By James Blears
The World Boxing Council is asking boxer Graciano Rocchigiani to allow them to suspend the this year’s payment that stems from a lawsuit settlement.
Rocchigiani was awarded $31 million dollars in damages by a New York City federal court jury in 2003, from a lawsuit against the World Boxing Council and its president, Jose Sulaiman. The lawsuit began in 1998 with claims that the WBC had improperly taken away his title.
After Roy Jones Jr. dropped his title for aplanned move to the heavyweight division, the two leading contenders, Graciano Rocchigiani and Michael Nunn, fought in Germany in 1998 for the vacant title. Rocchigiani won and was crowned champion. After Jones announced that he was going to stay at the light heavyweight, the WBC downgraded Rocchigiani's status to "interim champ" and later stripped him of that status and gave the title back to Jones.
After the WBC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2003, the two parties reached a private settlement, which is reputed to span seven years.
But WBC President Jose Sulaiman explained: “We want to suspend the payment for this year, because we don’t have the money! I can’t mention how much is involved, because we have an agreement between the parties not to mention the money, but it is a lot!
“My message to Graciano is that people believe, and I strongly believe that the World Boxing Council is needed for boxing in the world. We are providing many benefits for the sport. I could not image professional boxing without the WBC green and gold belt, So I’m asking Graciano, who has made so much money out of us, that at least he could give us, understanding the situation, an extension this year without a payment, while we look what to do to get the money.”
The WBC is organizing an event including a dinner and bouts including a world title fight for December 6th in Cancun, to raise money to help pay the debt.
Don Jose said: “I’m thinking about having some dinners or something, because I thought the promoters would help directly, but they don’t.”