Monday, March 26, 2012
Fond memories of Bert Sugar's hijinks
By Michael Woods
In the summer of 1979, Bert Sugar hired Randy Gordon, whom he called "a clean-cut little guy," to be his right-hand man at The Ring magazine, which was swirling down the drain after being front and center in a ratings scandal.
Gordon edited The Ring after Sugar left, was commissioner of the New York State Athletic Commission, did announcing gigs for ESPN and USA, and these days does a radio show with Gerry Cooney on Sirius as he finishes up an autobio ("Glove Affair") about his tenure in the fight game. But, Gordon tells NYFightBlog, out of all his gigs -- even the more high-profile and lucrative ones -- he will most fondly remember his time with Sugar at The Ring.
Gordon recalls that he had been working for Stanley Weston, who put out boxing and wrestling mags on Long Island, for seven years, and in the summer of 1979 he got a call from Sugar. Sugar wasn't then the iconic figure he is now, hadn't yet figured out how to parlay his raconteur persona into being a personality who became as well or better known than many of the world-class pugs he talked and wrote about. Sugar told Gordon he wanted to offer him a job, and this being a different time, they met at a bar to talk turkey. Gordon accepted the gig, and the joint erupted, with Bert offering a round on the house to all.
"We were together for five years, and every day was an adventure," Gordon told me. "Every day something happened that was not the same day as the one before."
The pace was hectic ("We did everything on typewriters, people would mail us results from Japan and Thailand, everywhere. … It cost me my first marriage; we never stopped working, we were working well over 100 hours a week."), but Gordon loves recounting vintage Bert-being-Bert tales: Sugar giving his from-the-night-before poker winnings, $2,500, to a bum, and that resulting in a mass of panhandlers rushing the Ring's office; Sugar trying to brain a famous boxer's dad out of a fifth-story office window for stealing Ring gear and record books during an office visit; Sugar, in a bid to convince crusty columnist Dick Young that he always wore "The Hat," greeting Dick at a hotel room door dripping wet from a shower, wearing nothing but a fedora, damp stogie in mouth; Sugar starting a food fight on a flight back from Vegas when he hurled a piece of cheesecake at fellow writer Michael Katz after the Leonard-Hearns fight. Basically, he did stuff that would get you labeled a gambler, or buy you a pink slip from a concerned-about-PR bossman, or earn you a visit from an air marshall in these different times.
About a week ago, Gordon spoke to Bert on the phone, and his old pal told him he knew the end was near. They had brought The Ring back, but there would be no comeback this time around. Gordon tried to rally the raconteur.
"We'll go to the next big fight in Vegas!" Gordon said.
"Wouldn't that be nice? Wherever I am, maybe I can watch," Sugar replied.