Thursday, February 2, 2012
Dundee a great ambassador for boxing
By Dan Rafael
I was very saddened to hear the news Wednesday night of the passing of Hall of Fame trainer Angelo Dundee at age 90.
He wasn't just one of the nicest guys I've ever met in boxing, he was one of the nicest people I've ever met in life.
He had so much enthusiasm for everything, especially boxing. Sure, he is best known for his work in the corner of Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman (in the second act of his career) and Carmen Basilio, but he also worked with more than a dozen champions overall and made his Miami gym one of the most famous in boxing history.
I knew him not so much as an active trainer, but just as a wonderful person who loved to talk boxing all the time and had more stories than he could possibly tell -- although he sure tried.
I had never met Angelo before I first started covering boxing in 2000. Maybe a month after I had started covering the beat for USA Today and had only a few articles appear in the paper, I received a hand-written letter from him at the office.
He introduced himself (as if I didn't already know who he was!) and wrote that he really enjoyed seeing the beefed-up coverage in the paper, liked the stories I had written and especially enjoyed the first edition of the monthly divisional rankings we had unveiled a couple of weeks earlier.
Angelo wasn't pushing one of his fighters or projects on me, wasn't looking for a story. Instead, he spent about three pages writing about how much he loved boxing, how happy he was to see coverage in a major newspaper and told me that if I ever needed anything to please give him a call, and he included his telephone number.
Over the years, I would call on him for his views of certain fights and fighters for stories I was working on. He was always very giving of his time, always had something interesting to say and a story to tell.
I had a chance to see him from time to time at fights he would attend. He was a joy to be around. Even into his late 80s he was still traveling around to fights, still working on one boxing-related project or another.
One of the most fun fights I ever covered was when Manny Pacquiao faced Oscar De La Hoya in December 2008. The reason was because Golden Boy Promotions had brought Angelo into the promotion as a "special consultant" to De La Hoya.
He was supposed to visit De La Hoya's training camp in Big Bear, Calif., and offer tips for the fight to De La Hoya and his trainer, Hall of Famer Nacho Beristain. Angelo was also supposed to watch tapes and assist in the strategy for the fight.
In reality, Angelo's main purpose in the promotion was to generate publicity, which he did. With the way he could talk and the stories he could tell -- and the reverence people in the business had for him -- it was a genius move. We all knew it was a publicity stunt, but so what? It was terrific to have him around during the promotion, especially as he held court daily in the MGM Grand media center.
Several years ago, Angelo was honored for his service to boxing at an ESPN2 card in Miami. My pal Jay Seidman produced a special program for the event. My job was to ghostwrite a piece by Foreman on what Dundee had meant to him. I met Foreman in a conference room at Caesars in Atlantic City, N.J., one evening after he had gone through his production meeting for the HBO fight that he would call the next night.
I sat with Foreman for about a half hour as he told me how much Angelo had meant to him when Foreman hired him to work in his corner and help him plot strategy for his fights -- including for his improbable victory against Michael Moorer to regain the heavyweight championship in 1994. He said without Angelo in his corner, he never would have regained the title.
Foreman got choked up at one point talking about Angelo; that's how much he had meant to him.
I'm sure Foreman will get choked up again now that Angelo is gone -- just like so many others who also knew him and loved the man.