By Michael Marley
It's with great sadness that I must report the sudden death of one of boxing's last, great characters.
Ronald "Butch" Lewis, known in the fight industry for tenaciously landing his light heavyweight champion Michael Spinks a massive $13.5 million purse for what turned out to be a brutal, one round KO at the hands of Iron Mike Tyson, apprently suffered a massive heart attack.
Lewis, age 65 and more active in recent years in the music and TV fields than in boxing, was in or around his stately home in Delaware when he went into cardiac arrest. I am not sure if this happened today (Saturday) or on Friday.
Ironically, the last place I saw Lewis and his client and best buddy Spinks, was at the funeral service of their longtime lawyer (and mine as well), Milton Chwasky. Chwasky died a few months ago.
Other close friends of Lewis were actor Denzel Wasdhington and former Black Entertainment Television Network owner turned NBA Charlotte franchise owner Bob Johnson. The celebrity trio often sat at ringside at major fights together and I think they may have had "ringside seats" together at President Barack Obama's Inauguration.
Later on in his illustrious life, soul signer supreme, Soul Brother Number One, Mr. James Brown did a jail stint for durg use.
When he got out of jail, he had a comeback concert at an historic theater in the Hollywood area and the promoter of the event was none other than Butch Lewis.
Lewis' sartorial trademark was his "Chocolate Tuxedo" look which only mean he wore a tuxedo without a shirt underneath it. Lewis even had one of his sons at ringside for a big fight dressed the same way.
Lewis grew up in Philadelphia, was always fascinated by boxing and became a close friend and associate of first Smokin' Joe Frazier and then Muhammad Ali.
In the boxing industry, Lewis oversaw the development of Leon Spinks when Lewis was a VP to Bob Arum's Top Rank company, including that incredible night in Las Vegas when Leon, with only eight pro bouts, took a unanimous decision over "The Greatest" in Las Vegas.
Lewis then became one of the titled promoters of Ali-Spinks II, which attracted 78,000 fans to the Superdome in New Orleans.
From then, Lewis' promotional career knew few bounds but his mainstay was Leon's brother, Michael Spinks.
Lewis father was an ambitious businessman in Philadelphia and, if memory serves, his father was the first African American to own a Volkswagen franchise in the United States, back in an era when the German made compact cars were phenomenally popular, especially with the so called Woodstock Generation.
Lewis often battled against promotional legend Don King but the pair once worked together, albeit briefly, in a company which was wistfully named "Dynamic Duo."
Lewis never called King by his name but, instead, referred to him because of DK's wild vines hairstyle as "Bushy."
Lewis had an outstanding heavyweight prospect from Louisville named Greg Page. Some optimists thought Page might be "the next Muhammad Ali" and obviously part of the overblown enthusiasm was because they shared the same Kentucky hometown.
Anyway, King "stole" Page away from Lewis and they then battled it out in a New York court over the fighter's services.
It's a shame that Lewis has died without being enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame because, if only for his adroit handling of Spinks' career which included two amazing victories over heavyweight ruler Larry Holmes.
Lewis and his able litigator, Jethro "Jed" Eisenstein won the Page case and Lewis was paid off by King. Page remained
Lewis' company was Butch Lewis Productions or Promotions and his longtime adivser/matchmaker was Don Majeski.
Like the rest of us in boxing, Majeski has a lot of funny and colorful stories about the wit and wisdom of Lewis.
For a lengthy period, Majeski said Lewis refused to pay his weekly salary.
Lewis kept promising payment in the future and Majeski said, "Butch, but you said I am like family to you."
"You are, Don, you are," Lewis said. "Now you see my nephew and my niece working in the office, right?
"And did you know I do not pay them? I don't and because you're family just like they are, I've got to be consistent."
Majeski eventually got some paychecks.
RIP, Mr. Lewis, a boxing man through and through.