Angelo Dundee’s son discusses life, death of Muhammad Ali’s trainer

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Boxing trainer Angelo Dundee died Wednesday in a Florida rehabilitation center, where he was being treated for a blood clot found after a flight back from visiting Muhammad Ali in Louisville for the fighter’s 70th birthday, son James Dundee said.

Angelo Dundee was 90.

A tremendous motivator and positive force whose favorite saying was, ‘It costs nothing to be nice,’ Dundee was the steadying presence in Ali’s corner as the fighter navigated the turbulence of a career that took him from Olympic star to young heavyweight world champion, banned for protesting the Vietnam War, converting to Islam, champion again and then suffering through the toll of the violent sport.


The Times will have a full obituary posted soon on, and in Thursday’s newspaper.

Southland resident Mercedes Ganon, who retained rights to tell Dundee’s story in film, worked closely with the trainer and James Dundee in recent years.

‘He made me believe I could do anything,’ Ganon said. ‘He would touch you and in a moment change you from a loser to a winner just like that. He was the most beautiful, amazing man I’ve ever met. He changed history.’

James Dundee said his father ‘had a ball in life. He did everything he wanted to do. Lived life to the fullest.’

In recent weeks, Dundee had paid visits to Ali for his birthday, treked to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in New York and mingled with friends at the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame he helped start in Chicago by first inducting boxers. Tuesday night, Dundee was resting in the rehabilitation center watching one of the Italian American Hall of Fame inductees, Michigan State basketball Coach Tom Izzo, when his son visited.

‘He was sitting there saying, ‘That’s my man I-Zo,’ ' James Dundee said. ‘Once he met Izzo, Dad never missed another Michigan State game.’

Angelo Dundee’s impression on the medical staff made for an emotional scene Wednesday night when he died.

‘I rushed into Dad’s room, and everyone who’d met him were blubbering,’ James Dundee said. ‘The poor nurse was so shaken up that she couldn’t save him. Dad was just so nice to people.’

After Ali’s event, Dundee returned and told his son he didn’t get a chance to talk extensively to his former fighter because the celebration was so boisterous.

‘But with those two ... Muhammad doesn’t talk well and Dad didn’t hear well; all they had to do was look at each other,’ James Dundee said. ‘Dad always treated Muhammad as if he was his child, he cared that much for him.’

Dundee’s brilliance was in the small things, like inspiring the fighter who repeatedly mentioned his desire to own a nice home with shutter blinds. When the boxer would fall behind on points, Dundee would roar, ‘You see that guy across the ring? He’s taking away your house with shutters!’

A knockout followed.

When he saw a small tear in Ali’s glove in a troubling moment against Henry Cooper, Dundee tore the hole bigger, creating a much-needed delay.

‘Greatness is grasping the moment,’ James Dundee said. ‘Dad grasped all the moments.’

-- Lance Pugmire


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