MANILA, Philippines - WBC executive director Mauricio Sulaiman yesterday expressed his understanding for No. 1 minimumweight contender Denver Cuello’s exasperation in waiting for a long-overdue title shot but appealed to the fighter’s manager Aljoe Jaro for patience while “history is being made” with the breakthrough into the vast Chinese market.
Last August, Cuello was assured by Sulaiman, whose father Don Jose is the WBC president, that he would be next in line as mandatory challenger to face the winner of the Nov. 24 battle for the vacant 105-pound throne between China’s Xiong Zhao Zhong and Mexico’s Javier Martinez in Chengdu. Cuello was given a $25,000 step aside fee to allow Xiong to fight Martinez. Xiong eventually won the crown via a unanimous decision over Martinez.
But despite the assurance, Jaro was recently informed Xiong would make a voluntary defense against a choice challenger before fighting Cuello. Jaro went ballistic with the news and even hinted of filing a suit to seek redress for the blatant injustice. Jaro said it wasn’t just a case of discrimination but also an abuse of authority.
“All I want is for Sulaiman to explain why Denver is being bypassed again as a mandatory challenger,” said Jaro. “What is the reason? Sulaiman has to make it clear because he is going back on his word. He made a promise that Denver would be the mandatory challenger to fight the winner of the Xiong-Martinez bout for the vacant title.”
Jaro said he turned down an offer for Cuello to fight for the IBF crown to show loyalty to the WBC. “I actually asked permission from Sulaiman if Denver could fight for the IBF title while waiting for the result of the Xiong-Martinez bout but I was told to defer,” Jaro told The STAR. “It would just be a matter of two or three months so Sulaiman advised me to be patient. So I refused the IBF offer just to prove to Sulaiman I’m a man of my word.”
But Jaro said the WBC didn’t keep its part of the bargain. “They broke their word,” he said. “What are the rules for if Sulaiman himself violates his own rules? It’s very shameful. They should be grateful that I stayed loyal to the WBC. I agreed to accept the step-aside fee because I knew how important it was for the WBC to make a breakthrough in China. That world title fight in Chengdu wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t agree for Denver to step aside.”
Sulaiman said he is “very depressed for what is happening” and in a letter to Jaro yesterday, asked for patience. “I only wish you will understand that history is being made and great champions, like Cuello, have the WBC as a home,” said Sulaiman, widely known as his father’s heir apparent on the Mexico-based governing body’s throne. “Sometimes, it is important to wait for the right moment. Erik Morales waited two years, Chiquita Gonzalez as well. Everything is decided for the best of the world of boxing and the world will not end in three months. I understand your position and your desperation and the pressure from your fighter. It just happens that the Chinese market could blossom with this opportunity and we want you to be part of it.”
Sulaiman appealed for Jaro to trust the WBC. “Our president always make the best effort to make the best things for boxing and he is asking you to accept a decision for the future of boxing,” he said. “So many fighters in history have followed my father’s advice and became his godsons for showing patience and loyalty. That has no price. We understand Denver is eager to become a champion but all you have to do is to trust my father.”
Don Jose Sulaiman himself guaranteed Cuello will be the next mandatory challenger. “Mauricio and I have always given you the very best of our sincere friendship and we have tried always to support you totally in boxing,” said the WBC president. “But either you do not understand the authority of the WBC to take its boxing to the important goals for the benefit of the sport or you are joking with us.”
In a letter of confirmation dated last Aug. 2, the elder Sulaiman said Cuello would challenge for the WBC title against the winner of the Xiao-Martinez fight. “The WBC deeply appreciates your collaboration in this important matter which will expand the Chinese market to the world with this historic event,” said Sulaiman.
To show good faith, Jaro flew to Cancun to attend the recent WBC convention and seal Cuello’s title crack. Jaro left Cancun a day before the meeting to affirm the schedule of mandatory challenges so he could be at ringside for the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight in Las Vegas. “I attended the ratings committee meeting and was assured Denver would be Xiong’s next challenger,” said Jaro. “But after the convention, I received a notice that the WBC agreed to allow Xiong to make a voluntary defense before fighting Denver.”
Jaro said he would not accept another step-aside fee, not even for $50,000. “What’s important is the belt, not the money,” he said. “I’m hoping the WBC will do what is right in the spirit of justice for all. Now, more than ever, the integrity of boxing should be upheld by leaders like Don Jose and Mauricio Sulaiman.”