01.06.07 – By Edward Thangarajah: When the International Boxing Hall of Fame decided to induct Dr. Jose Sulaiman this year, I said that they were 15 years behind time. I told my boxing friends and scribes that they should have done it when Dr. Sulaiman stood boldly and took many decisions which helped promote and foster the magnificent poor man’s sport of boxing.
The dozens of fighters from all walks of life, from shoeshine boys to those who used to wander in the streets, engaged in crime and unhappy episodes — who are leading happy lives owe everything to GOD and to his able lieutenant on earth — the man whom he handpicked to serve him on earth, that’s Dr. Jose Sulaiman.
I came to know about this great, outstanding character, whom I revere and respect more than my own brothers, in 1981, when Seoul staged the WBC Convention. Boxing in Thailand was dead. Brave and talented fighters were trampled upon and treated like dirt. Promoters had sold almost everything they possessed, including gymnasiums and the talented fighters they had, because they didn’t have money to look after them.
It was then the late Sahasombhop Srisomvongse along with two of us, went to Seoul to meet with Dr. Jose Sulaiman and to expose the putrid state of boxing in Thailand, the sad and sordid state that this great boxing loving country was facing.
Seoul was facing a nightly curfew and we were billeted at the Sheraton Walker Hill Hotel while the WBC meeting was taking place at the Schilla Hotel. I rang up Dr. Sulaiman and told him that we have come all the way from Bangkok to meet him. He didn’t know who I was and who my other friends were. But he warmly invited us to breakfast the following morning.
On the next day he told us that a Thai delegation had gone to attend the WBC Convention, but had left without even attending the Opening Ceremony. He spoke to us very freely and openly. It was then I made out that he was my man and was an ideal sports leader.
That was the beginning of the long road to friendship we have enjoyed since then.
He was at that time in two minds, whether to go to Manila on a short holiday, or visit Bangkok. We invited him to Bangkok. He accepted the invitation but on one condition that he pay for his hotel stay at the Oriental Hotel and all other expenses he had to incur.
During his stay, he met with many boxers who were not doing well in life and feted them to lunches and dinners. He advised those who wanted to help lift boxing in Thailand, saying he is prepared to support them in every way.
Dr. Sulaiman’s visit to Bangkok was a God-send, because boxing loving Thailand was on the verge of losing everything connected with the professional aspect of the sport. Matchmakers from elsewhere took Thai promoters and managers for a ride. They had to sell, mortgage and sacrifice everything they had in order to help keep the sport alive.
The late Khun Sahasombhop found that he had to create a world champion, in order to bring boxing back. He had invited leaders from other organizations through the help of match-makers from elsewhere but they took him for a ride. He lost a fortune, travelling from country to meet with the leaders of other organizations.
However, there was only one leader who was sincere and honest and that was Dr. Jose Sulaiman. He asked this writer to recommend fighters who were strong enough to be ranked and to work for the cause of the WBC. He appointed this writer to look after the interest of the WBC and boxing in the Kingdom.
That was the beginning of the sunshine filled days for the sport. Thailand enjoyed the glow of creating ten world champions, the late Payao Poontarat, Sot Chitalada, Napa Kiatwanchai, Samart Payakarun, Muengchai Kittikasem, Chatchai Sassakul, Saman Sorjaturong, Medgern Singsurat, Veeraphol Nakhonluang and Pongsaklek Wonjongkam. 10 WBC International champions and six WBC Youth champions.
The glorious history for boxing made Thailand flourish in the sport.
This little history of the revival of boxing won’t be complete without mentioning the name of one man, Akihiko Honda, who helped Thailand.
The late Sahasombhop would have died a pauper, having mortgaged and sold the properties he had, if not for this magnanimous, philanthropic boxing entrepreneur and developer.
Here again, it was Dr. Sulaiman who introduced Mr. Honda to the late Sahasombhop. They were little known to each other, but Dr. Sulaiman brought them together.
Yes, Boxing in Thailand and elsewhere in the world would never have flourished if not for Dr. Sulaiman. He was truly the MR.BOXING of the world. He was unassuming and was always a fighter. When boxers ducked commitments, when officials acted insincerely and unfairly, he stood up against them. He stood up for righteousness and defended them. He supported the just, the feeble and the weak. That’s why this great savior of boxing must be honored and respected for years to come. He is worthy of hundreds of honors which could be awarded for his service for the sport and for humanity.