Jose Sulaiman, the powerful president of the World Boxing Council, died Thursday in Los Angeles, according to numerous reports. He was 82.
Sulaiman's son, WBC Secretary General Mauricio Sulaiman, said the man who many say raised the profile of the sport during his four-decade leadership at the Mexico-based sanctioning organization died at a hospital in Los Angeles. He had been hospitalized at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center for months for a heart condition.
On Oct. 25, nearly a month after having undergone double bypass surgery, Mauricio Sulaiman told RingTV.com that his father was was “in great spirits,” albeit “in lots of pain,” in the wake of “complications” from the Oct. 1 operation.
"He’s very strong, and we have great expectations that he will live many, many years to come. We expect him to continue to be in the hospital for some weeks to fully recover and to start his new life with a new heart.”
The WBC confirmed his death, calling him the "father of boxing."
"I'm in a state of shock right now. I'm deeply grieved. He was one of my greatest friends in life," said promoter Don King. "I want to celebrate his life, because he was a great man and I want to celebrate him because he made a difference. I'm deeply honored that he took me in as a friend."
Sulaiman was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2007.
"He certainly treated all fighters as his sons and daughters. He suffered from their problems and worked every single day of his life to try to make boxing better and safer," the WBC council said in a statement.
"I knew Jose for a long time, and he devoted his life to boxing," said Top Rank CEO Bob Arum. "He gave it a good battle against his condition, but, unfortunately, he didn't make it. My condolences go out to Mauricio, to the other brothers and to the rest of the family."
The son of a Syrian mother and a Lebanese father, Sulaiman was born on May 30 in Ciudad Victoria, Mexico. He boxed as an amateur but quickly shifted over to working as a manager and a referee and later training and promoting fighters.
"I met him when he was a referee," said King. "But he became an important figure, which was magnificent. I'm happy that I had the chance to change history with the man."
Fernando Beltran, Chavez Jr.'s Mexico-based promoter, said Sulaiman "was always in the corner of the Chavez family."
Chavez was among the first fighters to tweet a message, sending his condolences and calling him his "second family."
"Rest in peace, my dear 'licenciado' Balin, like I used to call him with a lot of love," read a message posted on Chavez's account.
Beltran, himself, was very close to the Sulaimans, having visited the ailing Jose in the hospital last week. The Mexico-based promoter maintained contact with Mauricio throughout his father's last few days.
"I considered them family. I was always invited to their personal things, and they were always invited to my personal things, such as weddings, anniversaries and a lot of things. I was always there for them, and they were always there for me," Beltran said.
"I went to visit him last week. Last Tuesday or Wednesday to be exact, at the hospital at the UCLA Ronald Reagan clinic. I was supposed to go this weekend to spend some quality time with Mauricio, but unfortunately, Don Jose past away, and right now, I'm very sad that he was unable to recover."
"Rest in peace, Don Jose [Sulaiman]. We will remember him forever," Alvarez said in a statement to RingTV.com. "I wish prompt resignation to his family and the boxing world."
Sulaiman also managed to institute new rules and regulations regarding boxers' safety and welfare. Among these changes was the reduction in the number of rounds from 15 to 12.
"He was a world sports icon, and I believe that he's going to be remembered for doing a lot of good things for the sport and for protecting the fighters. He did a lot of stuff for boxing and was very dedicated to the sport," said Beltran. "Of course, we're going to remember him, always, and we'll always remember him as a great person in boxing. He was a very important person in my career. I'm telling you, he's an icon. He dedicated his life to the sport of boxing."
"As an example of how he functioned, he's the only boxing official I ever heard of who tried to overturn a knockout because the wrong guy won the fight, meaning Buster Douglas when he beat Mike Tyson," said Merchant.
"I once asked him how he could have tried to pull that off and whether he could site any other example in boxing history where that happened. And he said, 'Oh yeah, it happened.' And I asked him, 'Well, when? Who? Where?' And he said, 'I'll look it up, and I'll get back to you.' All that I can say now is that I'll never get the answer, because I still haven't."
Note: The Associated Press contributed to this report