Jose Sulaiman, a one-time fighter, referee and judge who rose to become one of the most significant figures in the modern era of professional boxing, died Thursday at a Los Angeles hospital following a lengthy illness. He was 82.
Sulaiman was unanimously elected president of the World Boxing Council in 1975 and served in the position until his death at the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, where he had been hospitalized since October.
His son, Mauricio Sulaiman, confirmed his death.
In November at the WBC Convention in Bangkok, Thailand, Sulaiman was voted WBC president for life.
As leader of one of boxing's most significant sanctioning bodies for nearly four decades, Sulaiman fought for rules pertaining to fighter safety and was instrumental in cutting fights from 15 to 12 rounds.
After Duk Koo Kim died of injuries he suffered during a nationally televised fight with Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini on Nov. 13, 1982, in Las Vegas, Sulaiman announced that all WBC championship fights would be only 12 rounds for safety reasons.
The Larry Holmes-Lucien Rodriguez bout for the WBC heavyweight title on March 27, 1983, was scheduled for 12 rounds, the first to occur following Sulaiman's edict. Now, all sanctioning bodies limit their championship bouts to 12 rounds.
Sulaiman, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2007, had a legion of critics, who claimed he was far too close to promoter Don King and that he made decisions on who got title shots depending upon personal relationships.