Good deed recognized: The WBC paid for Earnie Shavers’ funeral
Mauricio Sulaiman did not solicit any attention. The WBC President preferred it went unnoticed. He knew what he and the WBC did. That was good enough for him.
Earnie Shavers, a gentle man with ungodly power considered by many to be the biggest punching heavyweight boxer in history, died on Thursday, September 1, a day after the two-time heavyweight championship challenger turned 78. Shavers (74-14-1, 68 knockouts) had been in bad health for some time.
Sulaiman had closely monitored the situation. It was the WBC that had been paying Shavers’ medical expenses and when Shavers died, it was the WBC that covered the funeral costs.
Often times, sports media, especially the boxing media, likes to jump on the sanctioning bodies.
What, regrettably, often gets ignored is when there is good that emerges from the sanctioning bodies, like what Sulaiman and the WBC did for the Shavers’ family.
“We had been in contact with the family a few weeks before and, very unfortunately, Earnie had passed away,” Sulaiman said. “I have a lot of stories about a lot of fighters, and my favorite story about Earnie is when my father (Hall of Famer Jose Sulaiman) liked to remember with great pride the time Shavers knocked down Larry Holmes (in the seventh round of Holmes’ WBC heavyweight title defense on September 28, 1979).
“That happened right in front of my father. Holmes was knocked out, and Larry was saying to himself in desperation, ‘I gotta get up, I gotta get up.’ Holmes got up at nine and he was able to defeat Shavers. It was one of the hardest punches in boxing history. My father always liked to tell that story.
“Earnie was such a nice, caring man. He was always smiling. He was very kind to everyone. He has a beautiful family to keep his legacy alive.”
The WBC has the Jose Sulaiman Champions Fund, which is run with the help of Hublot Watches, that benefits indigent fighters and old fighters who may not have the financial means to support themselves. It also covers health and funeral expenses, as it did this time with the Shavers’ family.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the WBC sent out food to many fighters and trainers who were not active.
Helping fighters, trainers, and the fighters who become sparring partners are a priority for Sulaiman, who wants to carry the legacy that his father started.
“Boxing is such a social hub, it’s directly contacted with society, and most boxers come from very humble families, and it is a very much a family affair, and the families are involved,” Sulaiman said. “The world knows Canelo Alvarez, and Tyson Fury, and Sugar Ray Leonard, what they don’t see are the many, many fighters who don’t make it, and are sparring partners preparing to make world champions, or cornermen who do all of the dirty work.
“Those are the guys behind the curtain that we can’t forget. It’s the boxing industry. We need to take care of our own. It’s sad that most of the time, once you’re not any good anymore, you’re not for use, you’re forgotten.
“Behind the scenes, we’re trying to help those fighters, and the older fighters, like Earnie Shavers, who brought such great joy to so many fans who watched him. Those are the ones that the WBC and I try to make it a priority to remember and help.
“It’s an attitude that I got from my father. We went to the Shavers’ family. They didn’t come to us. As soon as we learned Earnie was in a fragile state, we wanted to help. We’re all a big family that needs to help each other more.”
Sulaiman was at first reluctant to answer any questions about footing the bill for the Shavers’ funeral. The WBC President preferred it went unnoticed.
Not this time.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito [twitter.com].