By Michael Marley
Boxing lost a man who was arguably the greatest trainer ever, cornerman and all around ring strategist on Wednesday.
My good friend, the Hall Of Fame trainer, a genuine maker of champions, Angelo Dundee died at his Florida home. I'm told by Dundee's area boxing buddy, Johnny Bos, that the trainer's daughter, Suzanne, said he had "a massive heart attack."
Dundee, who would have turned 91 come August, was hale and hearty pretty much up until the end of his life. Dundee did use a wheelchair in recent years but he was mentally sharp and aware until he died.
The lone living member of Ali's highly-touted world championship corner is now Dr. Ferdie Pacheco. Cornerman Wali Youngblood Muhammad, out of the limelight after Ali's career ended with a loss to Trevor Berbick in the Bahamas in 1981, died last week in Harlem.
First to go from the quartet was colorful "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" chanter Drew Bundini Brown who reportedly died of a drug overdose in 1987.
In what have been his final major public appearance, Dundee was showerred with attention at his great pupil Muhammad Ali's 70th birthday party held at the Ali Museum in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, on Jan. 14 (three days prior to the actual birthday).
I spoke with Dundee over breakfast the day of the swinging soireee honoring the former Cassius Marcellus Clay.
With his son Jimmy attentively at his side, Dundee clearly remembered me, not only as a former New York Post boxing columnist but as a pesky 12 year old Ali fanatic who kept popping up in places the Ali team went, ranging from Chicopee, Mass., to Lewiston, Maine, to Toronto, Canada.
The running joke in Ali's entourage in those early days was how Angelo would freak out when he saw me, usually hanging out with sparring partners Jimmy Ellis and Harvey Cody Jones, and how we would insist that "the kid has to go." I always evaded Dundee and we became great pals over the decades.
While in Louisville, I decided to check and see how the great motivator and teacher's mind was.
"Angelo, you've told me 1,000 times but I always forget, who was the fighter you had in Lousiville when that noisy teenager named Cassius Clay showed up at your hotel?"
Dundee did not blink or hesitate, immediately going into his oft-told tale about how the spunky, nonstop talking Clay rang up the room where Dundee had Willie Pastrano resting for a local bout.
Born in Philadelphia, Dundee's brother was the Hall Of Fame promoter, Chris Dundee. Of course the real family last name was Mirena.
Chris became a bigtime promoter in Miami Beach and Angelo handled a slew of champions and contenders at the world famous Fifth Street Gym.
Younger fans may recall the great moment in the first Sugar Ray Leonard-Thomas Hearns bout when Dundee fired up Leonard with a between rounds call to action.
"You're blowing it, son! Your'e blowing it!" Dundee exhorted Leonard. Suitably inspired, Leonard who had been getting outboxed by the Hitman turned the fight around by outslugging the slugger.
Not that Dundee's war cries always had such great results.
When heavyweight James "Quick' Tillis loafed in a fight against Mike "Hercules" Weaver, Dundee yelled at Tillis: "What do you want to be, a bum for the rest of your life."
Bos puts Dundee's overall impact on the sport in perspective.
"He was the greatest spokesman and greatest public relations guy boxing ever had," Bos said.
"Consider all the world champs he had down in Miami at a time when boxing only had eight weight classes and eight world champions. It was phenomenal then and it remains phenomenal today, from era to era.
"Plus, he had two guys who could be said to be the greatest ever in Ali and Leonard. My friend will be missed by me and the entire boxing world. Angelo was one of a kind."