By José Sulaimán
Important Appointment at the O.R.
On Tuesday, I undergo major surgery. I’ll face it with the tranquility that instills confidence in my doctors, and I have faith in God our Lord and the Virgin of Guadalupe. I am calmed in peace.
I hope not to bore you with my thoughts, but I have wanted to express them. I keep thinking I’m a child of destiny, destiny that brings us opportunities that are taken by those who know how to choose them.
My Father traveled in 1921, aged 21, from Lebanon to Boston, to join his parents, who left him in Lebanon when he was three years old. But he changed his ticket to travel on the same ship that would take them to America with friends and relatives. He landed in Veracruz and there he learned that it was Mexico, not the United States, which still echoed from the gunfire of the Mexican Revolution. He was unable to go to the north country and stayed in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, where he had gone to seek his visa.
My mother, born in Victoria, returned to Syria, the homeland of her parents, when she was a year old. But aged 12, she embarked with her mother back to Mexico from Lattequie, Syria. However, they were quarantined in Italy by the health authorities because a cousin contracted a contagious disease. The boat that was supposed to originally take them had sunk. A family illness saved them. Later, when my grandmother was convinced to continue their journey by sea, they returned to Mexico.
My Parents met in Victoria. Elijah, my dad, and my mother, Wasila, married and she gave birth to my brother Hector, my sister Nelly, and me.
Destiny, to whom I owe everything, brought me to boxing since childhood, because we had no money for entry to a fight, and through the trepidation of asking my father. This got me placed right into a boxing bout, because they lacked a child. I was about 10 or 11. I enjoyed boxing, but I was not such a good fighter. My nose and jaw were fractured when I was 15 or 16 years old and I decided to hang up my gloves.
But I never stopped being a boxing commissioner. From errand person, assistant, secretary, judge, referee, ring announcer, manager, and even promoter of evenings for charities. I climbed the stages of the sport, one by one without missing a rung. Commissioner – local, state, national, international – up to the position where I have been for almost 38 years. This is based on my deep love and commitment to boxing, and without sponsors.
A lifetime! I want to thank all the great men of the world, my colleagues from all continents in our beloved World Boxing Council.
I played baseball for many year – it was also my passion. I was even part of the national team for the first Pan American Games. I had the honor of playing in winter professional leagues, against Angel Castro, Jesus Cochihuila Valenzuela, Hector Leal, Tomas Arroyo, and many more unknown to the younger generation. I was hired by the Boston Braves, then Milwaukee and Atlanta. But again fate did its job. A double fracture of the tibia and fibula in my right leg obliged me to retire from baseball when I was still very young – about 24 years old.
Boxing in my early years in the WBC was a legalized savagery. There was no organization, and boxing was a jungle in which all looked the way they wanted. The boxer who sought a title had to go to the United States to surrender to the monopoly and commit for life. Now they do almost the same, but they do it for money, fame, and also in a monopoly disguised by television.
The WBC was formed by 19 countries, and medical care was just weigh-in, blood pressure, heart rate, open your mouth and … God bless! Referees permitted everything, even kicking! They were around 20 fatal accidents in rings around the world annually, and so many boxers ended up with cauliflower ears and talking to the walls.
Almost every day I was going to bed encouraged by solving a big problem, but the very next day I awoke with a worse one! Everything can happen in this sport. Ingratitude, also betrayal … and often. Abuse, exploitation, arrogance from the mediocre who think they’re Superman’s father (meaning they think they’re very powerful), and hey, why follow?
But boxing is the champion of sports. When the bell rings, alone together, two athletes are seeking victory without having a second’s rest until the bell rings for the end of the round. Then at the conclusion of the fight, the two valiant contenders go to center of the ring for a mutual hug of respect, acknowledging the virtues of worthy rivalry. HUG should be the example for all social classes – something not seen in this world – where there are so many rivers of blood and political feuds which set nations aside.
The boxer is the man I admire, because jumping from poverty, lack of education and culture, he/she becomes an idol to the humblest person, and to Presidents. It shows us all that team unity and dedication plus perseverance can bring you to glory.
I think of all boxers as my sons… even those who hurt us mercilessly.
But there are many good men. Promoters without the boxer would not possess the where and how to compete. And the whole family in this industry that is committed to the sport they so love.
With them we will always be.
And now, I have an appointment with the surgeon…
Thank you very much and, I hope, until next Sunday.
By José Sulaimán