by Paul Magno
Leave it to Jose Sulaiman and the WBC to ruin even the most feel-good of feel-good stories.
In a close runner-up to Litzau-Caballero for Upset of the Year, Gilberto Keb Baas (34-20-4, 21 KOs), the most unlikely of Cinderella stories, upset Omar Niño Romero for the WBC’s jr. flyweight title back in November of last year.
It was a beautiful story for a guy who had certainly paid his dues in the sport for 15 years as he traveled the tough Mexican club circuit, fighting his way to the top of the 2nd tier only to fall short each time he tried to take that full-step up.
Sulaiman, who is apparently loving this story and the sanctioning fee that comes with it, plans on extending this feel-good moment by setting Keb Baas up with a real cake first defense.
But how do you find an easy mark for a fighter with 20 pro losses? That’s where Sulaiman’s genius for rat-like thinking comes into play.
Citing an obscure WBC rule which allows “former champions [to] request the opportunity to fight for the title…upon majority vote of the Board of Governors” (WBC Rule 1.21), the WBC’s Mexican Mafia exempted Keb Baas from making a mandatory defense of his new title and, instead, drafted former WBC strawweight champ, Jose Antonio Aguirre, to get the shot on February 26th in Merida, Mexico.
Aguirre (34-9-1, 20 KOs), who has lost seven of his last eight bouts and has been inactive for over two years, held the WBC 105 lb. strap from 2000 to 2004, making seven successful defenses before dropping the title to Eagle Den Junlaphan in Tokyo, Japan.
Upon announcing the contest, Sulaiman even went so far as to create a comeback for Aguirre, crediting him with three extra, but unverified, KO victories, including an “August 14, 2010, [comeback] in his hometown of Villahermosa, defeating Javier Roman.”
Unfortunately, after an inspection of Mexican records and registrations, there is no such active fighter named Javier Roman.
None of this should surprise hardcore followers of the sport or those who have followed the WBC’s vulgar President for Life, “Don” Jose Sulaiman, but this one is especially sleazy, even for a man of his reputation.
The instinct of many is to ignore this episode, sweep it under the rug. After all, it’s “only” a jr. flyweight title fight and, well, that’s how Sulaiman rolls. We all expect it by now.
But for every sitting duck propped up just to take a fall, there’s somebody who should be there…somebody who deserves to be there…and someone who is being cheated out of the payday they have earned.
These days, too many fans and members of the media treat the words “reform” and “honor” as punchlines to some twisted pugilistic joke. They’ll shrug their shoulders, chuckle, and urge the rest of us to just accept it.
Here’s hoping that there are still enough of us out there who aren’t laughing.