By Michael Marley
After the sudden death of fight promoter Ronald "Butch" Lewis, age 65, in or near his Wilmington, Delaware, estate, reminisces about the colorful handler of Michael Spinks and other fighters are pouring in, among them:
(Bob Arum made a young hustler from Philadelphia named Ronald Butch Lewis a vice president at Top Rank, handling such boxers as brothers Leon and Michael Spinks at Top Rank after their gold medal victories in the 1976 Montral Olympic Games.)
"It's a shocker that Butch just died," the 79 year old Arum told me by phone Saturday afternoon from his vacation villa in the South of France. "What I remember most about Butch is how irrepressible he was.
"Butch really was quite a character, even by boxing standards. He would never give up on making a deal. We worked together getting the investors who backed the Leon Spinks-Muhammad Ali 1978 rematch in the Superdome in New Orleans.
"We brought in 78,000 fans into the dome, Ali won to become a three time world heavyweight champion and it was just a great night for boxing.
"Butch was this super kind of salesman. We first met up in Manila, 1975, when he was with Joe Frazier's team in the Phillipines."
"By now, it's a tired cliche but Butch worked hard from the streets to the suites. Butch was flexible and versatile in the boxing and music industries. I went to see the James Brown fresh out of jail comeback concert in LA and I remember Butch telling me how everybody, including the legendary singer's wife, had to call him Mr. Brown at all times. Btw, JB tore it up and even did the Camel Walk at age 65ish.
"Butch could sell surfboards in landlocked Iowa or deep freezers near the North Pole. He bad a gift of gab and a great sense of humor yet he fought for every penny for himself and his fighters.
"Loved by few, hated by many, respected by all. That comes to mind although Butch had sa tendency to even win over his so-called enemies over time. How many guys could be a close pal to Smokin' Joe Frazier and to archrival Muhammad Ali at the same time?
"I'll never forget Don King telling me and fellow scribes Dave Raffo, Wally Matthews and a few others one day in New York about "the new science called Butchology, an amazing new science."
We asked King to delineate this and he said, "That's when you take the motherbleeper ewho go no belts (Michael Spinks) and make a fight against the guy who got all three belts (Tyson, then not with King but still with Jim Jacobs and Bill Cayton) and the guy with no belts is getting $13.5 millions. They're studying Butchology at Harvard, at MIT. It's a science."
That was King's way of knocking Team Tyson and obliquely praising the younger Lewis.
You know DK had to see his younger hustling self when he looked at the never stopped working Lewis.
I bet Lewis is schmoozing with Counselor Milton Chwasky right now.
"Really one of the last of the Old School boxing guys for sure. I really liked Butch, I liked his personality.
Butc...he'd see you somewhere, he would say, 'What's happening, my man?'
"When it came to money issues, Butch got intense.
"I can still hear Butch yelling, 'We ain't playing with no Monopoly money, Jack, you are playing with my money!'
"He may have been a 50-50 partner with Michael Spinks but, so what, because he brought Spinks to multimillionaire status, including the genius of the $13.5 million purse to fight Tyson for a fight that lasted a minute and a half.
"Butch had a similar deal with Bernard Hopkins. But Butch took Hopkins on when he was 0-1 or 3-1 as a pro, something like that. Butch put Bernard on other people's shows. Butch paid Bernard and he paid for the opponents. That is how he built Bernard's career.
"So they got to the Roy Jones fight and the deal was for $1 million. So Butch took half, gave Bernard half, when I am sure Butch had already spent more than a half million building Bernard up. So Bernard sued Butch and Bernard won in court.
"Butch had a versatile talent. He became a VP with his buddy, Robert Johnson, when Johnson owned the BET cable network. Butch promoted singers and things like that also. He had other fighters also.
"Butch is going to be missed."
LOU DIBELLA, FORMER HBO BOXING BOSS TURNED PROMOTER
"During my tumultuous term with Bernard Hopkins, he said a lot of awful things about how his former promoter, who was Butch, and how Butch treated him. Not knowing any better, I kind of co-signed and repeat what Bernard said.
"As my relationship with Bernard soured, I realized Butch was not so awful. I called Butch up and I personally apologized to him for anything that I said. I admitted that I was wrong and Butch seemed to accept my apology.
"I am glad now I called him. I am glad I strtaightened that out. Last place I saw Butch was with Michael Spinks at (lawyer) Milt Chwasky's memorial service.
"Butch was a great promoter and a colorful, colorful figure."