One of the advantages of growing older is that you have been able to experience a great many things... good, as well as not so good. Along the way you meet many people. In my case, I have been blessed. I have walked, not only with the great and near great, but I have also had the privilege to rub elbows with many of the wonderful and legendary characters of my lifetime.
Today, I learned that a dear friend and long-time associate has passed on. His demise simply said "Boxing writer Bert Sugar dies of cardiac arrest." That is a true statement, but hardly tells what he meant to sports.
Bert was my friend. The last time I talked to him was approximately 3 months ago. There was no indication that he was sick, or that he was battling lung cancer. Instead, we talked about all the times we had worked together and what we might do in the future. Obviously the future never game.
In his lifetime, Bert wrote and had published somewhere between 60 and 80 books. As a man who has only had five published books, I can certainly attest to not only the difficulty of coming up with something not only worthwhile to write about, but also how meaningful it has to be to get a publisher to say "I want to print that".
More impressive was the fact that in this day of modern technology, Bert never owned a computer and shunned the proprietorship of a cell phone. He did all his work either longhand, or on his longtime friend, a typewriter.
My young readers should know that a typewriter is an ancient, now obsolete, non-electronic term for the computers. During my early years, computers never existed.
The hailed Bert on radio and in TV as a Boxing writer and historian. That was only a small part of his persona. He was a true sports historian versed on every facet you could name, especially when it came to Baseball, Horses and Boxing.
Bert was familiar to everyone in the Boxing World. He was a pleasant caricature with his white fedora perched at a rakish angle on top of his, I think, bald dome. I never knew!
As a joke, I once asked him if he even wore his hat to bed. His answer was only my wife and I know and neither us will ever tell.
In his career, Bert had a great many "ups" and "down". At one point he was the owner and publisher of the venerable Boxing Magazine... Ring. Unfortunately, this creative genius only wanted to write and unscrupulous associates wrested control of the publication from him.
During those dark days many in the fight game considered him a Pariah. He would hold court with his typewriter on the table, at a favorite Sports Watering hole in lower Manhattan ... Runyons.
In those days, I was traveling between Los Angeles and New York at least once a month. I would have lunch with Bert each time while he continued to bang out column after column and orchestrated his return to Ring Magazine Stewardship. He fought a costly court battle and finally won his right to own and publish Ring, ( the Bible of Boxing, the maker of the rankings, once again.
During this hiatus period, I put Bert in quite a few of my productions where his wit and knowledge was astounding. Eventually it established him as a Boxing Spokesman...leading to many other opportunities.
Back at Ring, although the Publisher, all he wanted to do was write. He drove his Managing editor "bonkers". Fortunately, this time he was in with people who respected him and although they fought his desire to write, they relented and at the same time protected his ownership interests.
My situation at FOX was similar. I had originally cut my broadcasting teeth as a blow-by-blow announcer Whenever we did fights from the Olympic and our regular announcer Tom Kelly was unavailable, I desired to be the fill-in. Here, even though I was the boss, my beloved Janice Cassazza, the Executive Producer, never wanted to hire me. Thanks to Clair Higgins who spoke for Eileen Eaton, the late wonderful female promoter, I prevailed.
In 1974, I had the opportunity to be the Toastmaster (The Emcee) of a roast for Bert at the Touchdown Club in Washington, D. C. The outpouring of affection was overwhelming. Here was a native Washingtonian who never forgot where he came from as he scaled the heights of Sports Journalism.
In 2005, Bert was inducted into the International Boxing hall of Fame. He constantly astounded all of us with his vast knowledge and encyclopedic memory of events, places and times.
On a few occasions, I had lunch with Bert at another of his favorite Manhattan Watering Halls ... Gallagher's Steak House. It was here, on at least three luncheons when Bert was accosted by Howard Cosell, he being the self-proclaimed all knowledgeable sports maven. He was forever questioning Bert's awareness of a particular sports subject. It eventually would end up in a bet for something like dinner. I am here to tell you, Bert ate free at Howard's expense many times.
Bert. when he was your friend, never turned away if you needed help. One time, when I was still doing Publicity I mentioned in passing that I had an event that in need of placement and I was short on media names. I mentioned it only once and then forgot about it.
A week later, I was living in Palm Desert California at the time, when a bulky overnight mail envelope arrived at my house. Bert had heard my plight and had taken upon himself to supply me more than 500 names with addresses and phone numbers (e-mail didn't exist at that time) all in longhand. This proved invaluable and made me indispensable to my client. When I wished to repay him, he wouldn't hear of it. In fact.felt insulted!
Bert was a showman and he reveled in creating that impression. His public persona was that of a gregarious, flamboyant Damon Runyon character. But in fact, he was pensive, studious as well as modest. He had a wit and a sense of humor without parallel. He never took himself seriously.In boxing, when a champion dies, the Ring bell is stuck ten times indicating a knockout. Bert is down for the count, but his legacy will never suffe