Of course, whenever someone dies, he’s always a “great guy.” People are never more two-faced than when giving praise to someone who’s no longer around to bother them, but in the midst of all the maudlin praise for recently deceased boxing historian and critic Bert Sugar, let me inject a note of reality. The plain fact is that if you are a were a fan of the current heavyweight champion Klitschko brothers, Wladimir and Vitali, or of European heavyweights in general, Bert Sugar repeatedly made it clear that he was the enemy.
At the end of his career, Sugar increasingly seemed a cigar-chomping man out of time, a guy who couldn’t handle the fact that the African-American heavyweights he idolized while coming of age as a boxing scribe in the 1960s were no longer a dominant force in boxing’s marquee division.
For a guy often described as being nice and accommodating in person, Sugar became downright nasty near the end of his life when the topic of the Klitschkos came up.
He was still the man that the mainstream media went to when it wanted opinions on boxing, and Sugar did his best to trash the Klitschkos every chance he got. More than one interview left me both angry and embarrassed for Sugar, who was blowing his credibility near the end of his life over some prejudices he just couldn’t get past. The fact is that Sugar never voiced a criticism of the Klitschkos that couldn’t be leveled at many other heavyweight champions with whom he had no problems.
He never failed to level the only partially accurate charge of the brothers being “boring” jab artists, yet he seemed to forgive Larry Holmes and Lennox Lewis for the same grave sins. He never failed to slam the Klitschkos’ competition, yet he didn’t appear overly concerned at the lack of big names on the resumes of Rocky Marciano or Mike Tyson.