World Boxing Council’s Mauricio Sulaiman is trying to bring boxing peace
If there are two things that boxing needs, it’s a diplomat and the willingness to work with him.
Amid a landscape where the sport’s most powerful manager is embroiled in a federal lawsuit filed by two major rival promoters, World Boxing Council President Mauricio Sulaiman carries the carrots of world titles and the interest in maximizing a global audience’s attention on the sport.
“I just want to see that the biggest and best fights possible are made,” Sulaiman told The Times at a Thursday dinner connected to Saturday night’s middleweight title unification bout between unbeaten Gennady Golovkin and David Lemieux. “To me, it seems like people are getting back into the sport. Let’s give them the fights everyone is asking for.”
The problem in boxing is trust. There’s very little in the game, and if the betrayal is too severe — as is the case with Al Haymon (and his fortified Premier Boxing Champions stable of fighters) and Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions and Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. — there’s a refusal to work together.
So Sulaiman, who has relationships with all of the promoters, has campaigned for damage control, constantly traveling the world with a mission to keep a steady line of quality fights coming.
One example is his work in coordinating Golovkin’s position as the mandatory challenger to another pay-per-view bout, the Nov. 21 WBC middleweight title fight between champion Miguel Cotto and challenger Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
While Alvarez and De La Hoya have expressed willingness to fight Golovkin, there’s been skepticism that Cotto will if he wins.
So Sulaiman made it a point to visit Cotto and said, “Miguel told me personally that he will fight Golovkin.”
That personal touch works. After unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. said he’d relinquish his 154-pound and 147-pound belts after he defeated Manny Pacquiao in May, Sulaiman connected with him, and Mayweather opted to keep his belt in play for his September welterweight triumph over Andre Berto.
During the Nov. 1-7 WBC Convention in China, Sulaiman plans to salute the now-retired Mayweather with a lifetime achievement award.
Sulaiman has worked to coordinate with the heads of the World Boxing Assn. and International Boxing Federation to conduct a multi-division “tournament of champions,” but feels rebuffed by the lack of follow-up on the request.
“I hope it’s not, but it feels like that idea is dying. Everyone wants to keep their own champion, it seems,” Sulaiman said.
When there were rumors that Haymon was seeking to create his own belts through PBC, Sulaiman met with the reclusive manager and his promoters, Tom Brown in Sherman Oaks and Lou DiBella in New York, and proceeded to create a special belt for the Leo Santa Cruz-Abner Mares fight in August, and appeared in Alabama to wrap the WBC belt around heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder when he retained it last month.
“We have no paranoia that PBC is going to create its own belts,” Sulaiman said. “The fact that Al is getting boxing on free television [all the major networks, ESPN and others] is great for existing and new fans. It supports the sport. I appreciate that. And I believe they respect the belt.”
Sulaiman is striving now to support a Wilder bout against mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin, with an eye toward the most anticipated showdown against Wladimir Klitschko.
He also wants to see a rematch between his unbeaten flyweight champion, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, and Juan Francisco “Gallo” Estrada should Gonzalez defeat Brian Viloria on the Golovkin-Lemieux card.
“I can’t mandate it, but I don’t have to put up any obstacles like mandatories. I want to get it done,” Sulaiman said.
More difficult will be his bid to get Haymon’s WBC light-heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson to fight promoter Kathy Duva’s champion Sergey Kovalev.
“They have no one to fight except for the other,” Sulaiman said. “It’s a great fight. I’ve spoke to Kathy Duva and [Stevenson’s] promoter, and I think there’s good timing.”
As a good diplomat knows, all that’s needed is a little trust.
Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire
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