The following is one of the weekly “Hook to the Liver” columns that have been published in El Universal every Sunday for the last five years and written by WBC President Jose Sulaiman.
This column was written by his children – Pepe, Lucy, Hector, Fernando, Mauricio, and Claudia – while he recovers from surgery. From October 20, translated from Spanish:
HOOK TO THE LIVER
Jose Sulaiman Yesterday and Tomorrow
After three weeks sitting in the same waiting room of the Intensive Care Unit, where, ironically, there is a clock that doesn't work reminding us that time, here, seems to stop, we have agreed that the day we walk out of the hospital we will make sure this clock works again. All these days of being together, the six children with our mom, have helped remember an endless amount of anecdotes of José Sulaimán, our beloved father. We would like to share some of them with you.
Maybe the first anecdote of our father in the world of boxing was when he participated in the “hors d'oeuvre” fights, as they used to call them. During his childhood in province towns of Mexico, hors d'oeuvre fights would take place to open all boxing cards, meaning two kids fighting for the entertainment of the audience. He was nine or 10 years old when his friends in Valles City took him along to the local fair event where they had put up a ring for a boxing card. When they arrived he had no money to pay for the ticket and the guy at the gate said, “I'll let you in if you participate in the hors d'oeuvre.” He had no idea what that meant, but he accepted and a while later he was in the ring wearing very large boxing gloves and another boy facing him, and when the bell rang the other one started hitting him. “Wow, that guy really hit me hard, but when the round was over, people started throwing coins at us and I took off my gloves and beat him to collect the nickels.”
One of the testimonies he was most shocked about was Julio César Chávez' confession when he fought Meldrick Taylor. He said: “I knew I was going to die and I even asked my corner to say goodbye to my sons on my behalf.” That was the night Chávez knocked out Taylor two seconds before the end of the fight. Also the great Muhamad Ali told him after his “Thrilla in Manila” fight against Joe Frazier, “That was the closest I have been to death,” as well as Sugar Ray Leonard after his first fight versus Duran in Montreal, “I had thoughts during the fight that made me believe I was going to die.” Boxing is dramatic, passionate and it is real.
It was in 1974 after the fight between “Mantequilla” Nápoles and Carlos Monzón when they handed them the bottles for the anti-doping exam, which had just been instituted as mandatory by the WBC worldwide. Monzón refused to do it because he said he couldn't urinate. After lots of arguments and insults, Monzón took the container and returned it, filled. Sulaimán flew back to Mexico City where he received the results of the anti-doping lab indicating that the liquid was champagne.
In the process of closing the Chávez fight at the Aztec Stadium, there was a difference between Don King and Mr. Emilio Díez Barroso of Televisa of $100,000, which they could not resolve after two days of controversies. It was then that José Sulaimán suggested they toss a coin for it. Both of them accepted and Don Emilio won. The rest is history. 136,274 thousand fans filled the Aztec Stadium.
We have learned in our family that the Sulaimáns must not show any emotions during bouts. We have been taught to be impartial and as proof of the difficulty this represents, an incredible thing happened in Thailand at the beginning of the 80s. Our beloved Doña Martha, accompanying our dad, was sitting in the first row, with Ministers and Generals of that country when, all of the sudden, Miguel Canto knocks the Thai boxer down and in an absolute silence, she stood up and screamed in joy before the astonished eyes of 30,000 Thai fans. Our dad, looked at her and kindly said, “Madam, keep quiet and sit down,” which, of course, she did and no one spoke to her the rest of that night. Eventually the Thai boxer won the fight by decision.
The fight between Roberto “Hands of Stone” Durán and “Sugar” Ray Leonard was the most important one in the world in 1980. A couple of days before the fight, while he was in his room, a uniformed Panamanian lieutenant showed up, was sent by General Torrijos, complaining of the fact that Sulaimán had appointed three European judges, and saying that these judges favored Leonard’s boxing style. He simply responded that they should trust the neutrality and honorability of the WBC, to which the lieutenant responded that “El General Torrijos is a great friend of his friends, but not as much of his enemies.” Our father kept quiet and held his position.
Muhamad Ali will always be the greatest for José Sulaimán, their lives have been intimately linked during and after boxing. After many years of suffering from the evident and sad Parkinson’s Syndrome that kept him from returning to the public light for any boxing event, he accepted to be appointed The King of Boxing in Cancún. Ali arrived in a wheelchair to the house where he was lodged. Our dad went out to greet him with great care due to his condition, and also to the fact that they hadn't seen each other in 15 years, Ali looked up when he heard our father’s voice and we witnessed one of the most magical moments ever through the wonderfully emotive smile from the King of Boxing.
There are still so many stories and anecdotes to tell, as well as so many new experiences to live. Once again, we wish to give special thanks to all those who have shown us their love and care for our father during these difficult times.
Until next week.