Mauricio Sulaiman is one of the most influential men in the pro boxing sphere, and like many such creatures, he has had workaholic tendencies.
The 49-year-old Mexico native, who heads up the World Boxing Council like his father before him, frequently stayed up too late attending to business, talking to his staffers or top tier managers or the highest level promoters, about sanctioning body business. And, to be sure, he liked to have his fun, too; “Moro,” as he’s known to friends, wouldn’t be shy about tucking into a plate of delicacies, and washing it down with a libation or three. He’d say yes to a second helping now and again.
If you have seen Sulaiman in the last few months, though, you’ve maybe noticed there’s less of him to love. 60 or so pounds, in fact.
Like many folks who might know in the back of their mind that they aren’t treating their body like a temple but more like an AirBnB, Sulaiman needed to be woken up courtesy of a major league health scare. Being in a coma for two days, it looks like, has made him change his thinking and behavior.
It was back in July of last year, he, his wife and three kids were prepping for a European vacation, he told us on the latest edition of the “Talkbox” podcast.
A five-week trip to visit Europe; “everything had been paid for,” they’d packed one month in advance and everyone was pumped up for the session.
”We were leaving Sunday night, around midnight, for London,” he said, “and Saturday morning I started feeling a food poisoning feeling.”
He drew the conclusion it was because of the excesses of the previous day; he’d had lunch with some friends, three bone marrow tacos and a few rib eye tacos, some guacamole, melted cheese and without a doubt several toasts with tequila, and a couple brews.
By Saturday night, the symptoms started to change, and he began having different kinds of pain, but after some home-remedies and soothing himself by saying, “Nothing will happen,” he fell asleep. On Sunday the pain was increasing and that was when a contacted his doctor, Dr. Orozco, a friend since kindergarten. He asked about the symptoms and then prescribed some medication.
The flight to London would take off at 11 p.m. and before leaving home he called the doc and begged him to prescribe something stronger for the pain as he did not want to fly feeling like that. Sulaiman got an injection at 7 p.m. and at 8 p.m. the family were checking in at the airline counter. He hugged a daughter, who told him he was burning up. His temp was 104 degrees (40 Celsius). He called the doc and was told, “Please do not get on that flight. Please come to the hospital right away.” He told the rest of the crew to board the plane without him, he’d catch up.
”With deep sorrow, I begged my wife to get on the plane with the kids, and promised I would join them in Europe two days later,” he said. He took an Uber and went to the emergency room at the hospital.
Sunday night was spent lowering the fever, getting some medicals done and CAT scans to evaluate his condition. After the temperature went down, he was given blasts of medication, and on Monday he woke up feeling much better. Tests showed an infection but he felt he was on the mend.
Tuesday night the pain became unbearable, and due to intestine and colon inflammation, it was decided surgery was called for. It was appendicitis, mainly.
He readied himself mentally for the surgery, praying to the presence of his beloved dad Jose. Mainly, he did not want to wake up with a breathing tube, having claustrophobia that haunted him since he was a boy.
In an induced coma for two days, as surgeons cut into him, he was happy to open his eyes in the hospital bed.
But he noted that a breathing tube was inserted into his mouth; for eight hours, he was awake and trying to maintain a calmness and not fall into a claustrophobic terror.
The tube was taken out, his family returned to his side, and he learned how critical his case was.
”I understood that the way I lived for 48 years, that was enough. I had responsibility for my kids, and my wife and my life, so I have changed my life around. I came back to exercising, I used to be a great athlete. But then I got to work, at the WBC, traveled all over the place, wake up very early, go to bed very late, eat, have fun,” he said on the pod. ”So I changed my life all around, and I lost like 60, 70 pounds, I feel great. I just feel very lucky I have this opportunity, because I could have had a heart attack, or worse complications, but I have been given a second chance and I’m enjoying life very much.”
And now he realizes he was taking things for granted — and he didn’t understand that as he was gaining weight, the poundage was putting a toll on his system. He told the “Talkbox” listeners that they should perhaps try and smarten up their act, before a nasty incident forces them to change.
“If you exercise, drink lots of water, choose your foods responsibly,” he said, listing all the delicacies he digs, you will enjoy the mouth-watering choices more, because you aren’t indulging yourself as often. We all do it — food, drink, cigarettes, booze, etc. “And we all can find solutions, but it’s hard to understand it and tackle it and get to work on it.”
Sulaiman sent out a letter to pals and cohorts, and shared this tale. He promised to stay on a straighter, more narrow and less taco-laden path, and offered four words he will be seeking to keep front and center as he works to keep treating his body better. Most of us I dare say would do well to tuck away these same characteristic traits which can aid our journey to live a life of physical and moral wellness:
Woods, a Brooklyn resident, was a staff writer at NY Newsday, before joining ESPN The Magazne (2003-2011). He edited TheSweetScience.com (2007-20015), publishes NYFights.com, calls fights for Facebook Fightnight Live and does the “Talkbox” podcast for Everlast.