ANGELO DUNDEE … HALL OF FAME BOXING TRAINER OF FIFTEEN WORLD CHAMPIONS, INCLUDING MUHAMMAD ALI AND SUGAR RAY LEONARD If you ever get belted and see three fighters through a haze, go after the one in the middle. That’s what ruined meI went after the two guys on the end. MAX BAER, 1934 heavyweight champion 52 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME Iwas an aircraft inspector before World War II, but all I knew was prop planes. When I got back from the military, the planes all became jets, which is when I called my brother, Chris, and asked if I could work in his boxing gym. It was 1948, and Chris had sixteen fighters and he let me come down and be the bucket boy for the greatest trainers in the world: Charlie Goldman, Jimmy White, and Ray Arcel. They opened up their years of experience to me. I worked out of Stillman’s Gym, where my brother had his office, and I even had a studio couch, where I basically lived. Those men taught me so much, but first and foremost, they taught me to help people and share with others what you know so they can grow. I learned about people from them, how to deal with different people in different ways. There were different buttons you had to push with everyone. I also learned that you can’t teach desire. MUHAMMAD ALI I had to make Ali feel like he innovated everything, even down to the slightest punch. Later in his career, he used to say, Angelo don’t train me. That’s exactly what I wanted him to think. I just wanted him to do the things he needed to do to get better. What people should know about Ali is that he’s a wonderful human being, a better person than he was a fighter. He would come to Christmas parties at my house and go play with the kids.
SUGAR RAY LEONARD What I loved about Angelo was that he had a way of motivating without ever showing panic. He was always in control. He’d express urgency, but I never saw him desperate. He was always a calming figure in my corner. SUGAR RAY LEONARD His first fight, Ray shows up in Baltimore with his name on his robe. I said, Ray, you don’t need a name on your robe for these people. If they ANGELO DUNDEE 53 don’t know who you are, they don’t know boxing. It was all part of getting my kids to believe in themselves. WILLIE PASTRANO Notice who is in the locker room after you lose, not after you win. ANGEL O DUNDEE One night, Willie walked out into the ring and just got his butt kicked. He went back into the locker room and it was almost empty. Before the fight, you couldn’t even take a deep breath without hitting someone. I said, Willie, take a look around. These are your friends.
This is exactly like life. Who’s around you when the chips are down? Those are people you can count on. Angelo, that didn’t bother you, not getting credit? I never wanted credit. You have to know your role in life, and for me it’s staying on the fringe. In fact, the first few years with Muhammad, they thought I was a mute. I never talked. In public, it’s all about the fighter. I made it a point to always be available to the media because the media makes and breaks fighters. Before Ali, these fighters never talked. I wanted them out there all the time. I don’t say I. It’s always we. I just tried to make each fighter the best they could be and that’s all a coach or a trainer should do. I don’t create. I just try to better what a guy already has. WORKING WITH THE STARS I worked with Will Smith for his role in Ali, and Russell Crowe for Cinderella Man. These guys were like fighters. They worked like dogs. They’re driven. They were great students who just oozed talent and drive.
Russell ran in the bush for his roadwork and road his bike to the gym. He had a gym on his farm. This guy was just like a fighter. And he became a good fighter. I watched that movie and I saw Braddock. I treated Smith just like he wanted to be treated, and he wanted to be treated not like a star but like a fighter. And he could have been a fighter. Crowe could have been a fighter, too. Just think about the careers I could have ruined if I’d gotten to these guys at the right time! 54 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME MY WRAP Like many coaches, Angelo is selfless. Some people like to say it’s not about them, but with Angelo it’s really true. He didn’t need the spotlight and he doesn’t need it now. He loves competing, but treats everybody the same way, and that’s respectfully. He’s the first one to say that he can’t put toughness and drive into a person if it’s not there to begin with. Too bad he never hooked up with Mike Tyson.
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