Sun Mar 25 07:07pm EDT
Bert Sugar, who was as much a part of the fight racket over the past 50 years as the boxers he loved to cover, died Sunday at a hospital in Mount Kisko, N.Y., of cardiac arrest, following a long battle with cancer.
Sugar, 75, was never seen anywhere without his fedora and his large stogie. He often wore brightly colored clothes, particularly loud pants, and was easily recognizable in any crowd. He loved boxing and was a throwback to an era when it was one of the three biggest sports in the country, along with baseball and horse racing.
In addition to loving boxing, he loved talking about it and helping others to understand its history. He was a regular on talk radio shows around the country and had worked for HBO Sports in recent years promoting pay-per-view cards by doing a series of interviews.
He had a quick wit and keen sense of humor and used it to make his point about the fighters he covered.
He authored more than 80 books, including dozens on boxing. His 2006 book, "Boxing's Greatest Fighters," is regarded as the definitive guide to the greatest fighters of all-time. He also served as the editor of Ring and Boxing Illustrated magazines and wrote for many others, including Sports Illustrated.
He was a character who was willing to do anything to get a story and once sparred with Muhammad Ali.
My sparring with Muhammad Ali. Up at Deer Lake, Pa., in the early 70s. I got the bejabbers beat out of me. I wanted to do it. I'd been an amateur boxer. I actually hit him -- once.
Sugar, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame as an observer in 2005, became so well known that he played himself in a host of movies and television shows. Among the movies he appeared in are "Cinderella Man," "The Great White Hype," "Rocky Balboa," and "Play It to the Bone."
The Boxing Writers Association of America in 1990 named Sugar the winner of the "Nat Fleischer Award," for career excellence in boxing journalism, the most prestigious honor for a boxing writer.