BY PHILIP H. ANSELMO
Randolph “Bert” Sugar is so gracefully engrained in the minds of boxing folk and boxing fans and other would-be historians that can only aspire to be of his ilk, it’s crazy. The man was a straight-up LIFER and contributor to the sport. To say he will be missed by most is an understatement.
In the early ‘90’s, I was on a tour of the east coast with Pantera and we had a very rare day off in New York City. I can’t remember where I was headed, but it was well past lunchtime and I decided to stretch my legs. I left my hotel and walked a few ultra-crowded blocks, when all of a sudden, like some surreal dream, as I was crossing the street, there he was: Burt Sugar walking directly toward me, hat on, cigar in hand. I stopped and called his name and he turned around and looked me up and down like I was some insane person (and he would’ve been correct had he asked).
And then I introduced myself, explained who I was and why I was in town. He listened, but seemed to be in a hurry, so I asked him a few quick boxing questions that seemed to surprise him. And then he surprised me. We ended up talking boxing for about twenty minutes with cars and taxis roaring by.
We spoke of Mike Tyson to the best of my recollection and the conversation ended only after he apparently lost track of time. “Ah Shit, I’m late!” he told me. I felt a little strange about doing so, but I asked him for an autograph. I was young and very far removed on an insider’s level of the game, and I just couldn’t help myself. He chomped down on his cigar then reached into his pocket and pulled out a pen. But alas, there wasn’t a piece of paper between us. I said, “Bert, it’s really not a big deal.” But he said, “No, no… wait”, and he dug around further in his jacket pockets.
He then produced a couple of KO Series boxing cards, first a Buddy McGirt card, and then a Simon Brown card. He asked, “Will one of these do?” And I said, “Of course!” and he signed the Simon Brown card- ‘To my good buddy Phil-of-the-streets, take care, Bert Sugar’, or something very close. We shook hands, and that was that. It made my friggin’ day… maybe even month.
Mr. Sugar wasn’t much of a “seen” staple during the last decade-and-a-half (or so), and his dislike of the modern-day heavyweights and its great champions (the Klitschko brothers to be precise) was well documented. But with his passing, I say no biggie.
I met him whilst he was still a legend in the minds of many young people like myself who thrived on boxing like a diet of gasoline, so at the time it was a big deal, and to a certain extent, it still is. Somewhere in my semi-vast boxing collection is that very autograph scribbled across Simon Brown’s face. And with the passing of Mr. Sugar, I must confess I’m saddened.
RIP Mr. Sugar. He was a once in a lifetime-type cat, and his presence will be missed. I will shout to the sky, “Thanks for being nice to me Burt!”…
I suggest the rest of you do the same, because if you’d ever met the guy before, chances are he would have been just as kind to you. And those of you who may have met him under similar circumstances as me could probably tell similar stories.
Philip H. Anselmo is a musician, vocalist, songwriter for such groups as Pantera, Down, Super Joint Ritual and Arson Anthem. You can keep up with Phil’s latest music production and going-ons at www.thehousecorerecords.com