Mr. Sugar was a native Washingtonian whose interest in boxing began at the University of Maryland, where he sparred with little success. “I was the great white hopeless,” he once quipped. He was a New York advertising executive before pursuing a full-time sportswriting career in the 1970s.
In 1979, Mr. Sugar became editor and publisher of the Ring, widely regarded as the “boxing bible,” and also wrote and edited boxing publications such as Boxing Illustrated and Fight Game.
A maven of the facts, figures and statistics of sports, Mr. Sugar wrote more than 50 books about baseball, horse racing and football. (He was a master of sports trivia: “Who played for the Yankees, the New York Giants and the Knicks?” Mr. Sugar’s answer: “Gladys Gooding, the organist.”)
Mr. Sugar’s first passion, however, was what he called “the most ancient of sports, boxing.”
From his seat by the ropes, Mr. Sugar covered bouts between many of the greatest fighters of the past half-century. In a style as blustery as it was vivid, he wrote about matchups featuring Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman.
Of Ali’s and Frazier’s third fight, the 1975 bout in the Philippines known as “The Thrilla in Manila,” Mr. Sugar wrote: “Some day, when ring historians gather ’round boxing’s smoldering campfire to tell stories of great fights, going all the way back to the time when spectators wore grapes in their hair and the lions ate the losers, one fight from that long laundry list will be remembered as having been one of the greatest two-sided fights in boxing history: Ali-Frazier III.” Ali won the fight by a technical knockout.
Mr. Sugar was a stalwart defender of boxing, despite its violence. In testimony before lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Mr. Sugar called boxing “the refuge of those seeking to escape their roots as youngsters from the tenements, the ghettos, the projects and the barrios.”
To that group of men, Mr. Sugar continued, boxing offered a “social staircase out of the mean streets” and a way “to gain full fellowship into our society by the only means of escape they possessed: their fists.”
Herbert Randolph Sugar was born June 7, 1936, in Washington. One of his first jobs was delivering copies of The Washington Post, and one of his routes included the home of Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (R-Wis.), who launched anti-communist witch hunts and also was known as a heavy drinker.
“I would find him asleep on his front steps,” Mr. Sugar told the New York Times in 1995. “I’d stick the paper under his arm and ring the doorbell.”
Mr. Sugar graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School and, in 1957, from the University of Maryland. At the University of Michigan, he received a master’s degree in business in 1959 and a law degree in 1960.