One of the few truthfully honest, genuinely nice guys of the sport of boxing, a sport we love yet also fully acknowledge is full of scum, greed, evil and corruptive types, Angelo Dundee added light to everyone and anyone who came into contact with him.
“Angie” to his friends, Dundee passed away nine years ago today. Having started his career in boxing as a young man, Angelo lived well into old age.
It was fitting, as Dundee had so much knowledge, so much passion, so much decency to pass on. Literally a trainer of champions, Dundee worked with the best and he pushed the best. Often, too, Angelo saved the best from a loss that, had another guy been working the corner that night, would surely have come.
But throughout it all, when it would have been so easy for Angelo to have submitted to ego and a desire for attention the way so many other “star trainers” did and continue to do, Dundee was happy to take a backseat to his fighters, to let them bask in the glory.
Born in August of 1921, Dundee made his first big move into the sport when, after serving his time in WWII, and then a long stint as a “bucket man” at the legendary Stillman’s Gym, he opened his own, more famous gym – The 5th Street Gym in Miami. From then on, a literal conveyerbelt of class fighting material was unleashed. Just to think, how many great, legendary and superbly gifted fighters must have walked through those doors just across from the beach.
And how much the greats learned from Dundee.
Ali, as special as he was (Dundee naysayers suggest Ali would have been as great with any other trainer/corner-man working him), never parted ways with Angelo. Sugar Ray Leonard did, yet it never really did him any good. Among the other champions Dundee assisted include: Willie Pastrano, Jose Napoles, Luis Rodriguez, Sugar Ramos, George Foreman, Pinklon Thomas and Michael Nunn.
It was, though, as Ali’s main man that Dundee became recognized as the main man; as in the best, the most respected, the most identifiable of all boxing trainers. Some fans say Eddie Futch was a greater trainer, others say Emanuel Steward. Going back further, historians point to Ray Arcel, Jack Blackburn, Charlie Goldman.
But the thing about Dundee? He would have gladly nodded his head and agreed with any passionate argument put to him that insisted those guys were better than him. That’s the way Angelo was – down to earth, willing to listen as well as teach, and absolutely no ego-driven monster.
Some of Dundee’s most memorable quotes:
“Notice who is in the locker room after you have lost, not after you have won.”
“It don’t cost nothin’ to be nice.”
“Training fighters is like trying to catch fish. It’s not the strength but the technique.”
“Criticism is okay, encouragement in better.”
One of my most privelidged days was the day, back in 2011, when I had the incredible good fortune to speak with Angelo.
Here are some of the things he told me:
On The 5th Street Gym:
“It was such a happy place. People liked to come. We had great fighters training there all the time. It belongs.”
On Ali and his greatest wins:
“Oh, the George Foreman fight was special. But the best of all was the win over Sonny Liston. He really was the baddest man on the planet. No-one gave my guy, my kid, a chance. That one was special.
“Ali was himself a little bit special. He could go all night. 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. I knew then I had a great fighter to work with.”
On the greatest heavyweights ever:
“My guy is at the top. Number-two? Good question. You cannot discount Joe Louis, the finest human being God ever put in this earth. Rocky Marciano, George Foreman…You could talk all day.”
Angelo Dundee was truly one of the greats, and how we wish we could listen to him talk all day today. Continue to rest in peace, Angie.