By José Sulaimán – On Sunday, December 5, I celebrated the 35th anniversary of my first election in Tunis, Africa, as president of the WBC, a fact for which I received my induction into the Guinness World Records during the celebration of the 48th annual WBC convention held in Cancun, Mexico.
I had originally flown to the WBC convention in 1975 with my decision to step down from boxing to devote much-needed time to my several businesses and to my family. However, due to the fact that there were four different candidates with discordant views and interests, and the fact that the 21 nations affiliated with the WBC at the time were at the point of leaving the organization if any of them was elected, the attendants turned to look for the ham in the sandwich – me – who had been secretary general for four years that were devoted to the service of the affiliated confederations.
Compared to the over 800 attendants to our last convention, only about 30 people attended our 11th annual convention in Tunis from December 1-5, 1975, when my friend and mentor Professor Ramon G. Velazquez, had been the president for the past four years. Some of the members that appear in a photo taken outside of the site airport, plus others that I remember are:
Taieb Houichi, Tunisia; Piero Pini, Italy; Antonio Sciarra, Italy; Coronel Hassine Hamouda, Tunisia; Ray Clarke, Great Britain; Raymond Baldeyrou, France; Oscar Aquino Vargas, Paraguay; Albert Faccenda, Belgium; Bob Shields, Nevada, USA; Bob Turley, California, USA; Fernand Leclerc, France; Ramon G. Velázquez, Mexico; Jim Deskin, Nevada, USA; Saburo Arashida, Japan; Rafael Genatios, Venezuela; Mr. Suzuki, Japan; Glicerio Matei, Brazil; Armando Sánchez, Brazil; Ignacio Amador de la Peña, Colombia; Margaret Balvé, scry. Mexico; José Sulaimán, México; Ben Hamida, Tunisia; plus the simultaneous translators and press people from Tunis and Paris.
Those years were a different world, not only in boxing, that had remained one century behind as a savage, legalized bloody and violent sport. We had men walk on the moon; the Berlin wall being destroyed; the victory over apartheid in South Africa; countless medicines being developed for the benefit and life of human beings; color TV was developed; and so many other happenings that changed the world, while in boxing we still had about 20 deaths in the ring every year, as reported by the news papers, and there was absolutely no reciprocity, unity, or mutual respect among boxing authorities.
During my election, my childhood and early youth came to my mind, when I felt the sadness of injustice, the absolute lack of protection for the boxers and no safety; the abuse over boxers who used to make only peanuts and who received no help whatsoever even to cure their injuries in the ring.
I was a very close friend of a young boxer from Monterrey, Kid González, who once fought and was down three times, with his rival down four times, both with cuts on their faces, in a small bull ring of Ciudad Valles, and the referee did nothing while the local commissioner was representing the doctor, who did not show up for the promotion. When I asked him why in the world did he continue the fight, when there were no more than 150 fans and he made only $100.00 pesos (20 dollars at the time), he told me, “When the lights of the arena are out, and only those in the ring remain and after the sound of the bell, the only thing that I have in my mind and my heart is my dignity, my pride, and the will to win over anything that might happen.” What a lesson I did learn, one that I have kept and lead all of my life in boxing.
During my election, I accepted it with the condition that the WBC would lead the world of boxing with safety as the backbone of the institution, and the same for equality in opportunities for all without regard to race, nationality or religion.
35 long years have gone by, and no more than three or four fatal accidents are reported annually, compared to the 20 or more of the past. Apartheid was defeated, and countless measures passed in benefit of boxing and boxers, as well as the recognition and support of promoters without distinction. Countless rules have been implemented for justice and prime performances by those that have a responsibility in boxing, thanks to the unwavering unity and perseverance of a great number of boxing commissioners of the world within the World Boxing Council, all of whom I am so very proud. 35 years that have flown faster than the wind and will never come back, my whole youth and more than half of my life devoted to the sport of my life, so as many other colleagues have done! …… so be it!
Changing the subject, this was a sad week end for me, contrary to my feelings for my election anniversary, when Henrietta King passed away. Henrietta, a 50-year companion in marriage to Don King, was a solid basis where the world traveler famous promoter stood in his life to become one of the absolute best, if not the best, promoter in the whole 300 years of documented boxing in the world. He has promoted over 600 world title bouts, and he has had Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Larry Holmes, Roberto Durán, Julio César Chávez, and Alexis Argüello, to mention only a few. Henrietta was behind him, and may God have her resting in everlasting peace and bring prompt resignation to all the family in such a deep sorrow.
I also lost one of my dearest and closest friends ever, since I was a kid, Javier González Viñas, to whom I render a tribute from the bottom of my heart, with my deepest appreciation for the friendship that he always gave me.
Thanks to you for your time, and also for the friendship, consideration, patience, and respect that you all have given me during my tenure as president of the WBC.