Angelo Dundee,the brilliant motivator who worked the corner for Muhammad Ali in his greatest fights and willed Sugar Ray Leonard to victory in his biggest bout,died aged 90 here.
The genial Dundee was best known for being in Ali’s corner for almost his entire career,but those in boxing also knew him as an ambassador for boxing and a figure of integrity in a sport that often lacked it.
He died yesterday with his family surrounding him,said son,Jimmy Dundee,but not before being able to attend Ali’s 70th birthday bash in Louisville,Ky,last month.
“It was the way he wanted to go,” Jimmy Dundee said. “He did everything he wanted to do.”
Jimmy Dundee said his father was hospitalised for a blood clot last week and was briefly in a rehabilitation facility before returning to his apartment.
“He was coming along good yesterday and then he started to have breathing problems. My wife was with him at the time,thank God,and called and said he can’t breathe. We all got over there. All the grandkids were there. He didn’t want to go slowly,” the son said.
Promoter Bob Arum said he had been planning to bring Dundee to Las Vegas for a Feb 18 charity gala headlined by Ali. He called Dundee a legend in the sport,someone who worked the corner for some of the greatest fights of the times.
Arum credited Dundee with persuading Ali to continue in his third fight against Joe Frazier when Frazier was coming on strong in the “Thrilla in Manilla.” Without Dundee,Arum said,Ali may not have had the strength to come back and stop Frazier after the 14th round in what became an iconic fight.
Dundee also worked the corner for Leonard,famously shouting “You’re blowing it son. You’re blowing it” when Leonard fell behind in his 1981 fight with Tommy Hearns,a fight he would rally to win by knockout.
A master motivator and clever corner man,Dundee was regarded as one of the sport’s great ambassadors. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992 after a career that spanned six decades,training 15 world champions,including Leonard,George Foreman,Carmen Basilio and Jose Napoles.
But he will always be linked to Ali as one of the most successful fighter-trainer relationships in boxing history,helping Ali become the first to win the heavyweight title three times.
The pair would travel around the world for fights to such obscure places as Ali’s October 1974 bout in Zaire against Foreman dubbed “The Rumble in the Jungle,” and Ali’s third fight against Frazier in the Philippines.
Their partnership began in Louisville,Ali’s hometown,in 1959. After Ali returned from Rome with a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics,Dundee ran into him in Louisville and invited him to come to Miami Beach to train. Ali declined. But that December,Dundee got a call from one of Ali’s handlers,seeking to hire Dundee. After Ali won his first pro fight,Dundee accepted.
He helped Ali claim the heavyweight title for the first time on February 25,1964,when Sonny Liston quit on his stool after the sixth round during their fight in Miami Beach.
Born Angelo Mirena on August 30,1921,in south Philadelphia,Dundee’s boxing career was propelled largely by his older brother,Chris,a promoter.
After living in the Miami area for decades,Dundee moved to the Tampa suburb of Oldsmar in 2007 to be closer to his two children after his wife of more than 50 years,Helen,died.