After 41 Years, WBC May Be Finished Today

Times Staff Writer

The World Boxing Council, perhaps the most credible and recognized of boxing’s sanctioning organizations, will cease to exist today if its president, Jose Sulaiman, follows through on plans to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation in a Puerto Rican court.

Sulaiman is taking the action as the result of a $31-million judgment granted by a New York jury to light-heavyweight Graciano Rocchigiani last year. Rocchigiani sued the WBC in district court, claiming the organization improperly stripped him of his title and gave it to Roy Jones.

“As much as the WBC would like to satisfy the judgment, it is simply impossible for the WBC, a not-for-profit organization, to pay Mr. Rocchigiani the staggering $31-million award,” Sulaiman said in a statement faxed from Mexico City, where he lives.


Promoter Bob Arum called the judgment “totally excessive, ludicrous.”

If the liquidation proceedings go forward, someone could buy the WBC’s name and trademark and try to keep alive a 41-year-old organization affiliated with 161 countries.

Sulaiman, the WBC’s president for 28 years, has already made plans to resurface as head of a new organization, the Universal Boxing Council, with the hope that fighters who hold WBC titles will switch to the UBC.

Arum says he won’t abandon Sulaiman.

“It’s ultimately up to the champions,” said Arum, who has four WBC titleholders. “I am going to counsel my champions to stay with Jose. Why pay money to outsiders coming in? I’m going to stick with Jose. I think he has done a good job.”

Besides his four WBC champions -- middleweight Bernard Hopkins, super-featherweight Erik Morales, lightweight Jose Luis Castillo and junior-flyweight Jorge Arce -- Arum hopes to match the winner of Saturday’s Marco Antonio Barrera-Paulie Ayala featherweight match at Home Depot Center against Injin Chi, the WBC champion.

Rocchigiani rejected a settlement offer from Sulaiman: $3.5 million with $1 million up front and the rest to be paid over the next decade.

Rocchigiani has also rejected an offer of a title shot against Antonio Tarver, the WBC light-heavyweight champion.


Under Chapter 7, the WBC’s assets would be sold with the money going first to pay administrative and court costs and then creditors. The tangible property of the organization would be negligible, some office furniture, paintings and championship belts. The value would be in the WBC’s intellectual property, its name, trademark, the history of the organization and its credibility.

“The only thing of any value is the trademark,” said Judd Burstein, an attorney who has represented various boxing figures. “But that might only be worth $100,000, which means Rocchigiani won’t get much.”

Rocchigiani’s turning down much more in the settlement offer has Arum questioning the fighter’s motives.

“I’m shocked that a settlement wasn’t reached,” Arum said. “This was a lawsuit that cried out for a settlement. I’m really suspicious why Rocchigiani didn’t take it. Something funny is going on.”

Although there is no evidence to back up that speculation, there are theories that the dismantling of the WBC is being orchestrated through Rocchigiani by either a rival boxing organization or a potential buyer.

“This is boxing,” Burstein said.

Sulaiman said, “Very few people could understand the deep sorrow the WBC’s bankruptcy will signify to me personally, and to the members of the 10 continental federations ... who have devoted the very best of efforts ... to serve the boxing community.”