The hat, the stogie, the tales, the cracks, the presence–you knew Bert Sugar was in the arena on fightnight. The author-editor-historian has stepped out from the spotlight; he lost his fight against lung cancer on Sunday, and died at Northern Westchester Medical Center. Sugar was 75 years old.
Sugar had a harrowing hospital stay in late fall, he told me in mid December, but true to form, the Chappaqua, NY resident mocked the grueling battle and indignities associated with cancer and pneumonia in trademark form. “Half the people are rooting for me to recover, half not,” he said. “From the radiation, I'm a human french fry.”
More soberly, he noted that “when you live like an idiot, it catches up with you.”
Indeed, he enjoyed his tobacco products and amber liquids, and saw the symmetry of his behavior and his plight. “I've been an editor, lawyer, adman, announcer…I've gotten away with it. This has been fun. Maybe I'm paying for it.”
Our condolences go out to his wife and children. The news was first reported on the CBS 2 news website.
Sugar, who made the Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005, offered me something of a life and career overview in that phone interview, and his trademark wit was there. “I was a lawyer, I didn't practice for more than a month,” he said. “I did pass the bar…it was the only bar I ever passed.”
The clashes with the writers when he was editing Boxing Illustrated and Ring, the time he decked his boss at the ad agency, he said he didn't look back and wonder what if. “I don't regret a step,” he told me.
We'd say we regret not having him around longer, not seeing him churn out his billionth book, or hearing his chuckle..but truth is, the man packed a lot of living into his days. Rest in peace, Bert.