Latest 'Hook to the Liver' from WBC President Jose Sulaiman
Fight Network Staff / December 12, 2012 - 12:18pm
HOOK TO THE LIVER
By José Sulaimán
Muhammad Ali, The Greatest of the Greatest
We just said goodbye to the more than 1,500 attendants to the 50th anniversary convention of the WBC, celebrated in the paradisiacal island of Cancun, with the great support of the Governor of the State, Roberto Borge, who received a standing ovation for having the perception of the good image that it would produce for his beloved state. It appeared in the newspapers and on radio and television all over the world. We received notes from Moscow, Italy, Japan, Argentina, South Africa, and all over where the news of the convention - especially of Muhammad Ali - were published.
It was Saturday, December 1, when Muhammad Ali, he greatest champion of all time, was landing in a private plane, while at the same time the new president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, was taking charge of the Mexican Republic. It felt as if Ali was coming to welcome who we believe that is the man that will pull Mexico out of its present moment to take it back as one of the important countries of the world.
It was 15 years since the last time that I had seen Muhammad Ali. We came to have a very close and dear friendship. He came more than seven times to visit me in Mexico, twice to support my reelections in 1980 and 1988. He visited the the land of Mexican Indians, where my father's home was, for a charitable boxing event. He came with Lonny, who later became his wife and who has given her life to be with him. Also, when I intended, for my love for Ali, to have Dr. Madrazo, now a great surgeon in the USA, and Dr. Drucker, who had found a surgery to correct Parkinson's Disease, which never happened. I had heard its devastating effects on Ali and I saw him a couple of times on TV, and once he made me drop a couple of tears of pride when he lit the Olympic flame. I doubted if he would recognise me on his visit to our convention in Cancún. I was also a little impacted on how I would see him. 15 years are too many to predict the changes in life.
I was one of the multitude that saw him beat Sonny Liston and had seen several of his prior fights. My friendship started, however, when I represented the WBC for the first time back in 1971, when he fought Joe Frazier for the first time at the Madison Square Garden in New York. I have never forgotten when I was at the scale waiting for both fighters. With Muhammad Ali coming from a dark corner of the theatre where the scale was, dressed with an all white robe and looking like an ebony God. Bundini who was my dear friend walked in with him.
His return to boxing was after his victory in the courts of law for not joining the Army for the Vietnam war. He had lost his kingdom when all of the commissions and the WBA stripped him of his title, which the WBC NEVER DID. He could never fight outside of his country as his passport was withdrawn. His victory was a message to the poor of the world to fight for their principles and never give up. He became the most adored and respected hero of all the world. Ali was forceed to be inactive for more than three years when he was only 25 years old - the very best of a human being. What an infamy!! The WBC, after his return, was with him in every single step in his career including the Rumble in the Jungle and the Thrilla in Manila.
It was already nighttime when the van arrived from the airport in Cancun. It was dark outside when Ali was taken out of the van and taken inside where I had decided to wait. He came in his chair with his face on his chest when he felt something in front of him. It was me. He raised his face, opened his eyes and looked intensely at me. He smiled. That made my day and the rest of my life, as I have always believed in sincere friendship as the most important in human kind.
It was the morning of December 3 at the opening of the 50th anniversary convention. The theatre was full to capacity and even more. Ali came on the stage from a dark side corner, which took my mind 41 years back, when a God of ebony came the same way at the stage of the Madison Square Garden to the weigh-in of such an historical fight. Ali did not come in his wheelchair - he walked with the dignity of a champion. The Governor, Roberto Borge, was welcoming him at the stage and joined Vitali Klitschko, whose speech was that in his childhood he dreamed of Muhammad Ali and today was very proud to have won his same belt, the green and gold belt. Julio César Chávez, Sergio Martínez and "Canelo" Alvarez joined them to place the robe on him, as well as to present the Diamond Belt and place on his head the crown as The King of World Boxing. He was voted unanimously by former and present champions, by the WBC Board of Governors, by the media that we could approach - unanimous voting for Muhammad Ali to be crowned as the King of Boxing.
Ali sat down on a chair of Kings, made especially for him. Others placed the crown on his lap. I was sitting at his left while Lonny addressed the attendants. I was asking myself if he was enjoying such a historical moment. As if he had heard me, he took the crown and moved it up to place it where it belonged, on his head. Alí, in that moment, confirmed his profound feelings of acceptance of being the King of Boxing. No one else in the 300 years of boxing deserves it more than him.
The attendants as a whole started to shout the famous "Ali, Ali, Ali" of his great times. I could see one tear coming slowly down from his left eye. At the end of the ceremony, he stood up and under the "Ali, Ali, Ali" shouting, he started to walk slowly off of the stage. He stopped at the end, turned to see and smile at all the people, and raised his right arm to move his hand as a farewell. After that, I felt his hand on my shoulder when he continued walking out into the shadows of the end of the stage, just as that morning of 1971. He left with the pride and dignity of the King that he now was.
Thank you for reading my weekly thoughts.