Remembering the great Angelo Dundee

Boxing trainer Angelo Dundee at his training camp in New York, N.Y., in June 6, 2006. (TEDDY...

Boxing trainer Angelo Dundee at his training camp in New York, N.Y., in June 6, 2006. (TEDDY BLACKBURN/Reuters)

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:33 PM ET

TORONTO - Partway through the sixth round of his Sept. 27, 1963 fight against Mike DeJohn at the Louisville Convention Center, Toronto heavyweight George Chuvalo sent his American opponent into the ropes.

It wasn’t as lethal a blow as the first knockdown just a few seconds earlier, when Chuvalo hammered DeJohn with a vicious left hook.

But the series of blows did cause DeJohn to fall between the ropes, and the Angelo Dundee-trained fighter appeared unable to move.

Under normal circumstances, it’s up to the fighter to get up and back into the ring. If a fighter can’t raise himself, the referee rules the fight over. But on this night, the referee, Don Asbury, actually grabbed one of DeJohn’s arms and pulled him up and back into the ring — before administering an eight count.

Naturally, the Chuvalo corner protested — in the tape of the fight, you can see Asbury yelling back. But Asbury let the fight continue, a bout which Chuvalo ended up winning via a majority decision.

Three months later, Chuvalo fought another Dundee-trained fighter, Tony Alongi, at the Miami Beach Auditorium, and though Chuvalo claims to have “kicked the shit out of Alongi,” the bout was first declared a decision for Alongi. On a recheck, an error was found on the referee’s card, and the bout was then ruled a draw. Chuvalo said he was nearly robbed of the win against DeJohn, and certainly robbed of a win against Alongi, all because pf Dundee.

“Angelo had the judges and referees in Miami and Louisville in his hip pocket,” said Chuvalo, who is best known for fighting Dundee’s greatest fighter, Muhammad Ali, on two occasions. “As a matter fact, Angelo said to me years later: ‘George, they should have thrown us in jail for what we did to you.’”

Chuvalo laughs about that today. In fact, he and Dundee had a good laugh about it a few years ago at the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y. What happened in the DeJohn and Alongi fights is all water under the bridge. Besides, like everyone else in the boxing world, Canada’s greatest ever heavyweight had a tremendous amount of respect and affection for Dundee — who passed on Wednesday night in his Tampa, Fla. apartment, at the age of 90.

“All’s fair in love and war,” said Chuvalo. “I just wish I had a guy like Angelo in my corner.”

Chuvalo wasn’t the only fighter who carried that wish.

Born Angelo Mirena in the great fight town of Philadelphia, Dundee trained 15 fighters to world championships, including George Foreman, Carmen Basilio, Jose Napoles and Sugar Ray Leonard. But he is best known for his 21-year collaboration with heavyweight champion Ali.

Dundee was one of the few constants in Ali’s life. From the time they first got together in 1960, Ali changed religions, friends and wives, but Dundee was always there. And they remained close until the end. He was undoubtedly one of the greatest trainers of all time, perhaps the greatest, and he was one of the greatest boxing ambassadors, and one of the most-liked men in the sport. Dundee once famously said: “It doesn’t cost anything more to be nice.”

He was a master tactician and motivator. Famed promoter Bob Arum believes that Ali was able to come back and stop Joe Frazier in 1975’s ‘Thrilla in Manila’ partly on the sheer will of Dundee’s urging in the corner. Dundee, it was said, was able to squeeze every last ounce of energy and strength out of his fighters. In the famous 1981 bout against Tommy Hearns, Dundee was heard on TV screaming at Leonard: “You’re blowing it, son. You’re blowing it.” Leonard rallied to win the bout.

Of course, Dundee wasn’t above pulling off a shenanigan here or there if it helped his fighters win — the most notable example when Ali fought England’s Henry Cooper in 1963. Cooper floored Ali in the fourth, leaving him dazed. Dundee then alerted the referee to a rip on Ali’s glove. The search for a replacement set of gloves gave Ali a few extra minutes to recover and he went on to stop Cooper in the fifth on cuts. Dundee had noticed the split before the fight but only brought it to the ref’s attention when he needed some time for his fighter.

Sugar Ray Leonard once said, in the heat of the battle, “there was nobody better to have in your corner than Angelo.”

Two weeks before he died, Dundee summoned the strength to attend Ali’s 70th birthday party. And when he died on Wednesday night, he was surrounded by his family, including his grandchildren. The boxing gods were smiling on Angelo Dundee until the very end.

steve.buffery@sunmedia.ca

twitter @beezersun


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