An Implication of Bert’s Passing

By Ted Sares on March 26, 2012
An Implication of Bert’s Passing
"I’m fully aware of it. Guys like Fleischer, Sugar, Hank Kaplan—you can’t replace them."

“He was quite a guy, and a character, with a long history, a tremendous amount of knowledge, and a great memory for the little details.”—Dr.Rck (BLH poster)

Whether or not you liked Bert Sugar’s writing and/or aura, he undeniably shared a burning passion for boxing, but this passion was one that was uniquely tethered to a historical context. You see, Bert didn’t need YouTube to discuss a particular fight. Bert’s YouTube was between his ears and switched on to a superb memory bank.

As the boxing historians with firsthand experience of classic fights leave (many are members of the International Organization of Boxing Historians but few are members of the Boxing Writers Association of America), we will lose that critical link with the past. Accordingly, analyses of those fights will become more and more abstract and less human no matter how hard a 24-year-old writer tries to humanize them. For me, this is one of the most important implications of Bert Sugar’s passing

There are exceptions, of course. Younger men like Mike Silver, Max Kellerman, and Teddy Atlas will keep the historical flame burning, but their research and grasp is exceptional. Most writers today were not even on the maternity radar when Bert was watching fights, yet these younger scribes write as if they were at ringside.

Scott Christ of Bad Left Hook, one of the most honest boxing writers I know (and one of the best), puts it this way:

“…I’m fully aware of it. Guys like Fleischer, Sugar, Hank Kaplan—you can’t replace them. I do hope others in my age group really try, but we’re just totally different. Not of the same cloth other than we do love boxing. Sugar by all accounts wasn’t a big fan of modern boxing journalism, and I can’t blame him. If I’d been from his time, I wouldn’t like it either. We operate with different standards, and though I like what I do and think it has at least some value, I don’t dare hold it up to the journalistic standards of what used to be. I’m not trying to sound insightful; I’m just being totally honest. We’re not the same.

“And I think this is true of all sports, too. What we do now is about results—instant, hard, fast, results. We’ve really got no time, as Bert said at one point, to be disciplined and to truly explore and examine our subjects the way they did. We just can’t do it, because nobody is looking for that, really.”

Goodbye Bert, you may not be the last great boxing historian, but you are pretty close.

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  1. Elmo Adolph 05:07pm, 04/01/2012

    Tex, I looked all over this blog and could not find anything said about Greb.  I will say, however, unless some young person is a boxing historian they may not go back that far recognizing someone like Greb.  You are right…he was a great fighter.

  2. Elmo Adolph 05:04pm, 04/01/2012

    EZ E, don’t want to take up too much of this opportunity but have to say that when Vonda Ward got hit by Wolfe, I thought she was going to die then.  Her eyes rolled back into her head and it was scary.  A one-punch fight!!!

  3. TEX HASSLER 07:08am, 04/01/2012

    Bert Sugar was a true friend to boxing and will be greatly missed. He was honest in his evaluations of boxing and understood the history of boxing. Without a deep understanding of boxing past you cannot evaluate today’s fighters. Someone who thinks he knows boxing and does not know who Harry Greb was is some one who knows next to nothing about the boxing. Greb could not be ranked lower than 3rd on the all time great middleweight list and I rank him #1.

  4. EZ E 06:59pm, 03/31/2012

    ELMO, Actually, I “saw” you a couple of days ago as I watched my copy of the Ann Wolfe vs Vonda Ward fight. Great kayo and GREAT JOB by ref Adolph!

  5. Elmo Adolph 05:34pm, 03/31/2012

    Hi “the thresher”!  I’m still kicking.  Hope you are well.  Losing Bert, who was younger than me, makes me think a lot.  I feel great with just a few old age cramps.

  6. Elmo Adolph 05:28pm, 03/31/2012

    EZ E,
    I am doing well…Thanks for remembering..miss the boxing game a lot.  Hope all is well with you…

  7. EZ E 04:27am, 03/31/2012

    Being an ‘old school’ fight fan, Bert’s stories, opinions and outlooks generally ALWAYS interested me. No, I didn’t ALWAYS agree but nobody ALWAYS does. But whether I did or not I ALWAYS learned something. That’s probably one of the many reasons why we will ALWAYS remember. Some will remember his humor, or ever present hat and cigar but in the ‘Old School’ of fisticuffs he will ALWAYS be remembered.

  8. EZ E 04:13am, 03/31/2012

    Wow!! ELMO’S BACK!! Como estas amigo Elmo?? Hope all is well. Peace!!

  9. eddie holloway 02:13am, 03/31/2012

    Sugar was Sweet to many boxing fans

  10. the thresher 02:17pm, 03/27/2012


  11. Elmo Adolph 12:21pm, 03/27/2012

    I am very sorry to hear about Sugar.  I was in the game a long time and don’t remember anyone I met during those years who was more impressive and informative and captivating in conversation.  He was a wonderfully kind man who seemed to enjoy people.  There are some names of young mentioned for comparison…but forget it as none of them are even close.  Bert was a master at delivery in a most unpretentious way.  His technique for detail was his forte and his delivery was believable and accurate.

  12. the thresher 10:10am, 03/27/2012

    “In 1959 Jacobs went into business with fellow collector Bill Cayton, and together they owned the production companies The Greatest Fights of the Century and Big Fights Inc. He and Cayton rescued and restored rare films of such fighters as Bob Fitzsimmons, Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey and James J. Corbett, which might otherwise have been lost forever.”

  13. Iron Beach 03:57am, 03/27/2012

    RIP Mr. Bert, Frank you’re thinking of Jimmy Jacobs.

  14. john coiley 01:09am, 03/27/2012

    Bert will be missed. His knowledge of the sport and compassion for all made a difference.

  15. FrankinDallas 06:52pm, 03/26/2012

    This loss reminds me of the guys who used to manage Mike Tyson…one of them had a great collection of old fight movies that the Classic Sports channel purchased. You never see the movies; I don’t know what happened to them. Burt probably saw all of them, I bet. Goody Petronelli, Angelo Dundee, now Sugar. The old guard is passing….

  16. dan Adams 05:19pm, 03/26/2012

    Bert Sugar was a great boxing schmoozer who hooked me each and every time I heard him speak.  I can’t think of anyone else with whom I’d rather have shared a table and a steak, and more than a few drinks, while talking boxing until the joint closed and the owners threw us out.

  17. MRBILL-HARDCORE XXX 02:08pm, 03/26/2012

    A true end to a cool boxing era has transpired over the last few years. All the real legends are either too old to fight in 2012 or now dead… A whole new breed is gonna burst onto the scene, and so far I am not thrilled with what I’ve been seeing…... WORD!

  18. mikecasey 01:35pm, 03/26/2012

    Bert was a brave and fearless editor of The Ring who made it his mission to nail the bad guys. He had to pick up the thread after the famous ratings scandal on Nat Loubet’s watch - not an easy task! Bert brought back the classic Ring logo, filled the magazine with a great balance of the old and the new and revived the works of great writers like Red Smith.

  19. sthomas 01:00pm, 03/26/2012

    Well done Ted.  The word colorful comes to mind when I think of Bert Sugar.  I always read/watched him when he ‘performed’.  A very insightful man who’s opinions I often disagreed with but always respected.  RIP Bert Sugar.

  20. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 12:50pm, 03/26/2012

    TED SARES-You’re the one that’s got the beat and JOFRE proves your point with his comp of Zivic and Ottke!

  21. Mike Silver 12:38pm, 03/26/2012

    Ted, you wrote a fine tribute to Bert Sugar.
    He had a sharp, insightful mind and wit and an incredible memory for boxing facts and lore. He also had some amateur boxing experience.

  22. EZ E 12:29pm, 03/26/2012

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there are three “Sugars” in boxing that will FOREVER stand out a heads ABOVE all the rest: Robinson, Leonard and… BERT! Truly THE END OF AN ERA.

  23. mikecasey 12:05pm, 03/26/2012

    Good observations, Jofre. Dick Tiger toiled for an age before coming good and lost a good few fights early in his career. Hard to believe now that in his early days in British rings, he looked to be little more than a decent test for others. Giardello and Archie Moore dropped some along the way, but all those guys were general;ly losing to ‘A’ grade opposition. And Billy Conn, of course, with no amateur experience, had to do running repairs in his early days in the pro ranks. But look at the fabulous boxer he became!

  24. the thresher 11:59am, 03/26/2012

    But the BWAA puts up little synopses to remind its members about the history of boxers up for Hall of Fame balloting. Unfuckingbelievable. You or Mike or Bert sure as hell don’t need reminders. If I say Masao Ohba, you know exactly what I am talking about. If I say Charlie Norkus, you don’t need any prompting. If I say Ernie Durando, you know who I mean, and If say Lester Ellis, you don’t need a synopsis. It makes me want to vomit when I see this kind of stuff.

  25. jofre 11:50am, 03/26/2012

    Ted and Mike, how true and sad. Today’s generation is too involved in fantasy sports and stats. Consequently, they do not take the time to look beyond the numbers.  Imagine what they must think about Fritzie Zivic’s 1993 induction into the IBHOF. Looking at his record alone (159-65-9-1) they must be aghast.  Moreover, stat for stat, if you compared Zivic with a fighter like Zven Ottke (who retired with an undefeated record of 34-0-0 and 20+ bogus title defenses) it would seem a no brainer to declare Ottke the better fighter without delving into both fighters’ quality of opposition.

  26. the thresher 11:48am, 03/26/2012

    pugknowes, absolutley not. I do not belong to IBRO. In fact, the only boxing organization I belong to is Ring 4 and it does not involve writing. I am NOT conflicted. in any way that of which I am aware.

  27. pugknows 11:29am, 03/26/2012

    Love it but aren’t you being a bit bias re IBRO?

  28. the thresher 11:26am, 03/26/2012

    I bet I now what Boxing writers group he belonged to.

    BTW, Mike, you are one of the great examples of someone who keeps the link to the past.

  29. mikecasey 10:42am, 03/26/2012

    Very true and relevant points, Ted. Whatever one thinks of Sugar, he zeroed in on boxing when he decided to change the direction of his career and learned all he could about it. He appreciated the greatness of Jack Dempsey and Benny Leonard as much as the talents of the more modern fighters. We mustn’t lose that depth in the 24/7 synthetic society we have created for ourselves. A few years ago, some guy describing himself as a boxing historian did quite a piece on Hopkins as one of the top five greatest middleweights. I asked the guy where he ranked Harry Greb. His reply was, “Who was Harry Greb?” He wasn’t being sarcastic either.

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