Sulaiman is right: our belt may be worthless, but the joke’s on him – and the shame is on boxing
The roar of battle is rising in the situation room of the good ol’ WBC.
In a gathering in the distant steppes of Uzbekistan, delegates of the We Be Collecting, flown in from all over the world, are sounding war drums. The urge to cement themselves as the one-stop suppliers of overpriced jewelry in boxing is under attack.
It was only a few years ago that the infamous WBA famously turned back the clock in the most literal way possible and declared itself a centenarian institution in spite of being founded in 1962. The retroactive claim, which took place as many boxing commissions and other institutions (including The Ring) celebrated their own centennials, magically turned the old National Boxing Association (founded in 1921) into an international sanctioning body through the innocent alchemy of trading one word for its superlative in its acronym, as if they were a company that expanded its franchises across the world after making a lot of money at home and had the power to do so. Not quite the way it works, since many (if not most) future member nations of the WBA created their own boxing institutions between 1921 and 1962 without having a way of knowing whether they would later choose to be part of an international outfit.
In that spirit, and having lost the initiative on the creationist front, the WBC opted for a different plan: they are not disciples of the old guard, nor scissions of old churches or followers of an old prophet anymore. They’re the new gospel, and Mauricio Sulaiman is the new Messiah.
Hold the chuckles for a moment, if you can. “Messianic” is a word thrown around all too often, but in this case, the role of Sulaiman as the head of one of the two oldest sanctioning bodies in the world is nothing short of that. And his way of attempting to achieve the respect of the boxing world through grandiose actions has been as forcefully dictatorial as it has been brutally dismissed by anyone with a dime’s worth of common sense.
In his effort to lead a revolution to turn boxing into his own little playground of multiple belts per weight class, Sulaiman has charged against anyone who stands in his way – and there’s no better way of psyching yourself up to disrespect and disparage your foes than in a chest-thumping session with your buddies in the middle of nowhere. Up in the earthquake-prone mountains of Uzbekistan, Mauricio and his cabal of bling salespeople are plotting some earth-shaking measures of their own, hoping to gain all the respect that they can’t buy.
And the result is as hilarious as it is infuriating.
Sulaiman’s recent attack on The Ring achieved a mild viral status today in a video posted by iFL TV. In a wild rant, Sulaiman says that The Ring “threatens the credibility of our sport,” a bold statement that came right after the shocking revelation that “The Ring magazine is a magazine.”
Awright… at ease, sergeant Garcia. I ain’t no Zorro and my surname ain’t De La Vega, but this Diego has been in enough sword fights with you and your brethren to feel more than comfortable in this attempt to cut a Z right on your cummerbund. Not exactly a life-or-death duel, mind you, since you have left yourself so exposed by your own actions that in writing this, I feel like a grown-up stealing candy from a hypocrite.
Join me, and let’s take a look at the Gulp-sized cocktail of hubris and stupidity that we are being asked to swallow, all in the name of boxing.
Let’s start with the latest stuff, shall we?
A Bridger to nowhere
This is, of course, Sulaiman’s masterplan to force a new weight class down boxing’s throat.
It’s been around long enough to already annoy the hell out of everyone from promoters, fellow sanctioning bodies, broadcasting platforms, fighters and yes, writers. But as with any feisty new kid on the block who wants to pick a fight with the entire gang, it’s been slapped around sufficiently hard and often to be either motivated or forced to stand down.
But not for Sulaiman and his crew, who are obsessed with creating what would be the 18th division in boxing with a stubbornness worthy of a greater cause.
And the “cause” of this still futile attempt to establish the “bridgerweight” division (between 200 and 224 pounds) is just as despicable as anything that the WBC has been doing lately, starting with the way in which they named it.
By associating the name of the new division to the name of a child who was viciously mauled by a dog as he tried to save her sister from an attack, the WBC is subliminally forcing their critics to be on the side of the helpless child or the dog. I have no qualms about my own choice: I want young Bridger to be considered a hero, I want his sister and his family to be forever grateful to him, I want a Go-Fund me page to finance his surgeries and treatments, and I want to see Sulaiman being fired and finding an honest job in any line of work other than boxing.
Recurring to emotional low blows is nothing new to the WBC. They have already famously commissioned “special belts” to artists and craftspeople from indigenous Mexican groups, in a blatant attempt to add an artificial layer of validation on certain fights that would otherwise be considered a totally shameless money grab. The most famous of these episodes led to a confrontation with super middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, who in rejecting one of such belts made by the kochul ethnic group was subsequently accused of disrespecting this people to the point of being racist. Alvarez himself had to go out on a limb to make sure everyone understood that no such thing was true, but the damage was already done.
Now, even though there are not enough fighters who have fought at the new proposed division to fill out a Top 10, they have already raked in a few thousand pesos in sanctioning fees, and they are starting a war with long-time partners BoxRec (considered as official record-keepers by dozens of commissions around the world, regardless of how improvable their work may be) in order to have a new tab added to their dropdown menu to support their latest business adventure.
I say good luck with that, gentlemen. Can’t stay around while you solve this. Time to see why…
Francis Ngannou is the new No. 10
And y’all thought Conor McGregor was lucky.
Ngannou, a former MMA heavyweight champion who is 37 years old and had never boxed a round before his bout against Tyson Fury earlier this month, has now been tabbed to become the new No. 10 in the heavyweight division, above dozens if not hundreds of committed lifelong heavyweight boxers who plied their trades in the amateurs and pros for years without the added benefit of being able to bare-handedly chocking their opponents into submission to get a W.
Of course, an explanation had to be given. Sulaiman’s explanation of how Muai Thai and other martial artists came to boxing is comical – if not farcical.
Violence, apparently, is violence any way you slice it. And it should be instantaneously translatable to any other activity that includes striking an opponent in front of a paying audience, because punches are punches just as magazines are magazines.
The result of this insanity is the world’s highest-ranked 0-1 fighter in boxing history. Ever.
Yeah, eat that, Conor. And swallow it with a sweet pint of yer own branded whisky, aye?
The near-disastrous Fury-Ngannou debacle, already one of boxing’s biggest unforced errors ever, has now produced the most unlikely uninvited guest to the heavyweight party, a child we have all adopted just minutes before our parents died, because the inheritance was just too big for their two thousand kids to share, wasn’t it?
In a way, and in the “thinking like a crook to catch a crook” logic, it is understandable that the WBC wanted to add another cash cow to its stable. If you ever owned a stable you already know that cows come in all sizes. But larger cows pay more. And as much as we love sanctioning fees from our flyweight cows and our featherweight cows and all, it is the heavier cows the ones that bring in the most fat.
And fat is what we need. Fat wads of cash to throw around, in all directions. And please, don’t reply to this by copy-pasting a line from the WBC’s “non-profit organization” status. You can be non-profit and still overpay your employees and directors. And have dozens of referees and judges flying around the world and staying in lovely hotels three days per week, three weeks per months. Or having dozens of delegates and personalities flown to Uzbekistan to play golf on the fighter’s dime. For further reference, see “Army”, and click on the “Salvation” tab.
OK, enough. Time for a Lord of the Rings reference, and I’m outta here.
One Ring to rule them all
Imagine a belt that carries no sanctioning fees.
Imagine a set of ratings compiled by unbiased writers who adhere to strict rules to supplement their own judgement.
Imagine only one champion per division. Imagine that he/she can lose the title only in the ring, and not by any sort of political wrangling of any kind.
Imagine no Franchises. It’s easy if you try.
Imagine no “Francophone” belts being given to non-French-speaking people. Or Caribbean championships not being awarded to Norwegians or Australians for no reason.
Imagine Lucy in the sky, but with no Diamond belts.
OK, I am done. This is exhausting. And if they read this, the entire Lennon estate would knock on my door just to punch me in the face. No, don’t give peace a chance, Sean. I deserve it.
As part of the magazine’s championship committee, I am involved in the process of awarding, manufacturing and shipping those shinny Ring belts to champions all over the world. They cost us money. Money that we don’t have to spare. Money we have no way of recouping.
We don’t charge for belts. You do.
And in that process, I am constantly reminded of how much those belts cost, yes. But I am also reminded of their true worth.
In a recent trip to Spain, I was able to give the octogenarian nephew of that country’s first champion Baltasar Sangchili the belt that his uncle won in a bull ring in 1936, and which he never received. The WBC was not around back then, and neither was the WBA in its current form. Every other form of sanctioning body was in its infancy at best or controlled by private handlers much in the manner of the current UFC at worst.
We were there to touch those fighters on the shoulders and tell them “Hey, your sacrifice so far was worthwhile enough to earn you this modest token of our appreciation.”
No fees, no previous commitment to earn a dozen regional belts for three percent of their purses just to be ranked, no bullshit. Just a reminder that a group of people think that they are the best at what they do.
The fact that this belt has become synonymous with success and acknowledgement in boxing is not a testament to The Ring’s honesty. It is a brutal statement on the boxing establishment’s dishonesty and corruption.
If boxing had created a universal sanctioning body in 1921, with one set of rules and one championship per weight class much in the manner of FIFA or any other governing body in any other sport, our beloved Ring magazine belt would have not been necessary. It would have been worthless from the start.
It is because of people like you, Mauricio, that our belt (regardless of its cost to us) is worth more than almost any other. To most fighters, and to most knowledgeable observers.
As a member of The Ring’s ratings panel, as co-founder and moderator of the magazine’s trailblazing women’s ratings panel, I do hope to see the day when boxing has only one organization to rule, protect, serve and honor our fighters.
And yes, I dream of only one belt. Even if it’s not ours.
Being impervious to criticism in their own media bubble is the last great superpower that the sanctioning bodies are aiming for. It’s on us to land the counterpunch to that attack with our own brand of Kryptonite-loaded gloves. If these lines do the trick, I’ll be happy to have written them.
In the meantime, I’ll trudge on in my daily task of trying to unmask hypocrites and serving our readers by providing them with the unvarnished truth, in the form of a column, an article, a news item and yes – a divisional rating.
Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s easier.
And as much as I love playing hardball as much as the next cynical, self-aggrandizing, self-righteous writer, this one could have not been easier.
Taking on a cynical, self-aggrandizing, self-righteous, glorified boxing memorabilia peddler like you has been like swinging a yellow wiffle ball bat and hitting a meatball out of the park at the first pitch and then watch it as it disintegrates in the air in a cloud of arrogance and idiocy.
“I don’t know why media, and champions and promoters give any credit to a Ring magazine belt, which only threatens the credibility of the sport,” says Sulaiman in this video.
Now you know why.
And speaking of threats, one more thing, tough guy…
“If you touch my WBC, I am going to fight back.”
Well, if you touch our Ring, so will we.
And with us, all of those who think that just one belt per champion and one sanctioning fee per title fight is more than enough.
Diego M. Morilla writes for The Ring since 2013. He has also written for HBO.com, ESPN.com and many other magazines, websites, newspapers and outlets since 1993. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He has won two first-place awards in the BWAA’s annual writing contest, and he is the moderator of The Ring’s Women’s Ratings Panel. He served as copy editor for the second era of The Ring en Español (2018-2020) and is currently a writer and editor for RingTV.com.