Mauricio Sulaiman ‘no comment’ on Artur Beterbiev-Dmitry Bivol but praises Saudi involvement in boxing

WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman has thrown his weight behind Saudi Arabia as an emerging boxing mecca, and is not ruling out Dmitriy Bivol challenging Artur Beterbiev for the WBC light-heavyweight title.

Reports have emerged that the undisputed 175lbs clash could happen on June 1, between Beterbiev, who has the WBC, WBO and IBF belts, and WBA champion Bivol.

After Russia invaded Ukraine, the WBC announced it would not sanction fights in Russia or Belarus, and that there would be no rankings for fighters from either nation as long as the conflict lasted. 

Sulaiman also said, in October last year, that he would not support a Beterbiev-Bivol match-up and that Beterbiev was absolved from his decision because he had a Canadian citizenship.  

Now the fight seems almost certain to happen, but Sulaiman was not offering any comment on whether he, or the WBC, would reverse that decision and said that, as yet, there has been no request for the WBC to sanction it.

“The WBC has a process within the board of governors, so at this time I cannot comment until we finalise our work inside,” Sulaiman said.

“Would it go to a vote?”

“I’m sorry, I cannot comment. It’s an important, sensitive topic that I need to keep under control.”

“Would it be your decision, or down to a committee?”

“I will not comment anything until we have the finalised process.”

“Is it a fight you want to see?”

“I love to see every fight. I love to see fights and that fight has great elements in sports and it has many things that have to do to the betterment of boxing in other ways.”

“When do you anticipate being able to have news on whether you will or won’t support it?”

“We have not received a sanction request for that fight.” 

Sulaiman is a staunch advocate for big-time boxing in Saudi Arabia. Despite resistance in many quarters because of sportswashing and concerns that many of the big fights will go to the Middle East, Sulaiman sees only good and how it benefits the sport.

“Well, I guess it depends where you are in the equation and if you view things one way, and do not understand how to adjust, and face adversity or challenges, or obstacles or opportunities, then you’re going to be on the outside,” Sulaiman said. 

“How can someone be against a system which is paying so much money to so many fighters which is putting boxing at a level of highest interest worldwide and which is announcing a lot of active events coming up and every promotion is a real, real promotion? And it should be like that.”

“You name [announce] the fight, you make a great video, [an] interesting [trailer], promoting the fight, that kids and people who do not know boxing love and see, with the monsters [Sulaiman was referring to the zombie inspired Day of eckoning promo video] and all this. This is promotion. This is great for the sport.”

Does Sauliamn have any concerns about the wider implications for boxing, of all major fights heading to Saudi Arabia and taking them away from places like London and Las Vegas?

“I don’t think it is,” Sulaiman said. “It is the initial shock. But there are so many fights coming up that will not be in Saudi, and if you have a new concept or a new promotion and they are doing things others should have been doing for a time [getting people to work together], of course they have all the money to invest and they are investing it very well, so I don’t think it’s a threat. I don’t think anyone should resist it, rather co-operate and adjust. The WBC has always supported anything that comes for the betterment of the sport. When PBC was announced, everyone said, ‘Oh, they’re going to make their own belt and this and that’. We supported PBC. When DAZN began, ‘Oh, this is da, da, da’… we supported DAZN from day one. And that’s the way it should be. If you support, and build, then the industry grows and everyone benefits.”