Angelo Dundee, the brilliant trainer and motivator who worked the corner for Muhammad Ali in his greatest fights and willed Sugar Ray Leonard to victory in his biggest bout, died Wednesday (Feb. 1, 2012) of a heart attack. He was 90.
Mr. Dundee was best known for being in Ali's corner for most of his career, but those in the sport also knew him as an ambassador for boxing and a figure of integrity in a sport that often lacked it.
"He did everything he wanted to do," his son, Jim, said.
Mr. Dundee, who lived in Palm Harbor, had been admitted to a hospital with a blood clot after his return to the Tampa Bay area from Louisville, Ky., where he attended Ali's 70th birthday party on Jan. 14, Jim said. After a few days in the hospital, he was transferred to a rehabilitation center, where he died.
"Angelo was the greatest motivator of all time," promoter Bob Arum said. "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 Mr. 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 him, Arum said, Ali may not have had the strength to stop Frazier after the 14th round.
Mr. 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. Leonard rallied to win by knockout.
Mr. Dundee was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994 after a career that spanned six decades and 15 world champions, including Ali, Leonard, George Foreman and Jose Napoles.
With Ali, he had one of the most successful fighter-trainer relationships in history. He helped Ali become the first to win the heavyweight title three times. "I just put the reflexes in the proper direction," Mr. Dundee said in 2005.
Their partnership began with a 1959 meeting in Louisville, Ali's hometown. After Ali returned from the 1960 Olympics with a gold medal, Mr. Dundee ran into him in Louisville again and invited him to train with him in Miami Beach. Ali declined. But that December, Mr. Dundee got a call from one of Ali's handlers, seeking to hire him. After Ali won his first pro fight, Dundee accepted.
Born Angelo Mirena on Aug. 30, 1921, in Philadelphia, Mr. Dundee got into boxing because of his brothers Chris, a promoter, and Joe, a fighter. All changed their surname to Dundee so their parents wouldn't know they worked in boxing. Angelo and Chris made South Florida a boxing destination when Chris opened Miami Beach's 5th Street Gym in the 1950s.
More than 10 years ago, Mr. Dundee and his wife, Helen, moved to Palm Harbor to be closer to Jim and their daughter, Terri Dundee Coughlin. Helen died in 2010.
Mr. Dundee was to be a special guest at the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame ceremony Friday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Rays manager Joe Maddon said on Twitter: "Our condolences to Angelo's family … am very fortunate to have known him … incredible spirit … shall be missed."
Mr. Dundee's death leaves Tampa native Ferdie Pacheco, known as the "Fight Doctor," as the only surviving member of Ali's famed corner.