Sulaiman's father traveled from Lebanon to Mexico in approximately 1920, under the misapprehension that he was bound for Boston. When he arrived in Mexico, however, he could not afford to travel any farther, so he decided to settle and remain where he was. As a boy, the younger Sulaiman fought in what were known as hors d'oeuvres bouts, fights consisting of one-minute rounds that took place before the official bouts on Mexican boxing cards, and for which the boys were paid a few coins apiece. At age 16, he was appointed a junior boxing commissioner in his home state, and had risen to the position of Secretary General of the WBC by the time he was elected to the WBC presidency in 1975.
Sulaiman has introduced a number of innovations during his tenure as WBC president, including the four-roped ring, thumbless gloves, weigh-ins 24 hours before bouts, and the reduction of the championship distance from 15 rounds to 12.
Sulaiman is also a very controversial figure. Journalists Michael Hurley wrote, "How he was ever voted into the International Boxing Hall Of Fame is beyond me."
Sulaiman has been accused of corruption numerous times. For example, many in the boxing community have accused the WBC of bending its rules to suit promoter Don King. The late journalist Jack Newfield wrote that Sulaiman "became more King's junior partner than his independent regulator." Another journalist, Peter Heller, echoed that comment, writing, "Sulaiman...became little more than an errand boy for Don King." Heller quoted British promoter Mickey Duff as saying, "My complaint is that José Sulaimán is not happy his friend Don King is the biggest promoter in boxing. Sulaiman will only be happy when Don King is the only promoter in boxing."
After Pernell Whitaker lost a controversial decision to Jose Luis Ramirez in 1988, Whitaker's trainer, Lou Duva, called Sulaiman "a thief" and Whitaker's manager, Shelly Finkel, said, "King and Sulaiman fixed the fight, no question about it."
Anderson, Dave. "Holyfield A Stand-Up Champion" The New York Times December 20, 1990.
Heller, Peter (1988). Bad Intentions: The Mike Tyson Story. New York, New York: New American Library. pp. 143.
Hurley, Matthew. "Samuel Peter And The WBC" East Side Boxing, September 26, 2007.
Knockout magazine (Fall 1993)
Mullan, Harry. "El Presidente," Boxing Monthly, October 1998, pp. 20-22.
Newfield, Jack (1995). Only In America. New York, New York: William & Morrow Co. pp. 141.