Suffered a heart attack and died Thursday in New York
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com
Boxing promoter Cedric Kushner, one of the power players in the sport in the 1990s and early 2000s, suffered a heart attack and died Thursday in New York. He was 66.
"I got a call and I had to go to the hospital because he had a massive heart attack," said promoter Lou DiBella, one of Kushner's closest friends for more than 25 years. "His brain had been affected. I knew he wouldn't have wanted to live like that. I got in the car, and by the time I got to the hospital, he had passed. Ced and I went back to my first week in boxing over 25 years ago. We have a lot of history. He was a dear friend and one of the great characters in boxing."
Kushner, a native of South Africa with an unmistakable walrus mustache and a heavy frame until gastric bypass surgery, was once worth millions. He had fallen on hard times in recent years as his promotion business crumbled and his health began to fail. He had Parkinson's disease, which forced him into an assisted living facility.
"For a long time, Ced was one of the most powerful promoters in the world. You can't even count the number of world champions and top contenders he promoted," said DiBella, who got to know Kushner when he bought fights from him as a senior vice president at HBO during the late 1980s and 1990s. "Ced had like 10 houses and 35 cars at one time, but he made some bad business decisions and he fell off the mountaintop. But he had a lot of friends in this business, and he was a beloved figure in this sport."
Kushner, a self-made man who spent time as a merchant seaman and a Ferris wheel operator, moved to the United States in his mid-20s in about 1974 and got his start as a music promoter, pushing acts such as Fleetwood Mac, Queen, the Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, Steppenwolf and others.
In the mid-1980s, he turned his attention to boxing, and by the late 1990s, he was one of the most significant promoters in the business, putting on fights around the world. He was not shy about showing off his success. Based in New York, he lived the high life, which famously included a bright red limousine that chauffeured him and his friends around town.
"He had this South African accent that sounded refined and educated, but he barely got out of grade school," DiBella said. "He was shining shoes and cleaning the pool at the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami and scalping concert tickets. And he became one of the biggest promoters in the music business. From there he got involved in boxing and was one of the biggest promoters in the world." (Phil Walter/Getty Images Boxing promoter Cedric Kushner was once a power player in the sport but had fallen on hard times)
Kushner promoted fighters such as Shane Mosley, Virgil Hill, Angel Manfredy, Vuyani Bungu and Welcome Ncita, but he made his name in the heavyweight division and became one of the regular promoters who worked with HBO.
Kushner's syndicated television series, "Heavyweight Explosion," became a breeding ground for numerous contenders and titleholders in the 1990s and 2000s. Often they would fight on "Heavyweight Explosion" before moving on to major fights, and when they would eventually lose, Kushner would return them to the series, build them back up and get them another big fight.
The heavyweights he promoted included a who's who of the era, including Hasim Rahman, Shannon Briggs, Oleg Maskaev, Chris Byrd, the late Corrie Sanders, Ike Ibeabuchi, David Izon, Derrick Jefferson, Kirk Johnson, Jameel McCline and many others.
In 2001, Kushner was on the top of the boxing world when he counted then-heavyweight champion Rahman and welterweight champion Mosley, the pound-for-pound king at the time, as his cornerstone fighters. Mosley had upset Oscar De La Hoya in June 2000 to win the welterweight title, and in April 2001, Rahman pulled off a massive upset to win the heavyweight championship by knocking out Lennox Lewis in the fourth round. Making the crowning moment of Kushner's career even more special was that Rahman's championship win came in South Africa.
But by the time Lewis knocked out Rahman in the rematch seven months later, he had bolted to promoter Don King, and Kushner's relationship with Mosley had soured and would be over by 2002.
Kushner's slow decline in the business followed with the eventual bankruptcy of Cedric Kushner Promotions. His short-lived comeback with a new company, Gotham Boxing, which hitched its wagon to heavyweight retread David Tua, also failed.
One of the low points of his career came in 2000, when he was fined after admitting in federal court during the racketeering and bribery trial of Robert Lee, former president and founder of the International Boxing Federation, that he was among those promoters who paid bribes to the IBF beginning in 1987 in exchange for it ranking his South African fighters at a time when the organization previously would not rank South Africans because of the country's racist apartheid system. Kushner also admitted during the trial that he paid a bribe of $100,000 to have the organization order a rematch of a 1995 heavyweight title fight between George Foreman and Axel Schulz, Kushner's fighter.
Through his highest highs and lowest lows, Kushner had friends around the world in boxing.
"His family was his boxing family," DiBella said.
"Ced was a character but a good man," said Top Rank matchmaker Bruce Trampler, a friend of Kushner's for more than 30 years. "He had a great sense of humor and sly insightful way about him. His perception of the fight game was unique. He had many triumphs and a few low blows thrown at him. Recent years had been very difficult for Ced. My pleasure to have known him."
Those who knew Kushner could tell story upon story of long lunches at the Palm in New York, where boxing business lifers would swap stories. Kushner, often the life of the party, had a million stories and a deadpan way of delivering them.
"He'd hold court, and everyone would listen to his racy, raunchy stories. We had a lot of laughs. I miss those days," DiBella said. "This is another one of those days that's a sad day, when the sport of boxing got a little less colorful. Ced had a penchant for the dark side. He liked his women of the evening, and he would tell stories that would have everyone rolling around. Nobody was funnier to sit down with. Everyone would listen to the stories Cedric told.
"I saw him a week or two ago, and he looked terrible. But he said, 'I'm gonna have one more big triumph in this business.' He had nothing going on but he thought until the very end he could get to the top again and have one more big fighter. I hope wherever he is right now, he gets that one big shot."
DiBella, who is handing the arrangements for a memorial service, said Kushner would be cremated.
"We'll have a service soon, but we want to give Cedric's many friends from around the world time to make plans to come," DiBella said. "He was an international promoter and had friends all over the place. We want them to come in. It will be the kind of great party Cedric would love."
Popular promoter Cedric Kushner dies of heart attack at 66
By Kevin Iole - sports.yahoo.com
Cedric Kushner, a big man who had a knack for promoting the biggest men in boxing, died Thursday in New York after suffering a heart attack, his longtime friend, promoter Lou DiBella, told Yahoo Sports.
He was 66.
Boxing promoter Cedric Kushner (R), talking with former heavyweight contender David Tua in 2010
DiBella was a health proxy for Kushner and was called to the hospital when the South African was stricken.
"I'm just getting to the hospital now, but I'd spoken to the doctors and they had him on life support," DiBella said. "He was suffering and I was going to the hospital to pull the plug, and he died while I was on the way."
Kushner promoted a number of stars, including Shane Mosley, and major heavyweights, including former champion Hasim Rahman, David Tua and Ike Ibeabuchi. But until Rahman knocked out Lewis in a stunning upset in South Africa in 2001, none of Kushner's heavyweights could win the big one.
But Kushner's joy at finally having a heavyweight champion was short-lived. Shortly after defeating Lewis, Rahman signed with promoter Don King. Kushner sued King under federal racketeering statutes.
Kushner was a gregarious man with a walrus moustache and a large belly. He was 5-foot-8, but ballooned at one point to 350 pounds before having gastric bypass surgery.
He lost a great deal of weight, which he told reporter Tom Hauser made him extremely proud.
From an elephant to a greyhound, is what I say. For the first time in years, I'm optimistic about my life. I can't tell you how much gratitude I feel toward the people who cared enough about me to comment constructively on my physical condition in the past; even though, at times, their comments aggravated me. And I can't tell you how inspired I am now by the positive things that people are saying to me. I've been given a second chance at life that, a month ago, I didn't think I'd ever have.
Kushner and DiBella were fast friends and socialized together, at home in New York, where they'd tell hilarious war stories at the Palm restaurant, as well as on the road, where they'd talk into the early morning hours.
"He was one of boxing's great characters," DiBella said of Kushner. "People forget quickly in boxing, but for a decade-and-a-half, he was one of the biggest promoters in the world. He was a true character. This guy sounded like he went to Oxford, with an accent that sounded so noble and regal, but who basically never got out of grammar school. He jumped ship and was shining shoes and cleaning pools at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami.
"He was a completely self-made man, and he rose all the way to the top. He was on top of the world at one point and was a major figure in this point. He lost it all late in life, sadly, but I talked to him at ... a funeral, and he told me he wanted to take one more run at it and come up with another big thing. Unfortunately, he didn't get the chance."
Services are pending.
Longtime NY boxing promoter Cedric Kushner dies at 66
Longtime boxing promoter Cedric Kushner, whose eccentric manner and South African accent made him a unique figure in New York boxing circles, died Thursday morning after suffering a massive heart attack at Mt. Sinai Hospital.
Cedric Kushner, who passed away Thursday at the age of 66, poses with Shane Mosley (left) and Vernon Forrest in 2002. Photo: New York Post
Kushner, 66, had been ill for quite some time, according to those close to him. Kushner served as the promoter to some of the top fighters in boxing including Sugar Shane Mosley, Peter Quillin and former heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman. His shows at the Hammerstein Ballroom consistently offered some of the best boxing in Manhattan.
“For a good 15 years he was the most powerful promoter in New York and one of the top two or three most powerful promoters in the whole world,” said Lou DiBella, a former HBO executive and now head of DiBella Entertainment. “He was a character. He had this accent that made him sound like an educated guy when in reality he didn’t get out of grammar school and once shined shoes and cleaned pools.
“He was a self-made man, who became a millionaire. The last few years weren’t kind to him, but he had a great, great career and was an institution in New York boxing.”
A former promoter of rock concerts, Kushner turned to boxing and was the first to make Hammerstien Ballroom a fight venue in 2000. This a long after he had started the “Heavyweight Explosion” television series in 1993, featuring a stable of prospects including Chris Byrd, Shannon Briggs, and Rahman who would all go on to win a portion of a heavyweight title.
Kushner also served as a promoter to other notable boxers including, Mosley, Jameel McCline, Corrie Sanders, Kirk Johnson and Michael Grant.
Long-time boxing scribe Tim Smith called Kushner “one of the great gentlemen of a sport that lacked gentlemen. He always had great ideas for shows even when he didn’t have enough talented fighters to make the ideas work.”
The biggest night of Kushner’s career quickly turned into a nightmare. He matched Rahman against defending champion Lennox Lewis for the heavyweight title in April 2001. Rahman was a huge underdog, but claimed the title with a stunning fifth-round knockout in Kushner’s native South Africa.
Kushner had planned to sign Rahman to an extension of their now-expired promotional contract after the bout. But Don King swooped in with a brief case filled with $500,000 in cash to get Rahman’s signature for Don King Productions.
“He cost me millions of dollars. And I’m not happy to say that it cost him even more,” Kushner said in a 2006 interview with Newsday.
Kushner sued King to no avail and later lost Mosley to a rival promoter once the welterweight achieved a measure of fame. “Cedric was a real sweet man,” said former HBO president Ross Greenburg. “He didn’t like to play dirty and guys like Don and others took advantage of it.”
Kushner was recently named to the New York State Boxing Hall of Fame. The inductions are scheduled to take place April 26. “It’s a shame he died before he heard that applause,” DiBella said.
Services are pending.
Promoter Cedric Kushner, 66, passes away
Lem Satterfield - ringtv.craveonline.com
Promoter Cedric Kushner, a native of South Africa, has died of a heart attack, close friend and promoter Lou DiBella confirmed to RingTV.com on Thursday. He was 66.
Cedric Kushner between heavyweights Talmadge Griffis (L) and David Tua in 2005. Photo byPhil Walter/Getty Images.
“Cedric was having some health problems and wasn’t doing well,” said DiBella, speaking to RingTV.com while en route to the Mount Sinai Hospital where the man he called “a close personal friend” had been cared for. “I’m on the way there to take care of some paperwork.”
Among the boxers Kushner handled was Hasim Rahman, whose fifth-round stoppage of Lennox Lewis in 2001 earned the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world. Other notable fighters Kushner promoted includes Shane Mosley, Shannon Briggs, David Tua, Angel Manfredy and Peter Quillin.
Quillin called Kushner “a man who was very passionate about boxing,” and counted consecutive unanimous decision victories over title challenger Antwun Echols and Dionisio Miranda in April and June 2008 among his most memorable achievements under him.
“We had some very meaningful fights together,” said Quillin, a former WBO middleweight titleholder who said he was with Kushner for a period during 2006 through 2008. “I’m very sorry to hear of his passing.”
It was under Kushner’s promotional banner that Mosley, who won world titles in three weight classes, went from being an underground phenom in Southern California to one of the elite stars of the sport. Mosley won the IBF lightweight title and the WBC welterweight title (from Oscar De La Hoya) while fighting for Kushner.
Kushner’s syndicated (and pay-per-view) “Heavyweight Explosion” TV series, which focused on boxing’s big men during the 1990s, helped to develop such notable heavyweight titleholders as Rahamn, Briggs, Chris Byrd, Oleg Maskaev and Corrie Sanders, as well as former contenders such as Jameel McCline, Michael Grant and Kirk Johnson.
“Cedric was a boxing guy,” said noted boxing historian Thomas Hauser, “and he loved being a boxing guy. That sums him up.”
Veteran boxing writer Bernard Fernandez said that Kushner was a singular figure in the boxing landscape.
“In a sport that is full of characters, Cedric was certainly unique,” said Fernandez. “He had a droll sense of humor and a very dry wit. He will be missed.”
Promoter Kathy Duva said Kushner was a close family friend, particularly to her husband, Dan Duva, who died on Jan. 30, 1996 from a brain tumor. Dan Duva would have turned 63 on Nov. 7, the day before Sergey Kovalev defeated Bernard Hopkins in a light heavyweight bout.
“Cedric was one of my husband’s closest friends. He was very close to Dan and our family. Ironically, he died the day before the anniversary of Dan’s death, which is tomorrow,” said Duva, who assumed the role of CEO of Main Events when her husband passed.
“It’s sad that they both died on almost the same day, because Cedric and Dan talked on the phone almost every day. Ced would always spend Christmas Eve with our family and bring toys to our kids. My kids always thought of him as this huge, Jewish Santa Claus. He was a funny man.”
DiBella said that he planned to honor Kushner by dedicating tonight’s Broadway Boxing event at BB King Blues Club & Grill in New York to him.
“There will be a toast and a 10-count,” said DiBella, adding, “His friends will be able to speak on his behalf.”