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.
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.