The Sugar Man

To All the Ships at Sea,

I have a very dear friend that I have the utmost respect for. She constantly reminds me not to use certain terms. Well, I know she’s right and for the most part, I always listen to her. I’ve decided to take two words out of my vocabulary. One word is “no”…not in my vocab. Second word is “but”…not in my vocabulary (do I occasionally slip? Absolutely). Anybody following my blog knows that my dear friend Bert Sugar has moved on to the Irish Bar in the sky, where the double cutty sarks are wrapped around the perfume of cigar smoke (there was a day when you could smoke in bars). While researching for my book, Shooting From the Inside Out, I came across this note the Sugar man sent to me. I’d like you to look at it, read it, close your eyes and just think good thoughts. On that note, I wish you health and happiness.

All the Best,

Joe D

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The Fire Within

Hi to All the Ships at Sea,

Keisher McLeod- Wells aka “Fire”, is one of my dear friends. She is one of the most beautiful, lovely, talented, hard-working people I know. Unfortunately, Fire has had a major tragedy in her family. What she’s done, is taken all of the responsibility and done the absolute right thing. I wish her nothing but great luck and God speed.

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After friends and family, photography and filmmaking is my life. The three photos above, in my opinion, are excellent. Unfortunately I have a problem with them, I don’t know who took them, there’s no copyright on them and when my studio manager put them in Photoshop, there was no copyright on the back. Therefore, the photographs then become public domain and the photographer, and I must say a very good one, is not going to get his/her credit. All fine photographers have to work very hard at their craft and their art, I really need to know who made these photos and then that photographer needs to protect them. Sir or Madam, you did a great job. For purposes of the blog ONLY, we’ll call it ©Fire 2013.

All the best,
Joe D

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Yuri Foreman in the Spotlight

©Joe DiMaggio

©Joe DiMaggio

Hi to all the Ships at Sea,

Yuri, one of the protagonists in my full length documentary film, “In This Corner”, has started his long, arduous road back in hopes of securing his hundred and fifty-four pound title, with a one-sided win, at BB Kings last Wednesday. Personally, I’d like to wish Yuri all the luck in the world. For those of you who don’t know, when Yuri’s boxing career is over he will become an Orthodox Rabbi.

All the best,
Joe D

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Shelly Saltman on Bert Sugar

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It’s a small world; I was in Italy and I ran into Shelly Saltman, and we started to talk about boxing and about our mutual friend Bert Sugar. It turned out that we knew each other many years ago, and he came to a couple of my classes. I’m just passing along an article of his about our friend Bert.

One of the advantages of growing older is that you’ll be able to experience a great many things — good, as well as not so good. Along the way you meet many people. In my case, I have been blessed. I have walked, not only with the great and near great, but I have also had the privilege to rub elbows with many wonderful and legendary characters in my lifetime.

Sunday, I learned that a dear friend and long-time associate has passed on. The headline simply read, “Boxing writer Bert Sugar dies of cardiac arrest.” That is a true statement, but hardly tells what he meant to sports.

Bert Sugar was my friend. The last time I talked to him was approximately three months ago. There was no indication that he was sick, or that he was battling lung cancer. Instead, we talked about all the times we had worked together and what we might do in the future. Obviously, the future never came.

In his lifetime, Bert wrote and had published somewhere between 60 and 80 books. As a man who has only had five published books, I can certainly attest to the difficulty of coming up with something worthwhile to write about. I also understand how meaningful it is to get a publisher to say, “I want to print that.”

More impressive was the fact that in this day of modern technology, Bert never owned a computer and shunned the proprietorship of a cell phone. He did all his work either longhand, or on his longtime friend, the typewriter.

My young readers should know that a typewriter is an ancient, now obsolete, non-electronic term for computers. During my early years, computers never existed.

Bert was hailed in the media as a boxing writer and historian, but that was only a small part of his persona. He was a true sports historian versed on every facet you could name, especially when it came to baseball, horses and boxing.

Bert was familiar to everyone in the world of boxing. He was a pleasant caricature with his white fedora perched at a rakish angle on top of his, I think, bald dome. I never knew!

As a joke, I once asked him if he even wore his hat to bed. His answer was, “Only my wife and I know and neither us will ever tell.”

In his career, Bert had a great many “ups” and “downs.” At one point, he was the owner and publisher of the venerable boxing magazine, The Ring (aka Ring Magazine). Unfortunately, this creative genius only wanted to write, so unscrupulous associates wrested control of the publication from him.

During those dark days, many in the fight game considered him a pariah. He would hold court with his typewriter on a table at a favorite sports watering hole in lower Manhattan, Runyons.

In those days, I was traveling between Los Angeles and New York at least once a month. I would have lunch with Bert each time while he continued to bang out column after column and orchestrated his return to Ring Magazine stewardship. He fought a costly court battle and finally won his right to own and publish The Ring (the Bible of Boxing, the maker of the rankings) once again.

During this hiatus, I put Bert in quite a few of my productions where his wit and knowledge was astounding. Eventually it established him as a boxing spokesperson, leading to many other opportunities.

Back at The Ring, although he was the publisher, all he wanted to do was write. He drove his managing editor bonkers. Fortunately, this time he was in with people who respected him and although they fought his desire to write, they relented and protected his ownership interests at the same time.

My situation at FOX Sports was similar. I had originally cut my broadcasting teeth as a blow-by-blow boxing announcer. Whenever we broadcasted fights and our regular announcer Tom Kelly was unavailable, I desired to be the fill-in. Here, even though I was the boss, my beloved Executive Producer Janice Cassazza never wanted to hire me. Thanks to Clair Higgins, who spoke for the late wonderful female promoter Eileen Eaton, I prevailed.

In 1974, I had the opportunity to be the Toastmaster (The Emcee) of a roast for Bert at the Touchdown Club in Washington, D. C. The outpouring of affection was overwhelming. Here was a native Washingtonian who never forgot where he came from as he scaled the heights of sports journalism.

In 2005, Bert was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He constantly astounded all of us with his vast knowledge and encyclopedic memory of events, places and times.

On a few occasions, I had lunch with Bert at another of his favorite Manhattan watering halls, Gallagher’s Steak House. It was here, on at least three luncheons, when Bert was accosted by Howard Cosell, Cosell being the self-proclaimed, all-knowledgeable sports maven. He was forever questioning Bert’s awareness of a particular sports subject. It eventually would end up in a bet for something like dinner. I am here to tell you, Bert ate free at Howard’s expense many times.

Bert, when he was your friend, never turned away if you needed help. One time, when I was still doing publicity, I mentioned in passing that I had an event that was in need of placement and I was short on media names. I mentioned it only once and then forgot about it.

I was living in Palm Desert, Calif. at the time when a week later a bulky overnight mail envelope arrived at my house. Bert had heard my plight and had taken upon himself to supply me more than 500 names with addresses and phone numbers (e-mail didn’t exist at that time), all written in longhand. This proved invaluable and made me indispensable to my client. When I wished to repay him, he wouldn’t hear of it. In fact, he felt insulted!

Bert was a showman and he reveled in creating that impression. His public persona was that of a gregarious, flamboyant Damon Runyon character. But in fact, he was pensive and studious as well as modest. He had a wit and a sense of humor without parallel. He never took himself seriously.

In boxing, when a champion dies, the ringside bell is stuck ten times indicating a knockout. Bert is down for the count, but his legacy will never suffer.

 

So Who Do I Ask?

© 2010 Dylan DiMaggio

Here’s the Question – Bert who do you like in the Chavez vs Martinez Fight? Imaginary Answer – “Uncle Joe what’s wrong with you and how many years have you followed boxing? How many world championship fights have you photographed and you come to me for the answers?”  Bert speaking, ” if I’m not mistaken at one point, you almost had a perfect record in guessing the outcome of a boxing match – well maybe not perfect, you may have gotten one or two right out of 60 or 70 fights.  The big joke at the fights was – whoever DiMaggio picked the other guy was sure to win.”  “So now you come to me and the “Bertster” is suppose to have the answer.  Well Uncle Joe, Sergio Martinez is going to take him apart like a cheap suit. Unless of course, he gets real lucky with an overhand right. Enough of this foolishness, I have three deadlines and I will see you at the fight.”

Bert, I genuinely miss you so I’ll smoke a cigar and have a double Cutty Sark and yes, I won’t be wearing socks.

The fight game will never be the same without you. No disrespect to Roy Jones Junior

Smokin’ Joe

 

© Joe DiMaggio

I remember the first day that I photographed Smokin’ Joe Frazier; March 8 1971. Frazier was the heavyweight champion of the world, fighting the great Muhammad Ali (off a three year hiatus from boxing). To say the least, it was considered  the fight of the century, with Frank Sinatra shooting ringside for Life Magazine. I’ve been known to say “The next time I’m in Vegas, I’m gonna jump onstage and grab  a microphone—not”. over the years, Frazier and I became casual acquaintances. Joe was a true gentleman. There are very few people that ever had a bad word to say about Joe. I asked him if he would be kind enough to allow me to interview him for my documentary In This Corner, and he agreed. We met at the iconic Gleason’s Gym. Honesty is the best policy, and as far as the interview went it was two warriors talking about the good old days, and from that we talked about the future of boxing in the new decade. The interview became very personal, and that is not the proper way a documentary interview should go. I looked at it yesterday and a tear came to my eye. When I get my head put on straight, I’ll do a second and a third blog with some action photography. Yes, I know this should have been done November of last year, but it took me that long to actually find the images I was looking for. So much for my filing system. To all the ships at sea, some photography, for that matter all photography, is timeless. On that note, go out and make some great photos. Joe D.

© Joe DiMaggio

© Joe DiMaggio

 

Bert Sugar aka Bert The Great

Good friends try to keep their requests for assistance down to a minimum. Every time I’ve asked Bert Sugar for a favor, he’s always come across. There is an old italian word for bert. He’s a real “Mench” You can tell how good my Italian is. Bert joined me and Dylan yesterday as Gleasons Gym to interview Oscar De La Hoya. Bert being the profesional that he is, made a few executive decisions. We managed to get through the day unscathed and with all of the information we needed for our film “In This Corner”. Oh my God, that’s the name of the blog! What a coincidence! As day was winding into early evening, Bert wanted to go for a cocktail. Anyone who knows Bert, has to get used to three things; his fedora, his cigar, and his double Chivas Regal neat. I’m pretty sure that’s scotch whiskey! So we left Gleason’s and strolled over to a lovely little wine bar, 7 Old Fulton. It was way to early for dinner, and way to late for lunch. It was perfect timing for us to kick back and exchange war stories. Bert just returned from Miami, where he helped our mutual friend Angelo Dundee re-open the 5th Street Gym, after having been closed for 17 years. Boxing is coming back to Miami in a big way.The principles at the restaurant were of Italian heritage from Triest. The decor was beautiful, the food spectacular, and a genuine warm place to go with some friends  for a cocktail and dinner. I affectionally call Bert the “Bertster”, and he calls me Uncle Joe (don’t ask.) It was a great day, a hell of a lotta fun. That’s it, Signing off. – Joe D.