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Sulaiman adds late career offering to greatest misses compilation

Posted: Monday, August 1, 2011 | 08:25 AM

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World Boxing Council president Jose Sulaiman is in his twilight years, but that hasn't stopped him from engaging in arbitrary decisions that benefit favourite sons.

sulaiman-morales-584.jpgSeen in much younger days, Jose Sulaiman has given the thumbs up for Erik Morales to chase an imaginary world title in September (Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images)

World Boxing Clown Jose Sulaiman has been up to more antics recently, stripping Timothy Bradley of his 140-pound title last week.

The name Sulaiman has been synonymous with shenanigans in a 35-year Reign of Error as World Boxing Council president.

Bradley topped Devon Alexander in a battle of unbeatens in January, capturing the WBC belt in the process.

It's true that Bradley is now embroiled in a promotional dispute, has turned down a very generous offer to fight Amir Khan, and is probably moving up to welterweight in the hopes of chasing a Manny Pacquiao bout.

Sulaiman of course leaned heavily on those points in his rationale, but the fact remains, it's been a mere six months. Given that fighters regularly now compete just twice a year, the most polite thing you can say about the decision is that it's quite premature. Bradley at this point is well within the organization's own rules on these sorts of things.

This is really all about El Presidente giving Mexican countryman Erik Morales a shot at the "vacant" title on a prime piece of boxing real estate, the now annual September pay-per-view card timed to coincide with Mexican Independence Day. In this case, an undercard bout on the Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz card, which will likely heavily feature Mexican fighters. And of course, it's about collecting some more sanctioning fees earlier than expected (the alphabet soup organizations essentially extort fighters for the privilege of competing for their trinkets).

Morales, who lost his last fight, will take on Jorge Barrios of Argentina for a "vacant" title and the right for a dubious claim of winning titles in four different weight classes. It'll probably be a terrific fight given each figher's attributes, but it's not a championship bout.

Over the years, Sulaiman's dizzying crimes have often been hard to get a bead on, but many have fallen into one of two themes: performing a series of tricks in concert with the machinations of organ grinder Don King, and/or demonstrating favouritism towards fighters from his native Mexico.

In a weird bit of happenstance, the three most impactful non-boxers in the sport of the last four decades each turn 80 this year: Sulaiman, King, and Bob Arum.

Those boxing fans wishing Travis Bickle style that a real rain would come and wash the scum away have been thwarted thus far by their longevity.

And it's hard to feel too rosy about the future when it's Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions abetting Sulaiman this time around.

De La Hoya bills himself on Twitter as a 10-time champion in six weight classes. He is no such thing. Like Morales, he is a ring legend and a champion in multiple weight classes, but the numbers have been inflated by boxing's version of steroids, the sanctioning bodies that grow like fungus.

(Sulaiman said after his was originally published that Bradley is a "champion in recess" and has not been stripped. Fine. Then don't call the Morales-Barrios bout a title fight, but rather, an eliminator)

Anyways, this ruling has coincided with research spanning decades that I've been undertaking on other topics, so it seems fitting to remind or regale the uninitiated with a sampling of Sulaiman gems from the past.

1976: Well into 1976, Sulaiman strips Muhammad Ali of his 1975 World Boxing Council Boxer of the Year Award.

Why? Because Ali took part in a silly exhibition with Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki ... which took place in June 1976. Ali fought four times in 1975, including his harrowing, life-altering Manila win over Joe Frazier, but it evidently wasn't enough to offset how "embarrassed and disgusted at Ali's action in bringing boxing into disrepute" Sulaiman felt.

1978: Relative pro novice Leon Spinks scores a massive upset over Ali, and a rematch seems in order to determine whether it was a fluke. But just four weeks after the result, the WBC decides to strip Spinks, represented by Arum's Top Rank. The fight that is made for the vacant belt involves two King fighters, Larry Holmes and Ken Norton.

The Holmes-Norton fight turns out to be a classic, and the Easton Assasin proves a worthy champion, eventually beating both Ali and Spinks. Sulaiman has no problem stripping Holmes of the title in the mid-1980s, ostensibly for facing Marvis Frazier (not promoted by King) instead of Greg Page (King-promoted). But really, stripping Holmes was done because the heavyweight champion was finally tiring of King and seeking to exert his independence.

1982: Charged with illegal possesion of archaelogical objects and plotting to smuggle them out of Mexico for profit. Sulaiman says it's a misunderstanding, he actually has a keen interest in preserving treasured artifacts from his culture.

1983: Sulaiman does everything in his power to strip Bobby Chacon of his 130-pound title for facing Cornelius Boza-Edwards (a mandatory challenger by the organization's own rankings!) instead of King-promoted Hector Camacho. An outcry in the sport temporarily prevents this from happening, but just weeks after Chacon-Boza Edwards II, one of the most thrilling fights of the decade, Sulaiman gets his revenge. He declares that Chacon has broken nine organization "rules" without elaborating and questions the gritty veteran's "mental attitude" while stripping him of the belt.

1988: In the wake of Holmes coming out of retirement just to get drubbed by Mike Tyson, Sulaiman says he will recommend that boxers over the age of 36 not be allowed to fight for titles. While his heart may have been in the right place in terms of preventing long-term damage, it is a completely arbitrary, unscientific approach. It is also thankfully quickly forgotten, enabling the veteran likes of George Foreman and Bernard Hopkins to prosper in the future.

1990: In their most egregious collaboration, Sulaiman and King prove themselves fans of Groucho Marx and/or Richard Pryor, doing their own take on "Who you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?"

The dreadful duo (and the WBA, it must be noted) try to deny Buster Douglas his landmark upset win over Mike Tyson. They withhold recognition of Douglas as champ pending the outcome of a King protest over how long Douglas was on the canvas earlier in the fight. Witnessing a heist in progress, the outcry of the sports media proves too great, and the boxing power brokers back off.

Sulaiman doesn't stop there, however, repeatedly bending reality in the months to follow, including while testifying in court: "In the bottom of my heart I did not withdraw recognition."

1993: King-promoted Mexican Julio Cesar Chavez is summarily outboxed and outfought on the inside by Pernell Whitaker. Two WBC crony judges rule the fight a draw, thereby preserving Chavez's supposed unbeaten record (the ring legend also had a 1981 disqualification reversed in order to preserve that mark).

1998-2004: Payback's a ... Sulaiman gets hoisted by his own petard for his typical flip-flopping and propensity for determining championship bouts by fiat. The WBC decides to strip Roy Jones of his 175-pound title when the American contemplates leaving the division. Graciano Rocchigiani wins the vacant title, but Sulaiman declares him a non-champ weeks later when Jones has a change of heart and decides to stay in the division.

Rocchigiani sues Sulaiman and the WBC for damages, a years-long process that results in a multi-million dollar court ruling for the German fighter. The WBC files for bankruptcy, but most correctly believe it's a move made to avoid paying. The organization continues to function.

2007: Along with Whitaker, among others,  Sulaiman is inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y.

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