Remembering Bert Sugar

By Kieran Mulvaney

Bert Sugar - Photo Credit: Will Hart

Bert Sugar, boxing historian and good friend of HBO Boxing, died on Sunday following a battle with cancer. He was 75.

Renowned as much for his bon mots, trademark cigar and fedora as for his boxing knowledge, Sugar was one of the sport's most iconic and recognizable figures. Born in Washington, DC, he briefly flirted with life as a lawyer ("I passed the bar," he would quip of his legal training, "and it was the only bar I ever passed") and as an advertising executive ("We were the original Mad Men") before finding his niche in boxing, a sport for which-with his gift for colorful, expressive writing and his larger-than-life personality-he was perfectly suited.

He sparred with Muhammad Ali, co-wrote the authorized biography of Ali's trainer Angelo Dundee, edited The Ring and Boxing Digest, and penned more than 80 books, many of them on boxing but also on, among other subjects, baseball. (Sugar wrote the official guide to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and even had his own Topps baseball card.) He hosted and pontificated on countless broadcasts, including Ringside on ESPN Classic and, most recently, The Sweet Science with Bert Sugar here on HBO.com.

Sugar was also widely appreciated within the boxing community for the readiness with which he encouraged and supported many up-and-coming writers, including the author of this piece. He liked few things more than to pull up a bar stool and regale friends and strangers alike with tall tales and recollections, frequently convulsing in laughter as he did so.

Often, during such sessions, he would pause, look at the drink in front of him and observe, "I have always said: I would rather be a good liver than have one." And that he certainly was. His was a life well-lived, and his was a presence that will be much missed.

 

See highlights of the work Bert Sugar contributed to HBO.com