Raising the safety bar: Mauricio Sulaiman interview

Paul Zanon
08/10/2018 9:21pm

WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman talks Fury vs Wilder, Canelo, improving safety standards in boxing and much more with Boxing Monthly's Paul Zanon...

Fresh off a plane from Kiev following the WBC’s latest annual convention, the governing body's president Mauricio Sulaiman took the time to answer a few questions for Boxing Monthly, before getting ready to jump on a plane back to Mexico...

It was a brief, yet very open and honest interview. When I outlined the areas I wished to cover, Sulaiman replied: "Everything. I’m open to all questions."

Not one to mess around, I addressed how he felt about the recent Fury and Wilder press jamborees. “I was not able to follow it because I was at the [WBC] convention in Kiev," he explained. "I’ve seen bits and pieces. At the convention, we’ve instilled the code of ethics, which will be a guideline for behaviour for fighters and their camps. Outside the ring, at press conferences, at the weigh-ins, inside the ring and after the fight. It’s a topic of concern, because there’s a very thin line between things that are said, things that are done and when they become unacceptable.

“There’s a tremendous difference in cultures in the boxing world, because so many countries are involved. We’re strongly looking into the behaviour within the sport of boxing because there’s no room for dangerous practices. [Case in point being the UFC show between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov.] We need to take action and not just be observers, because this can lead to serious injuries and tragedies.”

Eager to see the Wilder vs Fury fight happen, Sulaiman was diplomatic about his prediction of how it will pan out. “It’s a very interesting fight. Fury is a great fighter, tall, with very good technique, very difficult to fight. Wilder throws huge shots with a lot of power. It’s going to be very interesting. Let’s see how being outside the ring has affected Fury and let’s see how being in a big-stage fight affects Wilder. We’ll see what happens.”

Eager to establish Sulaiman’s view on the elephant in the room, I asked him whether Fury and Wilder are the two best heavyweights in the world at present. “We cannot take away Joshua at all. He’s a great champion and an asset to the sport and eventually he’ll be fighting for the WBC title. He was number two contender when he decided to pursue an opportunity a different way and has been very successful. Without a doubt, Fury, Wilder, Joshua are the very best heavyweights out there.”

The recent decision to allow Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez to fight so soon after testing positive for a banned substance caused an uproar in boxing circles. Sulaiman explained the rationale behind allowing the Mexican champion the opportunity to return so quickly after the discovery.

“Clenbuterol is a specific substance which is very easy to trace in sports. It’s a substance of health concern for the population of Mexico. In football 2011, there was a youth world cup, in which 111 athletes from all over the world tested positive. Then in baseball, basketball, the Olympic Games, there’s been so many cases of Clenbuterol. The drug is fed to the cattle and which leads to a way of contamination.

"Canelo’s case – we went deeply into it and conducted a thorough investigation. We contacted the California Commission and it was proven that it was food contamination. It would be very easy to try and be the police and put a guilty stamp on every case, but that would be unfair. An athlete has a right to the due process and that showed what the reality was.”

The WBC for years has been raising the bar in safety for many years - the introduction of the four-rope ring, the reduction from 15 to 12 rounds, thumbless gloves, 24 hour weigh-ins, etc, were all the brainchildren of the WBC. Sulaiman also updated me on the WBC’s intention to raise the safety bar up a few more notches.

“We’ve just implemented the weight management programme, which will begin in 2019. It’s a combination of procedures. As you know, we have the 30 and seven day weigh-in, in which the boxer has to be no more than 10 per cent and 5 per cent [respectively] of their official weight. Now we’ve implemented the 14-day check, so it’s going to be 30 days at 10 per cent, 14 days at 5 per cent and seven days at 3 per cent. We will also weigh the boxer when he gets to the arena as he gets to the dressing room, with a 10 per cent limit.

“In the first year, we’ll only have administrative penalties such as fines and warnings. It is intended for the boxer to safely gain weight after the weigh-in. We will be starting a random surprise weight check with our fighters, just like we do with drugs. The recommendation is for the fighter to not exceed more than 20 per cent of his fighting category. That’s one of the major resolutions.

“We’re also looking into the fifth rope. There’s technology in the Orient where they have five ropes, which makes it much safer for the fighter.

“And finally, regarding ring officials, we’re starting a WBC University, which will be training and certification, for judges, referees, supervisors, trainers and nutritionists. All this at a university based in Spain. That will be fantastic.”

Sounds like progress to me…