By James Blears
It`s hard to contemplate let alone grasp that it`s been eight years since Jose Sulaiman passed away aged eighty two, such was his life force.
Time involves so many variables. The further you go, the more it seems to speed up. Like the time machine of HG Wells. The elderly sometimes reflect that the days pass slowly and the years pass quickly.
This is the second year that Bishop Georges Abiyunes is holding a virtual Mass, to commemorate and celebrate Don Jose`s life plus multitude of achievements, which forever changed the face of Boxing.
Pre-pandemic, the ceremony was held in the magnificent Old Basilica de Guadalupe. People well wrapped in the pews, on a cold mid -January morning, standing, sitting and standing again, singing and listening to the sermon, with bright sunlight streaming in, via the open heavy oak doors. A golden and evergreen opportunity for the Boxing World and especially the WBC Family, to reflect upon Don Jose`s life, and afterwards to congregate and chat. As a man who was a maestro in communication and a person who cherished friendship, he would have so liked that.
In these eight years, the World of Boxing has moved with the times. Interesting to speculate how Don Jose would have considered its unfolding events.
Don Jose was one of the very few, who`d early on spotted and identified the tremendous ability and extraordinary potential of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. It was Don Jose who gave him his first title opportunity. Not too dissimilar to what he`d done a generation earlier with Julio Cesar Chavez. To the sniping Canelo critics, who questioned his judgment, Don Jose smiled, replying he was only drawing on more than six decades of experience in the sport, to identify a winner, who`d go on to become a superstar. And so it was.
The ability to adapt was also a strength. Initially, Don Jose wasn`t keen on the concept of women swopping punches in the ring. But he came to realize and accept that women have just as much right to participate in boxing, and he championed their cause, including initiating the WBC`s Women Convention.
In the broad spectrum of boxing, the word unification, tended to irritate Don Jose. He used to reason that the WBC Champion was the greatest in the sport, so there was no need for him or her to fight another boxer from another organization.
But more recently the Presidents of the big four have met and discussed the situation. Superb fights between great champions of the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO, have taken place. This simplifies identification, in the quest for the overall divisional champion. Seeing is believing and I`m convinced Don Jose as a pragmatic man, would have identified, accepted and acknowledged this prevailing logic.
I do think Don Jose would have been deeply disappointed about the aggression and hair trigger temper tantrum incidents which are increasingly flaring at weigh ins. There have always been isolated incidents with testosterone simmering, bubbling, babbling and boiling over into bile fuelled scalding rage, but this is becoming commonplace. It`s not helped by standing the two protagonists face to face, with hardly any breathing space, only inches apart for a seeming age. It`s willing as well as asking for trouble, to well up and then erupt.
If not checked and tempered with appropriate rules, it`s only a matter of time before one of the brawling boxers suffers a significantly serious career threatening injury. An eye for an eye, is a Cyclops philosophy!
Don Jose himself was very seriously injured during an altercation prior to the Lewis Vs Tyson fight. The residual consequences affected him for the rest of his life. Sportsmanship and decency are not the old fashioned relics of a bygone era. So the saying goes: Rugby is a game of hooligans played by gentlemen. Soccer is a game of gentlemen played by hooligans. Boxing is the hardest sport of them all and its participants should behave like men! Why not? Women boxers invariably behave far better, and with the decency as well as decorum of ladies!
A man who was a dynamo of success in everything he set his hand to, Don Jose worried and fretted about the bleak fate of old retired boxers: “Hauntingly talking to walls, flinching and ducking from imaginary blows in a twilight world of their own. The establishment of the WBC Jose Sulaiman Boxers Fund helped via the Hublot Watches auctions and donations, independently administered by the Nevada Community Foundation, is a well administered and caring lifeline of help to those retired boxers, who`ve fallen on hard times, and so need a helping hand.
Like so many others, I believed and I was convinced that Don Jose was indestructible. I was sure that he`d match and surpass the age of ninety nine, that his Father Elias had reached. Yet, it was not to be and his death shocked everyone proud to be counted as his friends. Yet as Hector Sulaiman said: “He was more than a man, and this was more than life.” It was three lives packed into one. Virtually or in person Jose Sulaiman will always be remembered and admired.
Jose Sulaiman`s greatest achievement was instilling the love of Boxing into his youngest son Mauricio, who`s continuing the work, as a life vocation. The legacy is there, the work continues and the sport is thriving.
Rest in Peace Dear Friend.