R.I.P Butch Lewis – 1946 to 2011

By James Slater: In very sad news, it has been reported how flamboyant, creative former boxing promoter Ronald “Butch” Lewis has died from a cardiac arrest at the young age of 65. According to reports, Lewis died in his Delaware home over the weekend.

I’m in no way as qualified as a Mike Marley or a Michael Spinks when it comes to writing a tribute to the colourful, energetic man who became famous for guiding the careers of, most notably both Spinks brothers, but Butch’s passing has saddened me all the same. I can remember Lewis, shirtless as he always was, being around the heavyweight division back in the 1980’s, when he of course was making headlines with his star fighter Michael “Jinx” Spinks.

I found Butch’s fast-talking approach to be most captivating during interviews, and it seemed he was doing way more talking than Michael was. Butch had the savvy and the know-how to get his man a staggering career-high payday of over $13 million to fight the invincible-looking Mike Tyson. “Once and For All” has to go down as much Butch’s brainchild as it was Don King’s certainly.

Lewis always appeared happy in front of the cameras, spouting out a dozen words a second. Don King had met his match when it came to this street smart promoter! Gracing, among other front pages, the cover of The Ring, Butch also featured in a number of boxing documentaries. One of my lasting memories of Lewis will be his appearance in the magnificent “Thrilla In Manila” doc, with Frazier’s side of the fierce blood feud with Ali being represented.

Butch has plenty of interesting things to say in the 2008 production: his tales of accompanying Joe to Manila for the epic rumble, his recollection of Frazier meeting up with Ali in the back of a limousine (with Butch present, sat in the middle) and each calling the other champ. This happened during Ali’s enforced exile, and Frazier gave Ali money, with Butch was there to witness it. Lewis also speaks of how, under his breath whilst in the dressing room moments ahead of “Super-Fight One,” Joe said to him ‘Tell these people to get the f**K out, ‘cos it’s time to go now!’

Another fascinating recollection Butch has in the must-see documentary is of Ali messing with a gun underneath the Manila hotel room window of Frazier: “You just never knew what he [Ali] was gonna do next,” he says in the documentary.

Recently, I read, Butch had become more involved in the music and T.V fields as opposed to boxing; yet his passing is sure to be of sad news to fight fans especially. Who would have thought Lewis would pass away before Don King? Before “Smokin'” Joe? Gone way too soon at a sprightly, still-energetic 65, Butch will be missed.