Angelo Dundee, trainer of Ali, dies at 90

Angelo Dundee tapes the fists of Muhammad Ali days before Ali's 1971 fight vs. Joe Frazier.
Angelo Dundee tapes the fists of Muhammad Ali days before Ali's 1971 fight vs. Joe Frazier. (JIM KERLIN / Associated Press)
Posted: February 02, 2012

Angelo Dundee, 90, the brilliant motivator from South Philadelphia who worked the corner for Muhammad Ali in his greatest fights and willed Sugar Ray Leonard to victory in his biggest bout, died Wednesday in Tampa, Fla.

The genial Dundee, born Angelo Mirena on Aug. 30, 1921, 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 with his family surrounding him, said his son Jimmy Dundee, but not before attending 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."

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.

"He was wonderful. He was the whole package," 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."

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 1994 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.

"I just put the reflexes in the proper direction," Dundee said in a 2005 interview with the Associated Press.

Arrangements were to be announced.

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