Monday, March 26, 2012

Bert Sugar Dies

Unless you follow boxing, you may not know who Bert Sugar was.

Bert Sugar was a sports journalist. I prefer that term to sports writer because sports writer sounds like the writer in question could have written about anything but settled for sports — or was forced to do so by circumstances.

Sugar may have chosen to write about sports, but he didn't settle, and he wasn't forced into it. I always felt he was born to write about sports, particularly boxing. It was his passion, the way it is some sports journalists' passion to write about horse racing.

How ironic it was that he should die a couple of days after the 50th anniversary of the fight that, reportedly, led to boxing's first televised fatality.

I'm tempted to compare him to Red Smith, but Smith was a true sports journalist, writing about every sport with equal enthusiasm — whereas Sugar really was more of a specialist.

Sugar wrote more than 80 books, but most of them dealt with boxing. He was a boxing historian. Some of his books were about baseball — one was even about early 20th century escape artist Harry Houdini — but most were about boxing — the great fights, the great fighters — filled with nuggets that most casual observers would never know otherwise.

I read some of his books. I saw him on TV more frequently, commenting on the sport, offering insights no one else could. He was always easy to spot with his tradmark fedora hat. He was kind of an amiable, informal version of Tom Landry, I suppose.

He was afflicted with lung cancer — no doubt an outcome of his long cigar habit — and that, apparently, was what finally took his life.

He will be missed, especially whenever a significant fight comes along.

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