In 1982, I wrote my first story for the Voice, a profile of Bert Randolph Sugar, then editor of Ring Magazine. The piece was hooked to the Larry Holmes-Gerry Cooney heavyweight championship fight, still one of the biggest-grossing bouts in boxing history.
Twenty-eight years later, Sugar is still in the game, doing regular commentary on all sports for ESPN Classic and MSG (he can be seen offering opinions on that network’s ongoing series, The Lineup). Sugar is the writer/editor of more than 80 books — “I don’t have an exact number,” he says. “I don’t count ’em, I just write ’em!” — including the recent Baseball’s Hall of Fame: A Living History of America’s Greatest Game and a reissue of the classic My View from the Corner with legendary trainer Angelo Dundee. A member of the Boxing Hall of Fame, he is New York’s last remaining link to the golden age of boxing and an inheritor of the tradition of Damon Runyon. And he is still the man to talk to when a big fight comes up.
I caught Sugar just as he was heading for Las Vegas and Saturday night’s much-anticipated welterweight championship fight between Floyd Mayweather and Shane Mosley.
I heard through the grapevine that you’re picking Shane Mosley over Floyd Mayweather Jr. Are you nuts? Your predictions are usually spot-on, but I think you’re way off on this one. Floyd is a four-to-one favorite.
Yeah, I may be nuts, but I’ve seen much bigger upsets than this one would be if Mosley wins. Shane is a legitimate welterweight, and he’s the fastest man that Mayweather has ever fought.
I’m surprised you’re going out on a limb like this. Everyone looks to you for big fight predictions. Are you afraid that if you’re wrong, it will hurt your reputation?
Oh, hell, if I’m wrong nobody will remember the next day. But if I’m right, no one will ever forget it.
I remember in 1987, when I talked to you for the Voice about the Sugar Ray Leonard-Marvin Hagler fight, you were the only prominent writer in New York — besides myself, that is — who picked Leonard.
So who are you picking on this one?
I’m going with Mayweather, but I agree with you that it looks to be a tougher fight than the odds would indicate. Do you think this will prove to be the box-office smash that many are anticipating?
I think it will absolutely be one of the biggest-grossing fights in boxing history.
But not as big as a match between Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Do you agree with what some are saying, that that one is potentially the most lucrative fight in boxing history?
Yes, but you have to stress the word “potential” because I don’t think that fight will ever happen.
Really? With maybe a possible $150 million gate at stake, you don’t think they’ll get together?
No. Mayweather’s got a lot of problems. One is his ego — it galls him to have to split 50-50 with Pacquiao. Second is the risk factor. I think Floyd is afraid.
You think he’s physically afraid of Pacquiao?
No, not afraid of Pacquiao, but afraid of losing. Manny has an advantage there. He lost a couple of fights early in his career before he got a reputation of being invincible. He isn’t shattered by the idea of losing. But Mayweather has never lost, and is afraid of losing.
With all the talk of mixed martial arts taking over from boxing, why, for all its popularity, hasn’t MMA produced a fight that can draw like Mayweather-Mosley?
Mixed martial arts hasn’t taken over from boxing, it’s taken over from wrestling.
I take it you’re not a fan?
Of what? I call MMA a “Franken-sport.” It’s a made up sport stitched together from parts of others. Most of what I’ve seen is just bad boxing — the fighters can’t jab, and they’ve never seen a punch they could get out of the way of. It’s Grand Theft Auto with human bodies.
For more of Sugar’s analysis of Mayweather-Mosley, go to HBO.com.