Mr. Dundee worked in boxing for more than 60 years but was best known for molding the young Ali into a champion.
They met in the late 1950s, when Ali — then a teenager known as Cassius Clay — called on Mr. Dundee for boxing advice. He became Ali’s full-time trainer after the boxer won an Olympic gold medal in 1960.
Less than four years later, on Feb. 25, 1964, Ali scored a shocking upset by beating Sonny Liston to win the world heavyweight championship. He went on to become one of the greatest boxers of all time.
“If Angelo hadn’t been in my corner, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Ali told the New York Times in 1981. “I might have made it to the top, but not as quickly. As a corner man, Angelo is the best in the world.”
Boxing historians agree that Mr. Dundee’s tactical and psychological guidance proved essential to Ali’s success. Working out of the run-down Fifth Street Gym in Miami Beach, Mr. Dundee quickly assessed Ali’s strengths as a boxer. Even more important, he developed a keen understanding of his psychology and knew when to praise Ali and when to prod him.
Other trainers had tried to remake Ali’s unconventional yet graceful style in the ring, but Mr. Dundee had the good sense to leave him alone. When Ali joined the Nation of Islam, Mr. Dundee never raised an objection. He made it a point not to interfere in his boxers’ religious or romantic lives, preferring to focus his attention on what happened inside the ropes.
Mr. Dundee, who began his career carrying buckets, taping fighters’ hands and stopping their bleeding, knew all the tricks to help his proteges out of tight spots. In 1963, when Ali was knocked down in a fight with British boxer Henry Cooper, Mr. Dundee drew the referee’s attention to a torn glove on Ali’s hand.
Whether the rip was already present or whether Mr. Dundee cut the glove to delay the fight has been a matter of speculation for almost 50 years. At any rate, Ali recovered his strength and knocked Cooper out in the next round.
Mr. Dundee supported Ali’s penchant for showmanship, recognizing it as a central part of the boxer’s appeal. He sometimes helped Ali write the doggerel for which he became famous, including this rhyme before the 1964 title fight with Liston:
Who would have thought when they came to the fight?
That they’d witness the launching of a human satellite.
Yes the crowd did not dream, when they put up the money,
That they would see a total eclipse of the Sonny.
During the fight, in which Liston was heavily favored, Mr. Dundee proved himself as a master tactician. After the fourth round, Ali returned to the corner blinking from a substance in his eyes.