Exclusive Interview With The Legendary Angelo Dundee - “The Old George Foreman Would’ve Given Muhammad Ali A Tougher Fight Than The Young George”

boxingBy James Slater - Living legend Angelo Dundee, amazingly now 89-years-old, is one of the finest boxing brains in the sport’s history. Having forgotten more than any of us will ever know about the sport, Angelo is naturally a sensational interview.

Today, from his home, the Hall of Fame trainer and corner-man very kindly granted me such an interview.

Here is what he had to say:

James Slater: It’s a real honour to be able to speak with you, Angelo. There can’t be a single person out there who knows more about boxing than you!

Angelo Dundee: Oh, thank you. That’s very kind..

J.S: First of all, the legendary 5th Street Gym. It’s re-opening some 60-years after it first opened, which is a historic thing. Are you excited about this?

A.D: I’m very excited. It belongs there, and the gym should’ve never disappeared. The thing is, the owner of the building wanted $2 million, and I wasn’t about to go out and buy a gun to get the two million (laughs). It has been difficult, but everything is good now. The thing is, the gym was such a happy place. People liked to come; it was like a tourist attraction. And of course we had great fighters training there all the time.

J.S: And movie stars used to visit the gym?

A.D: Actually, that’s an interesting thing. Boxing and boxers draws star quality. I had the pleasure of training Will Smith for the Ali movie, and I also worked with the greatest guy alive, Russell Crowe, for the movie Cinderella Man. And I found out, these guys [actors] work just as hard as fighters do. They’re special individuals and I respect them a lot more now that I’ve found that out.

J.S: You obviously still love boxing, still have a huge passion for it. But what kind of shape would you say boxing is in today - compared to the golden era, or eras?

A.D: You’ve got to go with the times. I get a kick out of being close to the English scene. England is a very special place, and I’m not just saying that because I’m talking to you. I was there during the war, and lots of my fighters were over there. Willie Pastrano made a big impact over there. So, you never know where the next big star is coming from.

J.S: Could the next great champion originate from the new 5th Street Gym?

A.D: Oh, it’ll draw fighters. Fighters will go there when there’s activity.

J.S: And after all you’ve achieved in your great, Hall of Fame career, are you still looking to find another world champion, or maybe a couple more?

A.D: Oh yes. If a fighter, a kid, comes to see me, and if I see potential….. I’m still working. Right now I’m getting a kick out of working with a girl fighter. Her name is Christine Swanson, and she impresses me because she has the reflexes, the control. She’s a lightweight, she’s also a fire fighter and a University graduate - she’s a special person. She’s had two pro fights, and 30 amateur fights.

J.S: One to look out for. Were you surprised, Angelo, when female boxing became as big as it did?

A.D: I’m not surprised if they’re talented. They [female boxers] always had quality, but not quantity. If they want to do it, why not?

J.S: No interview with you would be complete without a few questions about The Greatest, Muhammad Ali…..

A.D: He was here at my house three weeks ago. His son is a baseball catcher for the university of Louisville, and Lonnie [Ali] called me. Muhammad’s son was playing just near my house, so we got together. Muhammad is my friend.

J.S: So many people continue to talk and debate about Ali fights. On the web site forums, the fans still argue about certain things. For one example, to this day, some people still say you loosened the ropes before that epic fight in Zaire, with George Foreman. I know you’ve been asked about that a million times, but can you tell me - did you loosen the ropes or not?

A.D: Isn’t it wonderful that people are still curious? I love that, because it means we’re still here. No, what happened was, I went to Kinshasa - we were 45-minutes away in Nsele, staying in a villa - and I went to the arena that day at 4P.M, and I tried to tighten the ropes, Bobby Goodman and I. They were 24-foot ropes for a 20-foot ring. It wasn’t easy, but we tightened them, not figuring on the heat in Zaire. The fight wasn’t until 4A.M the next morning, and the heat loosened the ropes again. I never wanted Muhammad to lie on the ropes; as a matter of fact, I whacked him on his butt whenever he lay on the ropes near the corner. That ring was six-foot off the ground, and I was worried Foreman would hit him in the chest and knock him out of the ring. If that had happened, the fight would’ve been over.

J.S: Of all Ali’s great wins, was that one of his absolute best?

A.D: Oh, God yes. But the best of all was the win over Sonny Liston. He was the baddest man on the planet, and no-one gave my kid a chance going in. That one was special.

J.S: Fans often say one of the great rematches never to happen was Ali-Foreman II. What would’ve happened had they met in, say, 1976 or ’77?

A.D: Well, certain people beat certain people. This happens all the time in boxing, you’ve seen it. Actually, the old George Foreman would’ve given Ali a tougher fight. But the young George, with his wild swings, my guy would’ve beaten him all night.

J.S: You say the old Foreman would’ve done better against Ali. Is that because George was more relaxed and patient at that age?

A.D: Yeah. He was relaxed, steady and he would grind you down - just like he did to Michael Moorer, when he won the title back.

J.S: But Ali would still have beaten the old Foreman?

A.D: That style, yeah.

J.S: You must have seen all the recent books and documentaries about “The Thrilla in Manila,” with fans still loving that sensational action fight. What do you say to those people who believe Ali would not have been able to come out for that 15th-round against Joe Frazier. Did Ali in fact say to you at the end of the 14th, “cut ’em off?”

A.D: No, that’s not true. People get confused, and they’re getting confused with the Liston fight. My guy told me, “cut the gloves off, I wanna prove there’s dirty work afoot!” I said, no gloves, no fight! But in Manila, no. Ali had such a great 14th-round, why on earth would I stop the fight in the 15th? I’ve seen those documentaries, and I see faces on there of people, who weren’t even there at the fight! George Kimball, a good friend of mine, he’s going to write a piece on the fight, with all the people and writers and everything, who were there. I look forward to that article.

J.S: Joe Frazier still maintains that, as blind as he was himself, Ali was more exhausted and had nothing left to go that last round.

A.D: Ali could’ve gone all night. Where he got his reserves from I don’t know. But he always had those reserves. He was a little bit special. One time I saw him get decked in sparring. He got whacked on the chin, but as soon as his butt hit the canvas he woke up and he got up. I knew then I had a great fighter to work with.

J.S: How would Ali do today, with the huge Klitschko brothers?

A.D: He would’ve stopped both of them. See, Ali looked great against big guys - Cleveland Williams I’ll give you as an example, a huge guy. Another guy, most people haven’t seen the fight, a guy named Duke Sabedong from early in Muhammad’s career (June of 1961, a points win for Ali). He was like 6’6.” Ali’s speed would have overcome both Klitschko brothers. But, hey, they’re the best around today. I think a guy named David Haye is interesting. I don’t think he’d let then hug onto him. Haye is an interesting guy and we need him around. I like the English fighters. One story I’ll tell you - back when Lennox Lewis was still deciding whether or not he was from Canada or Britain (laughs), I was asked to a meeting with Lewis, by Bill Kaplan. I told Lewis to go to the U.K, because the U.K fans are the greatest on earth. I’m kind of proud of that, because Lewis went on to become quite special.

J.S: Angelo, we all know you and millions of other people rate Ali as THE best-ever heavyweight champion. Who do you rate at number-two?

A.D: At number-two? Good one. George Foreman. But then you can’t discount Joe Louis, the finest human being God ever put on this earth. How can you not include Rocky Marciano? You know, you could talk all day. It’s like a trivia question, but everyone has their opinion (laughs).

J.S: Do you ever sit and watch the old classic fights you were involved in?

A.D: I never watch myself! I don’t do that stuff (laughs). But I do watch the old fights, because you never know when it might come in useful - when I might need to show a fighter a certain technique to win a fight. I never miss a fight today. I go to all the local fights and I watch everything on T.V. I never want to miss something and then get asked about it and wind up looking like a dummy!

J.S: Your opinion on the fight we all hope will actually happen will be of great interest. Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao, who wins?

A.D: I like Mayweather. It’s a difficult fight and a great fight. I hope it happens. Mayweather is actually a nice kid. He was down here recently, and he put his arm around me and said “you’re blowing it son, your blowing it!” He comes off as ugly, but he’s not really like that.

J.S: He’s obviously having some public relations problems right now, along with Ricky Hatton, who I’m sure you read about.

A.D: Oh, Ricky Hatton. That breaks my heart, what these guys are going through. Boxing is the toughest career out there. You’re in a glass house. If your seen walking down the street with a woman, you’re a womaniser. If you go into a bar for a Coke, you’re a drunk. Every young kid that tells me he wants to be a fighter, I ask him, “are you sure?”

J.S: It’s been great talking with you, Angelo. When is the 5th Street Gym’s official opening?

A.D: The official opening, for the press and the VIP‘s, will be September 23rd, the 24th will be for family and friends, the 25th will be open-house for people to train.

J.S: Tom Tsatas said Ali might be coming on the 23rd?

A.D: He is coming. He heard about it and he said he had to be there.

J.S: Wow, that will be some occasion

A.D: It will be. I’m a lucky guy - who goes to work each day and really enjoys what they do? I met my wife through boxing, and we’ve been married now for 58-years. I’m a very lucky human being.

J.S: It’s been a real pleasure for me speaking with you, Angelo. I really appreciate it.

A.D: Oh, I appreciate you calling. Can you mention my face book page - Angelo Dundee, trainer of champions. Tell the fans to take a look.

Article posted on 16.09.2010

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