Brace Yourselves For Boxing Greats At WBC Talks
By Mauricio Sulaimán / WBC President – Son of José Sulaimán
I had the great pleasure of holding talks, one on one, with
two all-time Boxing Greats … Julio César Chávez and Sugar
Ray Leonard … during the dynamics called WBC Talks, which
are done through the WBC University with the support from
These are informal conversations, totally relaxed, and in
which we simply remember the courses, passages and routes of
their lives inside and outside of the ring.
We have selected photographs that, when put on screen,
generate great interest and nostalgia in our champions,
facilitating the flow of the conversation, opening the
floodgates of memories and pride of these great champions.
Sugar Ray Leonard told us about his childhood and how the
relationship with his parents was what gave him the strength
plus resolve to be a winner.
His father was a hard-working man, uneducated as he dropped
out in sixth grade, who dedicated himself to ceaselessly
striving from dawn to dusk to provide for his family: “He
never gave up and he was always there for us.”
And he recounted how his mother’s determination was what
kept the fighting spirit in his family.
Sugar Ray lost his dad last year, and his mother is 91 years
old. She is the one who chose his name: Ray Charles Leonard,
based on the legendary singer Ray Charles.
Leonard brilliantly and masterfully conquered Olympic glory
in Montreal 1976, yet he did not want to make the leap to
professionalism. Rather, he wanted to study at the
University of Maryland. But the need to support his parents
led him to make the decision that would forever change his
life, and the very destiny of the sport.
Ray won The WBC world welterweight championship from
Wilfredo Benítez in an epic battle, a 15 round decision; He
fought the best and had great fights against legendary
boxers in what is known as the Golden Age of boxing.
Leonard beat Tommy Hearns, Roberto Durán and Marvin Hagler,
artfully adapting his natural style and technique to best
effect. He was the first boxer to win titles in five
different divisions: welter, super welter, middle, super
middle, and light heavyweight.
His top idols were stars Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad
Julio César Chávez generously shared a lot of anecdotes. He
wooed who would eventually become his wife, Amalia. He took
her to Mazatlán, but suddenly police came looking for him,
and he thought they were going to arrest him … but no!
The policemen searched for him because the news had just
arrived that he was going to fight for the world title
against Mario “Azabache” Martínez. The honeymoon had to
wait. It was put on hold, until he extracted himself from
this clinch. J.C. got on a plane for the first time and went
to sign the fight with Don King, and from there to the
Julio is the greatest Mexican fighter of all time. When he
fought, the country ground to an expectant standstill. He
made many millions of dollars, had private planes, yachts,
all kinds of luxuries, and it was dramatic to hear that he
never felt fulfillment.
Julio fell into addictions: “I have lost many material
things, but I have never lost something which is by far the
most precious one, the affection of the people. That is what
keeps me clean, I cannot fail them and I will never
Julio dedicates everything to his rehabilitation clinics. He
transformed his Culiacán mansion into the Baja del Sol
Clinic, where he cares for hundreds of people each year.
These have the highest percentage of effectiveness in
rehabilitation, and the lowest in recidivism.
He was always a great athlete. As a young man he went to a
national sports competition and became champion in soccer
and baseball, but he lost in boxing! It was then and there
that he decided to abandon amateur boxing and rise to
His idols were Rubén “El Púas” Olivares and José Luis
One of the most special days of his life was when the Big
Three met for the first time: Hugo Sánchez, Fernando
Valenzuela and him.
The three had never been together simultaneously, and it
happened during the great “Heroes of Mexico” tribute, which
finally happened. They talked, laughed and a great
friendship was formed between them.
We did an exercise with both, as they created the ideal
boxer with the characteristics of their favorites:
Leonard chose Mike Tyson (punching power), Marvin Hagler
(jaw), Roy Jones Jr. (speed), Larry Holmes (jab), Sugar Ray
Robinson (boxing skills), Sugar Ray Leonard (legs), and all
While Chávez: Tyson (punch), Canelo Alvarez (jaw), Leonard
(speed), Oscar De La Hoya (jab), Chavez (boxing skills),
Floyd Mayweather (legs) and Jorge “Travieso” Arce (bravery).
Did you know…?
Julio César Chávez and Sugar Ray Leonard shared with Mike
Tyson the WBC Fighter of the Year designation in 1988. In a
historic event in New York, the three were awarded by José
Sulaimán, side by side.
Sugar Ray Leonard had retired for five years, without a
fight, following a detached retina. He called my dad and
asked him for the opportunity to challenge the great
champion of that time, Marvin Hagler.
The WBC ordered a series of thorough medical studies and the
evaluation of two different ophthalmologists. That was the
condition to be able to accept Leonard’s request.
In the face of media criticism, especially in the U.S., he
was authorized to fight. My dad suffered a storm of
criticism in the months before the show, he was even called
a “murderer” by Larry Merchant, who was one of the most
vocal and voracious critics at the time. Sugar Ray Leonard
beat Hagler by 12-round decision, and one of the glorious
chapters in the story was written.
Don José was the last to leave Caesars Palace arena; He
stood there alone, reflecting and highly satisfied, as well
as proud that Sugar Ray did not let him down.