By Mauricio Sulaiman
Son of Jose Sulaiman & President of the WBC
The heavyweight division will always be the one that captivates the attention of the fans all around the world.
At the beginning of the last century, Jack Johnson was the first black heavyweight champion in history, and he was known all over the planet even when radio, television, internet or social networks didn’t exist. Jack Dempsey generated the first million-dollar gate via box office appeal. Meanwhile, Joe Louis set the record for the most world title defenses with 25, a mark that still prevails today.
Rocky Marciano retired undefeated as a champion, with 49-0. Muhammad Ali revolutionized boxing and the sport in general, being the greatest in history in and outside the ring.
Ali transcended the sport. At the time, he was the most popular and famous human being on the planet. He broke all paradigms and will forever be the face of boxing. Larry Holmes filled Muhammad’s shoes and accomplished 15 successful world title defenses. Then came Mike Tyson, who froze the world when he entered the ring, and was considered the most powerful knockout artist of all time. Others, including Evander Holyfield, Riddick Bowe and Lennox Lewis, coincided in time with him, in addition to many good fighters in the division.
Lennox was a dominant force for a decade, handing the baton to Vitali Klitschko, who also was a proud world champion. Deontay Wilder dominated for five long years with spectacular power until the arrival of the current king of the division, British Tyson Fury.
The world heavyweight monarch of the World Boxing Council (WBC) is considered the most powerful man in the universe. Fury is now considered as an invincible fighter, and he has shown it by knocking out former champion Wilder twice, and he dispatched Dillian Whyte in six rounds in front of 94,000 fans at Wembley, during his last fight.
After a heavyweight domination by the brothers Vitali and Vladimir Klitschko for more than a decade, a significant number of high-quality boxers and fights of great interest in the world were established. Anthony Joshua had three belts for some time. Andy Ruiz came on the scene surprisingly by beating Joshua, who won the rematch. Oleksandr Usyk, the great idol from Ukraine, moved up to heavyweight after dominating the cruiserweight division. The Cuban Luis Ortiz fought two great fights against Wilder and is still in terrific shape. Joe Joyce, Joseph Parker, Frank Sanchez, Robert Helenius, Otto Wallin and more are challengers who are ready for a shot.
At the time of writing this column, I am waiting to go to the WWW.Crypto.com Arena (formerly called Staples Center) in Los Angeles to witness a great card in which Mexico is strongly represented. Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz seeks the WBC silver title against Eduardo Ramírez. Rayo Valenzuela looks to keep up his impressive career. Abner Mares returns after his retina problems, and the main fight will be between the Mexican-American Andy Ruiz and the Cuban Luis “King Kong” Ortiz.
Ruiz vs. Ortiz is an official WBC elimination fight. The winner will get the pass to fight a final eliminator for the mandatory position of the division.
Deontay Wilder returns to the ring on October 15 to face Robert Helenius at the Barclays Center in another semifinal elimination bout. The winner goes against the winner between Ruiz vs. Ortiz.
While all this is happening, WBC world champion Tyson Fury hopes that his and Oleksandr Usyk’s promoters will reach an agreement to achieve the first unification heavyweight fight of the four-belt era. If this fight is signed, Fury, our WBC champion, will face Usyk, WBO, IBF and WBA champion.
The last undisputed monarch was Lennox Lewis, WBC champion, when he defeated Evander Holyfield, who had the IBF and WBA belts.
During the process of selecting the best fights in history for the WBC OPUS book, we were able to review and understand the greatness of heavyweight division. This division has memorable fights that remain in the memory of fans for generations. Some of these great matchups in the 60-year history of the WBC are:
- Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier I at Madison Square Garden; both undefeated with Frazier defeating the great idol.
- George Foreman vs. Joe Frazier, the two undefeated at the time, but Foreman was too much.
- Muhammad Ali versus George Foreman. The famous Rumble in the Jungle, where Ali reconquered the belt.
- Ali vs. Frazier III in the so-called Thrilla in Manila, one of the most dramatic fights in history
- Ali vs. Leon Spinks, the night when rookie Spinks defeated the great Ali.
- Larry Holmes vs. Ken Norton, with 15 rounds of drama; Holmes conquered the WBC title.
- George Foreman versus Ron Lyle. Both visited the canvas several times in a spectacular fight that ended in only five rounds.
- Mike Tyson vs. Michael Spinks, both undefeated, but Tyson in the best shape of his career knocked him out in just 91 seconds.
- Tyson vs. Holyfield I and II; with the famous ear bite in the second.
- Lennox Lewis vs. Vitali Klitschko; Lewis’ last fight and retired as champion.
- Deontay Wilder vs. Luis Ortiz I and II, pure drama and spectacular knockouts in both.
- Tyson Fury vs. Wilder I, II and III. After a dramatic draw, Fury conquered the title with a knockout in the seventh round, and the trilogy ended with one of the greatest fights in history with both fighters visiting the canvas in 11 explosive rounds. Fury demolished Wilder.
Did you know…?
Earnie Shavers has just passed away and into eternity. He will be remembered as one of the most explosive punchers in boxing history. He was never a world champion, but he did beat several former champions, including the great Ken Norton. Shavers hit like a mule kick. Larry Holmes went down in the seventh round, and he was knocked down bad. My dad told us how Holmes fell right where he was seated, Holmes said to himself: “I have to get up, I have to get up”. He made it at nine and was saved by the bell. The world boxing community unites in sorrow for the departure of a great boxer and a great human being.
One of the most important moments in my dad’s life was when he had the honor of meeting Pope John Paul II in person. Years later, fate led my brother Héctor and me to meet the Holy Father Francisco. Our dear friend, Román Rodríguez, recommended us with José María del Corral and Enrique Palmeyro to establish and run Scholas Occurrentes México. In the audience with the Pope, José María introduced me as the President of the World Boxing Council, and the creation of the Box Val program (Boxing with Values) was announced.
Before leaving the hall, Pope Francis greeted two children who were right in front of me and then he came over, extended his hand, and as I shook it, he stared at me and said, “So, world champion?” I didn’t know what to answer, and in that pause, he told me, “But heavyweight!” And he let out a beautiful laugh. That is, without a doubt, one of the most incredible moments of my life.
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