Boxing may not be the popular sport it once was, but there’s still an aura of romanticism that surrounds it because of legendary trainers like Angelo Dundee.
Dundee, who died Wednesday at the age of 90, trained Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman and 12 other champions, schooling them inside and outside the ring.
“He was wonderful. He was the whole package,” promoter Bob Arum said. “Angelo was the greatest motivator of all time. No matter how bad things were, Angelo always put a positive spin on them. That’s what Ali loved so much about him.”
Dundee recently attended the 70th birthday celebration for Ali, whom he met when he was Cassius Clay.
“You come back to the corner and he’ll say, ‘The guy’s open for a hook,’ or this or that,” Ali told The New York Times in 1981. “If he tells you something during a fight, you can believe it. As a cornerman, Angelo is the best in the world.”
His approach was low-key and he made sure that Ali could back up his words in the ring. “He did things so subtly and he did them because he was Angelo Dundee and he was investing himself in his fighters,” Bert Sugar, ghostwriter of Dundee’s autobiography “My View from the Corner,” said. “He would teach Ali how to do things and let Ali think it was his idea. He would finish Ali’s poems for him when Ali couldn’t come up with a line.”
In later years, Dundee was a broadcaster and an adviser who helped Russell Crowe prepare for his role as Jimmy Braddock in “Cinderella Man.”
Dundee knew, though, that the “fighter is the star.” He preferred to play his role and a complex one it was.
“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,” Dundee once said. “There are more sides to being a trainer than those found on a Rubik’s Cube.”
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