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Boxing Promoter Butch Lewis Dies

WI Web Staff Report | 7/27/2011, 1:23 p.m.

NEW YORK --Butch Lewis, legendary boxing promoter and manager, film and music producer, dealmaker and humanitarian, will be celebrated at his home-going service on Monday, Aug. 1 at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington, Delaware. The Rev. Al Sharpton will deliver the eulogy. Lewis,65, died of natural causes at his home in Bethany Beach, Delaware on July 23.

Born in Woodbury, New Jersey on June 26, 1946, Lewis began his career as a boxing manager and promoter. Over the course of more than three decades, he is credited with the success of numerous boxing legends, including Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Michael & Leon Spinks; his promotion of the Ali-Spinks title fight in 1978 scored one of the biggest upsets in boxing history when a relatively unknown fighter, Leon Spinks, dethroned Ali to become the new Heavyweight Champion of the World. Seven years later, Lewis guided Michael Spinks' successful career, making him Light Heavyweight Champion of the World and then the first Light Heavyweight Champion to win the World Heavyweight title. In 1988, he negotiated the then largest guaranteed payday in boxing history for the "Superfight" between Michael Spinks and Mike Tyson.

Although Lewis's name and success will be forever affiliated with boxing, he was also known as a Heavyweight in his own right in the "people business." He was a savvy businessman whose rolodex contained the A-list of America's most powerful and influential leaders, many of whom were close friends. In 1991, Butch Lewis Productions expanded into the entertainment field, producing the hit Pay-Per-View event James Brown: Living in America.

He also served as executive producer of the Tim Reid-directed film Once Upon a Time...When We Were Colored and the Debbie Allen-directed film Out-of-Sync (LL Cool J's big screen debut), both in 1995, partnering with Reid and Black Entertainment Television (BET).

In 2005, Lewis extended his entertainment arm into the music business for his own independent record label VOICEZ MUSIC GROUP, a joint venture with Universal/Def Jam. Butch Lewis Productions and IMG Worldwide partnered in 2010 to represent minority entertainers, and now in 2011 Butch Lewis Productions will continue to carry out the legacy Lewis created over his lifetime.

Of all Lewis's accomplishments, his most important role was that of humanitarian.

In 2004, then South African President Nelson Mandela presented Lewis with the nation's highest humanitarian award; the honor was bestowed upon him for his work throughout the late 1970s and 1980s when he led the charge in the boxing world against apartheid, urging the boxing organizations to refuse to sanction South African fights and keep South African fighters out of the ratings until apartheid was abolished and Mr. Mandela was released from prison.

After Mandela's release in 1990, Lewis worked diligently to raise funds for his African National Congress (ANC) party. Over the years, he has provided college tuition and assistance to dozens of deserving students at esteemed institutions like Morehouse College, which presented Lewis with an honorary doctorate degree in 2007.

Lewis is survived by three sons, Ronald, Kevin and Brandon; one daughter, Sita; one brother, John Lewis; three sisters, Gail Brison, Sheree "Tina" Lewis and Anita Downs; six grandchildren, Marceau, Kendrick, Ronnie, Jordan, Brandon, Jr. and Island; and one great-granddaughter, Ka'Mya.