Angelo Dundee, who was arguably the most famous boxing trainer in history, died at the age of 90 at home in Tampa, Florida on Feb. 1. Dundee recently celebrated the 70th birthday of his long-time friend and most famous fighter, Muhammad Ali, on Jan 14. Dundee’s death represents the end of an era in boxing as he was one of the oldest and most-respected trainers to have ever worked a corner.
Jimmy Dundee said his father was surrounded by family members when he passed away and is glad his dad had the chance to reminisce with Ali before he died. Dundee said his father suffered a blood clot a week before he died and was treated in hospital for it before being allowed to return home to his apartment. He added that his father was having trouble breathing the day he died and family members rushed to his home to spend the last few hours with him.
Dundee was also the trainer and motivator of several other huge boxing stars such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Willie Pastrano, George Foreman, Jose Napoles, and Carmen Basilio. Dundee was one of the most liked and respected men in boxing and always had a smile on his face and a joke on his tongue.
He’ll always be best remembered as being Ali’s trainer though since he guided the former heavyweight champion throughout his professional career. Dundee was more than just a corner man. He often motivated his fighters when they were in trouble during bouts, such as Ali in his first fight with Sonny Liston and Leonard during his first showdown with Tommy Hearns.
Promoter Bob Arum was planning on bringing Dundee and Ali together again on Feb. 18 for a charity gala event in Las Vegas. Arum said Dundee was boxing’s greatest motivator, no matter what the situation was and that’s why Ali loved him so much. During his six-decade career which took him around the world, Dundee trained 15 world champions and was honored by the sport for his magnificent corner work and training efforts in 1992 by being inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Dundee first met Ali back in 1959 in the fighter’s hometown of Louisville, Ky. Dundee was training Pastrano at the time and Ali, who was then named Cassius Clay and was a Golden Gloves champion, phoned Dundee’s hotel room and asked if he could come up and visit the trainer and Pastrano. Ali ended up talking boxing with the pair for over three hours.
Ali then won the gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Italy and ran into Dundee again in Louisville. Dundee asked Ali if he’d like to head down to Miami Beach to train with him at the legendary 5th Street Gym, but Ali said he couldn’t. However, a few months later one of Ali’s team members called Dundee to see if he’d work with Ali and that was the start of one of boxing’s most famous partnerships. Dundee guided Ali to the heavyweight title in February 1964 against Sonny Liston in Miami Beach.
Dundee, who was born in Philadelphia, always stood by Ali when the boxer was going through tough times with the black Muslims and the government for refusing induction into the army. Dundee was loyal to Ali and never tried to persuade him on his religious and political views and Ali said that’s the reason he loved his trainer.
There was always boxing in Dundee’s blood. His older brother Chris was a promoter and his brother Joe was a boxer. Angelo followed Chris to New York after the second World war and that’s where he got his feet wet in the sport. By the late 1940s he was handling cuts and tape hands in boxer’s corners and helping out trainers such as Ray Arcel and Charlie Goldman.
Just before Ali retired, Dundee started training Leonard and also trained Foreman for his title-winning fight against Michael Moorer in 1994. The 45-year-old Foreman became the oldest heavyweight champion in history that night with his last-round knockout over Moorer. Dundee will be sorely missed in the boxing game, but stories of his antics and training expertise will never die.
It was a terrible week for boxing. Along with Dundee, famed trainer 88-year-old Goody Petronelli, 63-year-old referee Wayne Kelly, and 21-year-old flyweight boxer Karlo Maquinto all passed away.