Legendary Boxing Promoter, Entrepreneur Butch Lewis Succumbs to Massive Heart Attack
Having celebrated his 65th birthday at a party at Bethany Beach in Delaware at which the O’Jays performed on June 26th, legendary boxing promoter, film and music producer, entrepreneur and philanthropist Ronald “Butch” Lewis succumbed to a massive heart attack at 5am on Saturday, July 23rd. The successful promoter and businessman who helped shape the boxing arena, had thrown his hat into the ring of the music business starting a new joint venture called Voicez Music Group with DefJam/Universal Records in 2008. Most recently he partnered with his longtime friend Bob Johnson in a joint venture between his Butch Lewis Productions (BLP) and Johnson’s IMG Worldwide, Inc. (IMG) to develop and operate a talent management company to primarily represent minority entertainers in the areas of endorsements, licensing and programming.
In addition to his boxing promotions, he has been a behind the scenes influence in many minority owned businesses and careers. It was Lewis who threw the welcome back party for the late James Brown upon his release from prison and who was there to help him get back on path. In fact, in 1991 when Lewis added an entertainment arm to his Butch Lewis Productions, he produced the blockbuster Pay-Per-View on Brown called “James Brown: Living in America.”
The flamboyant promoter, known for popularizing the tuxedo with no shirt look, was all about family as well, bringing his children into his businesses and executive producing the family drama “Once Upon A Time…When We Were Colored.” He produced other feature films as well in partnership with Tim Reid and BET, including “Out of Sync.”
Behind the success of many of boxing’s legends like Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Michael Spinks for whom he negotiated the largest guaranteed payday in boxing history in 1988 for the “Superfight: Spinks vs Mike Tyson,” Lewis was instrumental in creating new opportunities for boxers and promoting them to new levels of success.
(See pictures from Lewis’ birthday party in BRE issue from columnist Rosalind R. Ray)