Inducted on November 9, 2000
Butch Lewis, Flashy Promoter for Boxing’s Spinks Brothers, Dies at 65
Published: July 24, 2011
Butch Lewis, the flamboyant boxing promoter and manager best known for getting Michael Spinks a $13.5 million payday for what became 91 seconds in the ring with Mike Tyson, died Saturday at his home in Bethany Beach, Del. He was 65.
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His death was announced by Terrie Williams, a representative of his family, who said it was from natural causes.
A shrewd and tenacious figure with a gift for showmanship, Lewis went from the life of a street hustler and used-car salesman in Philadelphia to the pinnacle of dealmaking in the boxing world of the late 1970s and the 1980s.
He made his reputation mostly for representing Leon Spinks and his brother, Michael, who had both won gold medals at the 1976 Olympics.
Lewis’s most lucrative moment came on the night of June 27, 1988, when Michael Spinks challenged Tyson for the undisputed heavyweight championship at Convention Hall in Atlantic City.
Spinks was a quiet sort. Lewis, his manager and promoter, was anything but. He preened on fight nights in a tuxedo, a bow tie and no shirt, and he favored showy rings and bracelets.
Michael Spinks had won the light-heavyweight championship and later defeated Larry Holmes for the International Boxing Federation heavyweight championship.
Through arcane maneuvering that got Spinks out of a proposed HBO heavyweight title unification series, Lewis negotiated Spinks his largest possible purse for facing Tyson. Spinks was knocked out at 1 minute 31 seconds of the first round and then retired.
A month after that fight, Spinks told of his gratitude to Lewis, saying that he had been reluctant to fight professionally after winning his Olympic championship but that Lewis “called me over and over.”
“He’d call and say, ‘You about ready to go pro?’ ” Spinks told The New York Times. “I’d say, ‘No, not yet.’ It took six months before I said, ‘Come on, I’m ready.’ ”
Ronald Everett Lewis was born in Woodbury, N.J., on June 26, 1946, and grew up in Philadelphia. When he got out of high school, he once told The Times, he hustled essentially worthless rings he bought from a friend who worked at a jewelry store. The friend would appraise the rings at $1,500 for skeptical would-be buyers, and they would be “happy to give me $50 for a ring that’s worth $1.25.”
Lewis’s father soon put him to work as a salesman at his used-car dealership. His father had been one of the original stockholders in a syndicate that backed Joe Frazier, an eventual heavyweight champion, and Butch soon began traveling with Frazier.
“I’d be in on meetings with he and Ali and the promoters,” Lewis said. “I got to see how the wheels turned in the fight business. And the more I saw of it, the more I liked it.”
Lewis met Muhammad Ali through Frazier and became a co-promoter of Ali’s heavyweight championship fight with Richard Dunn in Munich in 1976. That resulted in Lewis’s going to work for the promoter Bob Arum, who made him a vice president of his firm, Top Rank. Lewis signed Leon and Michael Spinks while with Arum.
Lewis guided Leon Spinks to his victory over Ali for the heavyweight title in 1978 and left Arum that year to promote on his own.
He later formed Butch Lewis Productions and branched out into entertainment. In June 2010, IMG Worldwide joined with Lewis’s firm in a management company primarily representing minority entertainers and celebrities.
Lewis is survived by his sons, Ronald Lewis, Brandon Lewis and Kevin Mosley; his daughter, Sita Lewis; his brother, John; his sisters, Gail Brison and Sheree Lewis; six grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
Butch Lewis, who promoted Spinks brothers and Bernard Hopkins, dies of heart attack at 65
LAS VEGAS – Ronald (Butch) Lewis, the irrepressible boxing promoter whose trademark was the tuxedo without the shirt, died of a massive heart attack at his estate outside Wilmington, Del., Saturday. He was 65.
Lewis promoted Leon and Michael Spinks and Bernard Hopkins and was involved in some of the biggest boxing matches in the 1980s and 1990s. Later he became involved in the music and entertainment industry.
His deft negotiations landed Spinks a $13.5 million payday for his fight with Tyson.
Spinks couldn’t match Lewis’ skill at the negotiating table when he climbed into the ring for that fight. Tyson KO’d Spinks in 91 seconds.
Lewis promoted Hopkins at the start of his career. The relationship ended acrimoniously after Hopkins sued Lewis, claiming he had been shortchanged following his first match against Roy Jones Jr. Hopkins won the lawsuit.
“I wish nothing bad on anybody,” Hopkins said. “We had a lot of history, most of it bad. Eventually the clock defeats us all no matter where we are in life.”