By Tony Paige
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When I heard that boxing icon, writer and historian Bert Randolph Sugar had passed, I was ready for it. I knew he wasn’t doing too well in his battle against lung cancer.
I last spoke to Bert about a month ago, and I was trying to gauge his health. So he tells me, “It’s nice when a Tony Paige gives me a call to see how I’m doing.”
He told the best stories. He told the best historical stories and he wrote and talked about more than just boxing.
Baseball, football, basketball, wrestling, Bert had an opinion.
A member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame since 2005, Bert always defused his own legend when he spoke about who would win what fight or what game by adding, “But I had Japan in World War Two.”
Bert and I had our moments.
I did a piece for my old newspaper, The City Sun, entitled “Two Days With Muhammad Ali.” His autobiography was out and a bunch of writers took a bus trip to his old training camp in Deer Lake, Pa. Ali was still understandable then, and he joked all the way up and back.
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On day two, I watched Ali sign autograph after autograph to break the bookstore’s record set by Yankees legend Mickey Mantle for the most signings of a sports book in one day.
About a month later, a friend told me he really enjoyed my article on Ali in Boxing Illustrated.
Interesting, I thought. Why was my newspaper article in Boxing Illustrated?
Bert was the editor at the time, and I called him to see why my story was in his publication. He gave me the “you’re a great young writer” speech and I went for it, until he did it a second time. I told him he’d have to pay me and attribute the story to my newspaper.
Bert never ran my stories again.
Regardless, I loved to put him on the FAN because he was knowledgeable and funny. He always had that unlit cigar in his mouth and his seasonal fedora on top of his head. He also wore the most outlandish pants ever worn by man. Think bright green pants with anchors on them, slightly high on his ankle revealing a seriously untanned leg.
Not a pretty sight.
Still, Bert was a go-to guy for any topic. He was the advertising man responsible for the “N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestle Makes The Very Best … Chocolate” campaign.
I seem to be losing a lot of my older friends and colleagues who always brought something to the radio table. There was no mold for Bert Sugar when he was born, and Lord knows the mold has been broken for decades. I will seriously miss him.
There will never be another Bert Randolph Sugar — trust me.
What are your memories of the late, great Bert Sugar? Share them below…