HOOK TO THE LIVER - by José Sulaimán

The following is one of the weekly “Hook to the Liver” columns by WBC President Dr. José Sulaimán that are published in El Universal every Sunday. From May 20, translated from Spanish:

The WBC Diamond Belt, Only for Immortals

Our sport has had, through centuries, boxing matches between the biggest heroes, but no special award had been given except, obviously, the WBC green and gold belt. Oscar de la Hoya and Floyd Mayweather broke the all time pay-per-view TV record, still the highest. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran. Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns, and so many others that are historical, but the Diamond Belt had not been introduced yet.

All boxers in the world dream since their very beginnings to become champions of the world, and apologizing for my immodesty, to win some day the Green and Gold WBC belt. There was no established custom in the past to award champions with a belt, and they received trophies, certificates, flowers. Belts were only presented occasionally, but not from organizations. It was the BBBofC which brought a mandatory presentation of a belt - the Lonsdale belt - to champions, and so did some other national commissions of the world. I remember Muhammad Ali coming down without a belt after his first title bouts.

It was the WBC which first presented its green and gold belts in 1976, my first year as president, following the idea of my unforgettable and dear friend, Colonel Hassine Hamouda, from Tunisia, sponsored by ADIDAS. The WBC belt has had five modifications during the 37 years since its introduction with our latest, with three series showing the flags of the 165 countries affiliated to the WBC with the green belt - signaling hope and faith - and the gold signaling victory, with ceramic photos of Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali.

Here it comes to my mind when I represented the WBC for the first time in 1971 for the fight Ali- Frazier at the Garden in New York, full up to the lamps with Frank Sinatra pushing Joe Louis in his wheelchair, Jacqueline Kennedy, and so many movie and show stars. I had bought beautiful cufflinks, which I wore for the fight, one of which disappeared at my first seating in my chair. It made me be furious during the whole great fight. After the fight, which I will never forget, the other cuff link also disappeared - and I thought that Mexicans were the champions!

37 years have gone bye since the first WBC title belt was implemented, that has been won by many of the greatest champions of the history of boxing. Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, George Foreman, Lennox Lewis, Larry Holmes, Vitali Klitschko, Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Julio César Chávez, Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, Oscar de la Hoya, Ruben Olivares, and so many others of the close to 300 champions in the about 1,600 of WBC title fights.

Boxing has had many extraordinary champions who are all in the history of boxing with golden letters, that they wrote with their valiant hearts and fists of steel. The WBC felt that there was something missing to present as a material award to the greatest of them all. The WBC introduced the Diamond Belt that would be fought for only by the top of the elite fighters of the time. The phenomenon of modern boxing - Manny Pacquiao – and the Puerto Rican hero Miguel Angel Cotto were the first to fight for it, with Pacquiao being the first ever to conquer the highest championship honor in the WBC. The second was the record-breaking great champion Bernard Hopkins, to be followed by the powerful Sergio Martínez, from Argentina. Floyd Mayweather, a great among greats, became the fourth ever to become a WBC Diamond Belt champion - four fighters who are top of the top of the cream.

The WBC Diamond Belt is won and kept forever by the winning champion. It is not exposed, ever. A world title can be fought for by any approved fighter. The WBC Diamond Belt is only disputed by the elite of the elite in boxing. The winners become immortals of boxing. That is the meaning of winning the Diamond Belt: immortality.

My appreciation to all my friends for reading my weekly column. God bless you all.