The very likable Angelo Dundee is remembered

I like most only watched the man on TV. It seemed he was always affable with a broad smile. I thought it would be best to read what his colleagues had to say. Since he lived in Miami, that seemed the best place to start.


Sports writer Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald knew him personally: “(Angelo) Dundee was a contradiction in a dog-eat-dog world inhabited by Mike Tyson and Don King. He loved recalling the time he exhorted heavyweight Johnny Holman to victory. He knew Holman’s dream was to buy a house, so when Holman fell behind, he yelled, ‘This guy’s taking your house. He’s taking that television set!’

Angelo Dundee is shown working in Sugar Ray Leonard's corner.

“He rallied Ray Leonard against Thomas Hearns by saying, ‘You’re blowing it, son’ and coached Leonard to a rematch win over Roberto Duran by constantly reminding him to slip the hands of stone. In the eighth, Duran made his ‘No mas’ surrender.

“In the snarling, often duplicitous subculture of boxing, Dundee radiated kindness. Here was this gentle soul smiling his way through the carnage of battered noses, broken jaws and bruised egos.

“‘I’d get along with a dead rat,’ he once said, his words coming at you like a left jab. ‘I think I’m a happy character. I enjoy people.’”

A colleague of mine, New York Boxing Examiner Mike Marley wrote: “Boxing lost a man who was arguably the greatest ever…trainer, cornerman and all around ring strategist on Wednesday. I was told by Dundee’s area boxing buddy, Johnny Bos, that he died of ‘a massive heart attack.’ He who would have turned 91 come August. He was hale and hearty pretty much up unto the end of his life. He did use a wheelchair in recent years but was mentally sharp and aware until he died.

“The lone living survivor of Ali’s highly touted world championship corner is now Dr. Ferdie Pacheco. Cornerman Wali Youngblood Muhammad, out of the limelight after Ali’s career ended with a loss to Trevor Berbick in the Bahamas in 1981, died last week in Harlem.

“First to go from the quartet was the colorful “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” chanter Drew Bundini Brown who reportedly died of a drug overdose in 1987.

“In what may have been his final public appearance, Dundee was showered with attention at his great pupil Muhammad Ali’s 70th birthday party held at the Ali Museum in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, on Jan. 14, three days prior to Ali’s actual birthday.

On September 22, 2008 in New York City, Helio Castroneves, Christine Lynn, Scottie Pippen Nick Buoniconti, Marc Buoniconti, Gabrielle Reece, Andre Agassi, Jack Schneider, Jerry Rice, Angelo Dundee, Joe Gibbs and Ray 'Boom Boom' Mancini attended the 23rd Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner for Cure Paralysis at the Waldorf Astoria. Photo: Thos Robinson/Getty Images

“I spoke with Dundee over breakfast the day of the swinging soiree to honor the former Cassius Marcellus Clay. With his son Jimmy attentively at his side, Dundee clearly remembered me, not only as a former New York Post boxing columnist but as a pesky 12 year old Ali fanatic who kept popping up in places the Ali team went, ranging from Chicopee, Mass., to Lewiston, Maine, to Toronto, Canada.

“The running joke in Ali’s entourage was how Angelo would freak out when he saw me, usually hanging out with sparring partners Jimmy Ellis and Harvey Cody Jones, and how we would insist ‘the kid has to go.’ I always evaded Dundee and we became great pals.

“While in Louisville, I decided to check and see how the great motivator and teacher’s mind was. ‘Angelo, you’ve told me 1,000 times but I always forget, who was the fighter you had in Louisville when that noisy teenager named  Cassius Clay showed up at your hotel?’

“Dundee did not hesitate, immediately going into his oft-told tale about how the spunky, nonstop talking Clay rang up the room where Dundee had Willie Pastrano resting for a local bout.

The handsome young dude from South Philadelphia soon moved to Miami Beach, Florida to work with his older brother.

“Born in Philadelphia, Dundee’s brother was the Hall of Fame promoter, Chris Dundee. The family’s real name was Mirena. Chris became a big time promoter in Miami Beach and Angelo handled a slew of champions and contenders at the world famous Fifth Street Gym.

“When heavyweight James “Quick” Tillis loafed in a fight against Mike “Hercules” Weaver, Dundee yelled: ‘What do you want to be, a bum for the rest of your life.’

“Bos put Dundee’s overall impact on the sport in perspective. ‘He was the greatest spokesman and greatest public relations guy boxing ever had,’ said Bos. ‘Consider all the world champs he had down in Miami at a time when boxing only had eight weight classes and eight world champions. It was phenomenal then and remains phenomenal today.’

“‘Plus, he had two guys who could be said to be the greatest ever in Ali and Leonard. My friend will be missed by me and the entire boxing world. Angelo was one of a kind.’”

The secret to Dundee’s success?

From the book “My View From the Corner” (2008), written with the help of Bert Sugar, we discover Dundee almost always tried to avoid the temptation of tampering with the brilliance of his young and charismatic fighters. He used psychology on them to hone their talents.

“I never touched that natural stuff with him,” recalled Dundee in his memoir. “So every now and then I’d subtly suggest some move or other to him (Ali), approaching it as if it were something he was already doing. I’d say something like: ‘You’re getting that jab down real good. You’re bending your knees now and you’re putting a lot of snap into it.’ Now, Ali had never thrown that type of jab, but it was a way of letting him think it was his idea, his innovation.”

Also in his memoir, Dundee mentioned he and Ali “had this special thing, a unique blend, a chemistry. I never heard anything resembling a racist comment leave his mouth. There was never a black-white divide.”

Dundee took pride in his craft. As he put it: “You’ve got to combine certain qualities belonging to a doctor, an engineer, a psychologist and sometimes an actor, in addition to knowing your specific art well. There are more sides to being a trainer than those found on a Rubik’s Cube.”


The other Dundee quotes that are worth a listen:

“It’s been like that forever. We got spoiled by Joe Louis, by Rocky Marciano. Muhammad ruined us for everybody. He was great outside the ring; he was great inside. We got so accustomed to it, we thought we deserved it.”

“Assumption is the mother of the screw-up”

“Both guys ran out of gas, only my guy had an extra tank.”

“I just put the reflexes in the proper direction.”

Dundee had been living in Palm Harbor, Fla. He is survived by his daughter, Terri Dundee Coughlin; his son, Jimmy; six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. His wife, Helen, died in 2010.

Services for the legendary trainer will take place on Friday, February 10 at the Countryside Christian Center located at McMillen Booth Road in Clearwater, Florida. The viewing starts at 10 a.m. followed by a noon funeral. The four-time former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali is expected to attend.

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