We Be Crooks

By Matt McGrain on January 29, 2014
We Be Crooks
Don King, the master, walked upon the water when it came to Jose Sulaiman and the WBC.

The passing of Jose Sulaiman, the lapdog of Don King and the man who has run the WBC for the past two-hundred years was a terrible tragedy for his family. He was a legitimate patriarch and those are the hardest losses to endure. 

In the wider world, the world of boxing, we awaited the new era. The WBC has become a byword for corruption, the acronym re-designated in some corners, “We Be Crooks” and there has been a hope, and I say this in recognition that it will be regarded by some as being in poor taste, that the passing of the man who has rode a boxing rankings organization like it was his personal pony, might result in that organization becoming something more akin to what it claims to be; an entity that rates and organizes rather than bleeds for cash.

It is a well-known fact that the WBC collects fees from fighters which compete for its various titles, including the silver title, the diamond title, the world title and a huge swath of regional, interim and continental titles. It is also a well-known fact that the WBC does pretty much whatever it likes in the name of maximizing its exposure and its income, for example, in bending over backwards to entertain Roy Jones and the sizeable change of heart he had regarding his WBC light-heavyweight title in 1998. Jones took the reasoned step of relinquishing the tarnished trinket in favor of something, anything, more wholesome, so the WBC did what it did best and organized a new championship decider, allowing it to collect fees from both combatants and announce a new fee earning “champion.” The totally unqualified men it decided to approach for this honor were #7 Ring ranked light-heavyweight Graciano Rocchigiani and #9 ranked Ring contender Michael Nunn. Nunn had only fought at 175 lbs. once in the past two and a half years, and not at all in the previous twelve months; Rocchigiani, meanwhile, had. His last four fights had all been at 175 lbs. His record was 2-2.

Let’s just be clear – that is utterly pitiful. Scrabbling around in the dirt for money, the WBC lit upon two men who were woefully underqualified to fight for a title and made the fight. Nobody, to my knowledge, tried to stop them. Rocchigiani won a split decision. He was named the new WBC champion. Jones then decided he wanted his championship back. They gave it to him. The WBC, pathetically, would go on to claim that their naming Rocchigiani a champion in their literature was a typo.

Rocchigiani successfully sued the WBC. Probably not as miserable or cancerous to boxing as the WBA it was nevertheless balm to every true lover of the sport when the WBC teetered on bankruptcy and liquidation. At the last minute, Rocchigiani agreed terms, the details of which have never been made public to my knowledge.

As a company, the WBC has always been a constriction of personal relationships, none more challenging than that of Sulaiman, the lapdog, and Don King, the master. King’s boxers walked upon the water when it came to the WBC.  Whether it was Julio Cesar Chavez’s inexplicable draw with Pernell Whitaker in 1993 or the same fighter’s mandatory status at 140 lbs. outrunning his making that weight by months, King’s babies were nursed at the teat. When Tszyu knocked out Chavez in summer of 2000, Chavez hadn’t made 140 since 1998 and had not won a light-welterweight contest since 1995 – but the WBC had made him mandatory.

When Mike Tyson lost to Buster Douglas, the WBC did their very best to withhold recognition of the result; when Tyson emerged from prison after four years in prison for rape, he was mysteriously installed as the #1 contender for the organization’s heavyweight title.

In short it was an utter and an unmitigated disaster for boxing, consistently and inarguably. Hopes that this might have stopped were dashed this week when Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was installed as the WBC’s #1 contender at 168 lbs. 

Junior has never – ever – made 168 lbs. for a professional fight. The WBC has named him the most qualified challenger to their champion Sakio Bika – himself only the champion because the WBC unjustly stripped true champion Andre Ward with no real cause or justification – without his ever having lifted his hands in anger at the weight. In his two previous fights he had the shit kicked out of him by both Sergio Martinez and Brian Vera, but was given a gift decision over Vera. He is grotesquely underqualified, just like pa was to challenge Tszyu.

In short, it is the latest in a long line of bad jokes told by an organization that takes money from fighters and oxygen from a sport that many feel is on life support.

Some say that it does not matter. If you are one of those people, consider this – the WBC decides which fights you watch on television.

And they pick those fights based on personal relationships, not sporting excellence.

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  1. nicolas 03:56am, 01/31/2014

    It is too bad that Graciano Rocchigiani i could not have taken the high road and made the WBC go bankrupt, but from what I have heard about him he may not be that good a character himself. I have always wondered though in other countries, how the name of Jose Sulaiman and the WBC are thought of. I suspect in Mexico Sulaiman was treated in the media with great reverence. When there was only the WBA and WBC, it did not seem such a big problem in having those two organizations, as often there were unification fights. Frazier-Ellis, Foster-Roldan, Monzon-Valdez, Leonard Hearns, Duran -Dejesus, even the ten round fight in the Bantamweight division between Zarate-Zamorra, but the coming of the IBF, and finally WBO really soured the pot, even if the IBF I think was good for Australia and Indonesia.

  2. Ted 02:16pm, 01/30/2014


  3. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 11:58am, 01/30/2014

    Ted Sares-Life expectancy tables show that you are good til 86 and probably beyond….your best writing years are probably ahead of you….way to soon to throw in the towel.

  4. Jim Crue 07:24am, 01/30/2014

    Good writing Matt,
    but you were too kind I think. Ray Leonard, a great fighter by the way, was closely connected to the WBC hence the win over Hager.The list goes on and on and on and on. His comrades in Texas, yes we know who, were complicit in recent crooked stuff. There is not enough space on the internet to expose all the crooked dealing the WBC has done.

  5. Pete The Sneak 06:07am, 01/30/2014

    Matt, absolutely great and spot on write up about Sulaiman and the WBC. Usually, when someone passes you always see and hear all the salutations and commentary about what a wonderful and good person the individual was and so on and so forth. Now, Sulaiman may have very well been a good person to his loved ones and friends (I didn’t know him personally), but I’ve been waiting for someone to take him to task since his passing for using the WBC over the years as his (and Don King’s) personal pay toilet. Some of those heartfelt and ‘Great Boxing man’ articles I’ve been reading (from supposedly knowledgeable Boxing scribes) since Sulaiman died has sickened me. I vividly remember that Rocchigiani/Nunn/Jones debacle and yes, I was one of those who was rooting hard for Graciano to totally clean out Sulaiman/WBC and wipe (toilet reference again) them out. The first few paragraphs of your story shows that you most certainly feel for the family of Jose and how hard it is to lose a loved one, and rightfully so. But you didn’t go into touchy/feely ‘Great man’ mode and you called him out for what he was. I won’t use those adjectives here (as I do respect), but his body of work speaks for itself if. Look it up. Thank you sir…Peace.

  6. Mike Casey 05:18am, 01/30/2014

    Excellent news, Clarence. Good for old Nick - as opposed to Old Nick.

  7. Clarence George 05:16am, 01/30/2014

    I have it on good authority, Mike (from the patron saint of boxing, St. Nicholas himself)...not silver, but pyrite.

  8. Mike Casey 04:53am, 01/30/2014

    I do hope that God hasn’t appointed Sulaiman the Silver champion of Heaven.

  9. NYIrish 04:45am, 01/30/2014

    Conjugation of the verb to be; he be she be we be!

  10. Thresher 08:30pm, 01/29/2014


  11. Thresher 08:29pm, 01/29/2014

    Tex, the link between the IBHOF and the BWAA and Tom Hauser’s influence on the Application Committee makes the smell of a sewer seem sweet. No one has the guts to expose this crap but as I near the twilight of my writing (maybe another year), I shall go after these scoundrels after every opportunity. We talk about complicity of the fans and I get that, but it’s time that we writers start calling this stuff out. Matt has done this here. The conflicts, the payoffs, the buffet diving, credential-seeking sycophants who grovel for attention from the likes of Hauser and company make me want to puke.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Atf4POJaBI

    There,, I feel much better now.

  12. Tex Hassler 08:19pm, 01/29/2014

    When Jose Sulaiman can get into the Hall of Fame and Tony DeMarco who should be in there cannot, this about sums up the ultimate shame of modern boxing.

  13. Ted 06:46pm, 01/29/2014

    The BWAA is a total joke and if it didn’t have the wherewithal to influence who goes into the IBHOF, it would dry up and blow away.

  14. Clarence George 06:31pm, 01/29/2014

    Plenty of blame to go around.  The BWAA, for instance, just named Mayweather Fighter of the Year.  He may be the best of his generation, but what does that have to do with 2013?  He didn’t fight 363 of that year’s 365 days.  And the two fights he did have were boring and their outcomes predictable.

    I thought of writing this up, but I probably won’t—just the idea fills me with inertia.  And the fact that I’m currently stuffed with Schweinshaxe really doesn’t help matters any.

  15. EBM 03:25pm, 01/29/2014

    Agreed. Those belts are great advertisement for the networks as well. TV money drives the big fights- they don’t happen without it. Very often the big name fighters get a package deal for fights on the Network- usually one easy, one so so, and then the tough one- it is that third one when usually the bullshit hits the fan about making the fight- we are going to see it again now- Adonis, and not critical of him- hell of a year, is not fighting Kovalev next- he is getting a package- we may see Kovalev in the fall ( we shall see)- why isn’t Kovalev next up on the plate- go ask HBO please and thanks- you will get the tried and true- want to build the fight up- THEY build these fights- GGG was not a big draw until they took him under wing- Sergio fought Macklin in the studio ( hell I am a geezer- I still call it the Felt Forum!!)- If the network would take a stand and simply not give these deals- ie fight whoever you want but when you are ready to fight GGG THEN we will put it on - when you’re ready ( Stevenson) to fight Kovalev THEN we will spend our money- Matt you and I both know these Champs are making shit money without TV money- HBO, and less Showtime of late, take this approach, it seems to me, that they are in the lesser of bargaining position- THEY ARE THE FOLKS WITH THE MONEY, just say no until these “Champions” take on the logical and real numero uno contender- look at as well a guy like Peter Quillin- a fine talent whistling in the wind of an empty gym. Bute vs Pascal- nah, we should have had Pascal in with Kovalev or Stevenson- you don’t think Kovalev would have jumped in that ring that night for 2 Million hee hee- go ask Kathy Duva that one and watch her pretty smile!!! Good stuff Matt- PS was Graciano R the guy that darn near bankrupt the WBC by bringing his lawsuit- now there is a guy with ball to buck the system!!! PS2 On Ward- back in the day of not too long ago there was no Super Middleweight- and I think Andre fought some scraps amateur as a Light Heavy ( I may be wrong on that- gotta check)- same deal- step on up Andre- step on up HBO or just say no- Stevenson, Kovalev, and force GGG with Sergio and then I suspect Tom L and company will gladly fight Ward at a catch weight (GGG aint that big a guy by the by) What do we think would happen if HBO subs Sergio and puts GGG against Cotto- call the police- criminal intent- all in good fun Sir and passionate love of the sport- keep em coming and by all means tell me to shut up whenever!!!!

  16. Matt McGrain 03:06pm, 01/29/2014

    Good post El B.  Your point about fans being complicit is well made.  I made this point forcefully after Pac-Bradley I - buy the rematch, you are complicit in this nonsense here.  I think that bares repeating.

    But I disagree with you sir, respectfully of course, over the role of HBO in the nonsense.  I accept that HBO has its favourites and that this leads it to make mistakes, but consider, if you will, what would happen if the WBC continued to recognise Ward as champion and insisted that he make a fight with #2 Carl Froch.  Imagine that.  Now HBO/Showtime aren’t missing that one.  Or Huck-Hernandez, or Martinez-Golovkin etc etc.  Imagine a ranking organisation bringing together the best instead of the best connected, and stripping champions who refused to fight those fights instead of legitimising different fights, which are not as good??  Then you just don’t have the oxygen for pet projects.

  17. El Bastardo Magnifico 02:53pm, 01/29/2014

    Well done. My own thought is complicity deserving more- The WBC TRIES and more often than not succeeds in what we watch but in truth what we watch on TV is not decided in end result by anything other than the TV Network-(The WBC does not decide what we watch although they play a hand_ and they, the Network are in the entertainment, how many subscribes, how many buy business. Case in point- in all likelihood we will see Sergio Martinez defend his WBC belt in June against truly a warrior but one that has never fought as a Middle and who’s most recent few years of record does not even remotely accord him as the correct choice to fight a Champion who has not defended his title in close to a year. HBO will put that fight on and it will be a huge view success but rest assured without HBO money that fight is not even remotely going to happen- ain’t enough seats in the Garden at 1000 bucks a head to make that and a whole lot of then sum. I am afraid Matt that the real culprit would be HBO but then again they are putting on a fight, that by the rules of ranking, should not take place but is great business- hats off to them. No the real culprit I suspect is you and me and a host of die hard boxing fans. We decide which fights go on TV and sure enough, as example, come June we will tune into Sergio vs Cotto when in fact we should simply boycott it and demand Sergio vs Golovkin. Even more shameful to the point is that Sergio tells us this is easy pickings and it is over in five. I will be watching but of course. Shame on me.

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