Hall of Fame boxing trainer Angelo Dundee, 90, the man who once trained such legendary greats as Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, and Sugar Ray Leonard collapsed and died unexpectedly of a heart attack Wednesday night at a rehabilitation center in Clearwater, Fla.
Dundee was one of the most highly sought-after trainers and corner men in boxing. Although he trained nearly two dozen boxers, including 15 world champions in his long and illustrious career, his legacy will forever be tied to Ali, formerly known as Cassius Clay.
Dundee was a fixed presence in Ali’s corner as his chief trainer. Dundee worked with Ali from his second bout in 1960 to his 61st and last fight in 1981. Even when Clay changed his name to Ali, after studying the teachings of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad, and was being taught that the “white man was the devil,” Dundee never abandoned Ali.
And when Ali created a controversial media frenzy by refusing to be drafted into the Vietnam War due to his religious beliefs and his world heavyweight title was taken from him, Dundee remained loyal and the bond between the two men never wavered.
Dundee, whose given name was Angelo Mirena, was of Italian descent. He honed his craft by acting as a bucket man to other well-known and respected trainers at the famed center of the boxing universe Stillman’s Gym in New York and then Fifth Street Gym in Miami, where his reputation was solidified.
Although his name is linked with “the Greatest,” Dundee chose to also work with Sugar Ray Leonard, whom he felt was a smaller version of Ali. Dundee was also Foreman’s corner man in his highly publicized heavyweight title bout against Evander Holyfield in 1991 and the then-undefeated Michael Moorer in 1994.
Throughout recent years, Dundee continued to act as an adviser in boxing matters and related events. Hollywood came a-calling in 2005, when Dundee was asked to train actor Russell Crowe for his role as boxer “James Braddock” in the film “Cinderella Man.” Dundee was actually given a small role in the movie as a corner man named “Angelo.”
Only two weeks ago, Dundee flew to Louisville, Ky., to celebrate the 70th birthday of his dear friend Ali. According to published sources, there was no way he would have missed the event for anything in the world.
Dundee’s lifelong love and respect for the sport earned him praise from those across the boxing world. A marvel in the corner and an inspiration and motivator to those he worked with, Dundee brought out the best in many of boxing’s giants and he will be sorely missed.