters who weren’t the beneficiaries of his largesse probably don’t share the same feeling as their careers were adversely affected by his byzantine rulings. We get the feeling that Graciano Rocchigiani didn’t send a bouquet of flowers to Sulaiman’s wake (http://www.secondsout.com/world-boxing-news/world-boxing-news/rocchigiani-wins-30-million-lawsuit-against-wbc).

As you read about the passing of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last week, you read many differing accounts of his legacy and accomplishments. Much of this was determined by how Sharon affected those involved, personal political affiliations and interpersonal relationships. The same could be said of any person who yields a certain amount of power, whether he is a politician or a mob boss (and Sulaiman has been labeled both in the past). When they die, supporters and detractors will come out in force because the fact is there are legions that they both helped and hurt at the same time.

There’s no doubting that Sulaiman loved boxing and made significant contributions to the sport.

But at times, he’s also someone who abused the power and influence he had within it.

With that comes a complicated legacy.

PASCAL

While some described it as the Canadian Super Bowl of boxing, unfortunately the long-awaited bout between Jean Pascal and Lucian Bute at the Bell Centre in Montreal was more like watching the Grey Cup to the American audiences watching on HBO this past weekend.

Pascal easily decisioned Bute over 12 rounds in more a superior event than an actual fight in front of a huge throng of fans. Pascal who can be consider a “poor man’s Roy Jones” had the genuine article in his corner and he used his awkward, herky-jerky style to potshot Bute at various times throughout the night with an occasional flurry that oftentimes looked better than it landed. Bute simply looked like a gun-shy fighter for most of the night, unwilling or unable to seriously muster an attack with any real vigor or commitment till the last round when Pascal was either A) fatigued for the first time, B) playing possum or C) trying his best to see that the rematch clause for this fight was enforced (as he told Max Kellerman during the post-fight interview with HBO).

Regardless, the Bute rally was much too little, much too late.

Pascal can now claim superiority over this region - although Adonis Stevenson makes a very strong argument here - and Bute seems firmly in the sunset of his career.

FINAL FLURRIES

Ivan Redkach will make for a lot of good fights but he’s not ready for the elite at 135 just yet. Overall, that was a solid start to “ShoBox” in 2014....Mike Perez looked very underwhelming versus Carlos Takam in the HBO opener. He was fortunate to come away with a draw...In addition to cards on both HBO and Showtime next weekend, on Friday night, you have NBC Sports Network and ESPN2 with fight cards on Friday night...Even though the New England Patriots lost, going to the AFC title game with that team is a testament to both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady...The NFC title game was amazing; wasn’t it? Was that the de facto Super Bowl?...Can’t wait to see Peyton Manning versus the “Legion of Doom” defense in New York...Richard Sherman needs his own reality show…Ican be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.



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