Angelo Dundee: “I thought Muhammad was a dope to be on the ropes”

boxingby Geoffrey Ciani - This past week’s edition of On the Ropes featured an exclusive interview with Angelo Dundee. The legendary trainer was last seen under the boxing spotlight when he acted as a special consultant for Oscar De La Hoya in his final fight against Manny Pacquiao. Dundee, who is best known for his work with Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, has worked with fifteen world champions during his long and illustrious Hall of Fame career. Dundee shared his wisdom, insight, and experiences during an outstanding 45 minute conversation. Always known for his great storytelling abilities, Dundee used his unique blend of charm, wit, and a great sense of humor to bring these tales to life. Here are some excerpts from one of On the Ropes’ most fascinating interviews:

His thoughts on Oscar De La Hoya’s loss against Manny Pacquiao:
“The way he (De La Hoya) looked in the gym it looked like he was the winner, but see, the gym is a false impression. To me, you got to know the individual. Pac-Man just was dominant. He was the guy that night and he was the better fighter.”

His views on Pacquiao from his perspective as a trainer:
“Well he’s got everything going for him. He’s got a great trainer in Freddie Roach. Freddie Roach is a pupil of one of my best friends Eddie Futch. I knew Freddie Roach as a fighter, God bless him, and he’s a great trainer. He’s a great kid, and it’s a good blend him and Pacquiao..

Regarding Carmen Basilio’s victory over Sugar Ray Robinson:
“Well the fight with Robinson was an interesting fight because people didn’t know that Carmen could box because Carmen had to outbox Robinson to get inside and then bang with him. It was an interesting fight and Carmen just fought the perfect fight and he beat the great Ray Robinson.”

On what it was like working with Muhammad Ali:
“It was like going to a party every other day. It just was a tease, like I’ll give you a little insight. Everybody says Drew Brown. Drew Brown had met Muhammad in New York and then Muhammad comes back from New York and he’s training for a fight. He says, ‘Ang’—he’s training for the (Sonny) Liston fight—he says, ‘Ang, I’m bringing Drew Brown down here.’ I said, ‘What for?’. He said, ‘He makes me laugh.’ I said, ‘Okay!’”

Regarding his thoughts before Ali’s first fight with Sonny Liston:
“Muhammad felt that he was going to a party. Every fight was like that. Nothing ever bothered him. He wasn’t concerned about the guy. I kept telling Muhammad, ‘you’re bigger than this guy’, because people don’t realize Muhammad went from 182 to 212 pounds. He got bigger, he was a young kid. So when he got in the ring, I told him, ‘When you get in the middle of the ring, stand tall—and look down on the guy’. And Muhammad did exactly that and said, ‘I got you sucker.’, and this was the beginning of the fight.”

Regarding Ali’s victory over George Foreman:
“Well you know, when I heard I was going to be on your program—On the Ropes—I said to myself they’re going to ask me about the ropes in Zaire. (laughs) And I’m going to tell you, I tightened those stinking ropes at four o’clock in the afternoon but the fight wasn’t until 4am the next day. And you know what happened—the heat stretched the ropes. They were brand new hemp ropes. I didn’t want those ropes to be loose. People try to say that I designed the’ rope-a-dope’. I thought Muhammad was a dope to be on the ropes. If Foreman hit him with a forearm he would have went through the ropes. That ring was like six feet up in the air—he would have broke his back, the fight would have been all over but thank God it didn’t happen. He was so agile, and so quick, and so smart—he really did some good stuff.”

On whether Ali really asked him to stop the fight after the 14th round of the Thrilla in Manila:
“Muhammad always had a knack to suck it up. He came back to the corner and that documentary was a bunch of bologna because he came back to the corner and I said, ‘You got him baby! Get him out of there!’ This is the round they claimed I said he wanted it stopped. No, there was never any stop in Muhammad. I had to stop him that one time and it broke my heart to do it, but Muhammad wasn’t firing back. Muhammad always sucked something up; he had a knack of bringing it out and taking it to get the best of the other guy.”

Regarding his experience during the Fight of the Century:
“Oh God, that was a happening—great time. What people don’t know is we never left Madison Square Garden after the weigh-in. We couldn’t, there were so many people surrounding Madison Square Garden. So we stayed in the Garden from the weigh-in until the night of the fight. I never used that, they figured you’re going to lift the top out and make an excuse, but we really did and we walked around Madison Square Garden to walk off the food they fed us at the sport club. I sent the guys back and I told them to bring his equipment and to tell my wife I’m not coming and that I’ll see her at the fight.”

On how he first started training Sugar Ray Leonard:
“The Olympic team was in New York and we were there, and Muhammad was around and he told Ray, ‘Hey! You want a good trainer? Get Angelo.’ That helped, but then when the group in Washington took him over they asked me if I would like to handle the kid. I told them I’d love to, and I got involved with Ray and he got out of the Olympics. I got along great with Ray. Then when we went to places like Providence and Boston, I made him an honorary Italian. (laughs) Hey listen! I showed him the proper way to twist spaghetti with a fork without using a spoon.”

Regarding the famous words he said to Leonard in between rounds during the Tommy Hearns fight—“You’re blowing it son”
“Boy, were those camera guys nice to me. They didn’t tape what I told him before ‘You’re blowing it kid’. (laughs) ‘You dumb, sorry you, what are you slowing down for, what are you doing, you’re fighting the guy’s fight’. Then when I was getting out of the ropes, I said ‘You’re blowing it kid’. Thank God they taped that.”

On whether he was surprised when George Foreman knocked out Michael Moorer after struggling throughout most of the fight:
“No, we were looking for that. The guy was dropping his hands so George tapped him with the jab and came right through with the right hand and it was all over. George was that kind of a puncher. You see what he did with Joe Frazier, he picked him up literally with a left uppercut. I was there in Jamaica at that fight. If you see the tape you see a head popping up say, ‘Stop the fight’—that was me. I was watching the fight outside the ring. George was that kind of a puncher. If he got an opening he can get a guy out of there. Old George was a better fighter than young George, he was slower but steadier.”

Regarding the current boxing landscape:
“I think Pacquiao and (Floyd) Mayweather will fight. I know the fans want to see that fight and if they have any kind of sense of humanity about it, either fighter, they should fight each other—just for the good of boxing. You know what? I want to go see that fight, that’s going to be a great fight. But you never know with fights. Pacquiao’s fighting (Joshua) Clottey. Clottey is a tough guy. You never know one night which fighter is going to win and it’s interesting because it’s one-on-one and to me it’s a kick to watch these guys. And I want to thank you guys for having me on the radio, because as long as you guys are talking that means we’re in action.”


If you missed last week’s special edition of On the Ropes, be sure to tune in and listen now!


If you want to read more from Angelo Dundee—be sure to buy his book:

My View from the Corner: A Life in Boxing


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Article posted on 05.03.2010

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