Special Gathering with WBC Family & Champs
“A man’s life is not measured in years but in the deeds he does, the lives he’s touched, and the people he serves.” – Jill Diamond, World Boxing Council
Heartfelt words to describe the famed World Boxing Council (WBC) President Don Jose Sulaiman, who passed away on January 16 of this year.
Memories and tributes continue months after the boxing world lost this WBC leader who was also an amateur boxer, trainer, promoter, referee and judge. The Hall of Famer leaves behind a legacy through his son Mauricio Sulaiman (the current WBC President). On Wednesday, a fitting tribute was held at the W Hotel in Los Angeles for the Sulaiman family, close friends, UCLA doctors and WBC champs. This intimate gathering to “Celebrate the Life and Legacy of Don Jose Sulaiman” was hosted by UCLA Department of Neurosurgery, the UCLA Health System and the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center.
Here is my special report and exclusive photos from the luncheon attended by some of boxing’s biggest luminaries.
In attendance were WBC Champs Oscar De La Hoya, Sugar Ray Leonard, Carlos Palomino, Israel Vazquez, Gabriel Ruelas and Leo Santa Cruz (who will be fighting on the Mayweather-Maidana undercard), the WBC, NABF and WBC Cares’ Jill Diamond, Rudy Tellez, Rex Walker, boxing promoters Tom Loeffler (K2 Promotions) and Dan Goossen (Goossen Promotions), ring official Raul Caiz Sr., glove titan Grant Elvis Phillips (Grant Boxing Gloves) and his son Elliott Phillips, Hollywood actor Holt McCallany, two sons of boxing royalty (George Foreman Jr. and George Foreman), Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, UCLA’s Porcha Dodson, the Supreme Boxing Team, the California State Athletic Commission’s Dr. Paul Wallace and more.
Mauricio Sulaiman was also joined by his wife Christiane and their children, his brothers, nephews and other family members traveling from Mexico. Don Jose was husband to Martha, father to six children and fourteen grandchildren.
There was a slide presentation showing highlights of Don Jose’s life and career (set to the classic “My Way” by Frank Sinatra) and moving speeches by Oscar De La Hoya and Sugar Ray Leonard. The champs’ emotional words moved the crowd and were a true testament to the respect and love for the WBC icon.
Carlos Palomino told he how proud he was to be the first Mexican WBC welterweight champ. He deemed early on as one of Jose’s favorite champs and as Oscar De La Hoya told the attendees in a humorous anecdote, “Jose made you feel like you were his very favorite champ; he told everyone that and we all believed it!” But as the family commented, these prizefighters were all Jose’s favorite champs; he treated them like sons.
The “Golden Boy” also said at the mic: “I am humbled to speak here. Jose was a special man who was genuinely appreciative of the sport of boxing.”
Sugar Ray Leonard echoed these sentiments during his turn on stage. “Jose was a very caring man who loved his family,” Leonard stated, “and really cared about boxing.” He then went on to share a story about a time in 1986 when Ray decide to come out of retirement to face Marvin Hagler for the WBC Middleweight title (which Leonard won in 1987). Ray spoke of how not many believed in him but Sulaiman did.
The WBC and Jose Sulaiman had been a part of boxing history for decades and the huge stable of WBC champs will never forget him.
Also on the podium were UCLA’s Dr. David Feinberg, Dr. Gerald Finerman, Dr. Neil Martin and Dr. David Hovda, who all spoke of Jose Sulaiman’s commitment and dedication to improving the health of prizefighters. Beginning in 1983 and continuing over the years, the WBC has donated a million dollars for medical research on brain injuries. There has also been WBC medical implementations such as 12 rounds (from 15 rounds), the “SPAR” program, mandatory yearly exams, mandatory resting periods and exams after knockouts, etc.
Mauricio told the small VIP crowd how his beloved father spent three and a half months in ICU and how the Sulaiman family were treated so well by all of the medical staff. He showed his appreciation by awarding green-and-gold WBC medallions to the dedicated and caring doctors the family has come to know through the sad passing of Don Jose.
And Mauricio vows to continue his papa’s legacy in boxing and beyond. Jose Sulaiman was not just a boxing figurehead, he was also a generous philanthropist and nonprofit organization leader.
“My life begins today,” Mauricio told the intimate audience of approximately 70 guests. “I will proudly continue my dad’s passion for boxing. And I thank you with gratitude for all the love and caring moments for my father before, during and today.”
It was a first-class affair with a pound-for-pound group of WBC Champs and special guests honoring the life and legacy of Don Jose Sulaiman.
Photos by Michele Chong
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