Bert Sugar was not only a tremendous journalist and a sensational person, more importantly, he was a colorful character in a black and white world of one-dimensional individuals. When present, the boxing media flocked to Bert for interviews, opinions and predictions.
Where there are plenty of people that know boxing history in detail and are capable of providing good insight, there are only a few (and now barely any) people who were actually a part of the golden years of boxing back in the day. Bert was nothing short of a walking encyclopedia of boxing, and it was a real honor meeting and talking to Bert. His impact on boxing is unparalleled, and his wide cigar-biting smile was unmistakable in any crowd.
I will not write about Bert’s life or his achievements in this article, instead I want to tell you a funny story that happened to me a little while back.
In April of 2010, I was covering the Hopkins vs. Jones Jr. re-match at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, NV. I was doing the ringside photography on that night, and as the fight ended, some reporters stayed to get the post-fight photos and interviews, while others rushed to the post-fight press conference room in order to grab a front-row seat.
I took a few good shots and decided to attempt to get out of there quickly in order to try and get a good seat for the conference. As I made my way through the crowd, I noticed that the ring and most of the boxing celebrities were not getting as much attention from the general public as I would expect. What I did see, was a cluster of people to the side of the ring, gathered around someone, with cameras flashing, going off every second.
I did not want to spend the time going over there and trying to squeeze through the crowd, so I continued on my way. All of a sudden, I hear a woman’s voice yelling, “Hey camera guy, we need you.” Naturally, I turned around and noticed two ladies literally running after me, both barely handling the sprint due to their high-heeled shoes.
Once they approached me, one of them said, “Hey could you please take a picture of us with that cool old guy?” Of course to me, this “old guy,” was a mystery. “What old guy? There are dozens of old guys here,” I replied.
“Well, that funny guy, the guy with the Fedora and the cigar, come on, you know who I’m taking about,” replied one of the ladies. Yes, right then, I knew exactly who they were talking about: Bert Sugar was in attendance. Sure enough, the two women led me to that cluster of people that I noticed earlier.
There were people trying to take pictures and talk to Bert form all angles. I didn’t really have the time to wait, so I told the two ladies that I really had to go, but it was no use. They both literally held me and pleaded that they have been hoping to take a picture with Bert for a long time, and would not, for anything, pass up this opportunity.
After a while, I was able to sneak closer to, and asked Bert to take a moment and snap a picture with the ladies, which he was very happy to do. His reply, although I don’t remember exactly, was something along the lines of: “Ladies, picture, why didn’t you get me earlier?”
The picture used in this article is the very picture I am talking about, with the ladies cropped out for privacy purposes.
As always, classic Bert Sugar, creating a very fun and exciting environment with his smile and attitude. It was pretty amazing to see so many people thrilled to see and talk to Mr. Sugar. While taking pictures, most pointed to his hat, and of course, the cigar. As I remember, he was very accommodating and happy to be there and interact with all the fans.
I am sad to see him leave us, but at the same time, I am happy for him—happy that Bert Sugar lived a long life doing exactly what he was meant to do. Boxing will miss him and will undoubtedly always remember him for what he has done for the sport.
I met him on a few occasions, and it was never, ever a dull moment.
R.I.P Bert Randolph Sugar (June 7, 1937 – March 25, 2012)