The following is one of the weekly “Hook to the Liver” columns by WBC President Dr. José Sulaimán that are published in El Universal every Sunday. From April 29, translated from Spanish:
HOOK TO THE LIVER
By José Sulaimán
I read a poll report a few days ago in which boxing had taken over second place in Mexico in television ratings of sports. Boxing started in Mexico about the first years of the 20th Century. My first contact with the sport was when I was a child and lived in a small town in Tamaulipas of about 800 inhabitants, and my father was listening on a shortwave radio to a fight of Hitler’s hero, Max Schmeling, against Joe Louis. I still remember the noise of the radio transmission that made it difficult to understand the Spanish of a famous Cuban announcer of the times. Joe Louis won.
During those days, newspapers came out once a week, except in few big cities in which they were daily, and in Jaumave, my home town, communications were only by telegraph. Radio dominated the world of communications for sports and entertainment, but only in big cities, while others could only be heard in big cities until the time of shortwave radio arrived.
One day, television appeared, but to be seen only in the very big cities. On Saturday evenings, the furniture companies used to leave the television on in their windows, while hundreds of people would come and surround the store to see the boxing matches. A fight was announced between Nate Brooks, the North American champion, against the greatest Mexican hero of all time, Raul “Ratón” Macías. I had two shoe factories in the province where I lived, and decided to travel to Mexico City to be able to see the fight, which broke all attendance records at the Plaza Mexico with over 55,000 people, a record that still stands. It was raining, without any concern from the fans, as they did not care so that they could see their hero. Macías came into the ring with a Charro sombrero, a Saltillo Zarape, some plastic covering over his boxing shoes, and a “fighting cock” which he left free to the public once in the ring.
Macias won a great fight, even when he could not even touch Brooks once in the first three rounds, to become a warrior in all of the rest of the fight, mainly with his hook to the liver, which made the multitude rise in emotion – and from which I took the name of my columns.
The time came when we had to see the fights by closed circuit in the movies, to start appearing rapidly in the homes by free TV, which in Mexico was started by Guillermo Azcárraga Vidaurreta, followed by his son Guillermo Azcárraga Milmo, and today by his son, Guillermo Azcárraga Jean, who were originally supported by a great president of Mexico, Miguel Alemán Valdés, who afterwards would become a great supporter of the WBC. The Azcárraga family TV corporations, now called Televisa, implemented a world record of 47 years of consecutive uninterrupted television of boxing every Saturday.
Pay per View arrived, and so did Julio César Chávez, to have 15 years of consecutive successful times. In the USA, the past were the years of ABC, CBS and NBC, that had their times of open TV of tremendous success until the time when HBO, Showtime, and ESPN came to take it over and so was the picture all over the world.
Mexico is living its golden era of boxing fans, when TV Azteca brought back the open TV. It made Televisa come back strong, and also joined by Channel 3, which totals more than 20 points of TV every Saturday. Children and young people came back to boxing when the time came when they did not have to pay to see it on TV, as boxing in Mexico belongs to the people in general, to the citizens of the country, that I believe that it is the same every where.
Boxing, however, is having difficult times because of the power of the money being the main interest of the big TV Corporations. They sign boxers to own their careers for years or a number of fights. One example is the time when Sergio Martinez had to comply with his mandatory defense, after two years of not having one, when Martínez was practically forced not to comply with the WBC rules, but instead accept the challenger that his TV imposed on him, even when he was a little known boxer from Europe.
This is the 21st Century and all matters are different, but how would many wish that boxing would be left free for boxers to comply with the institutions that opened their doors to them and through which they rose to glory and to become the top of the cream, for whom the big boys of TV are struggling, without any consideration to the organizations who work for years to bring boxers to fame.
The WBC will continue struggling for dignity, respect, safety in boxing, and opportunities for all boxers regardless of race, nationality or religion.
Many thanks to all my friends and fans for reading my thoughts.