By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Whether you’re bummed by Floyd Mayweather Jr., uncertain about Manny Pacquiao or unimpressed by Sergio Martinez… here's a little sage wisdom from Angelo Dundee.
Don't spend any time pining away for the next Muhammad Ali, Ray Leonard or Joe Louis to save the sport from its perceived (by some) doldrums, because it's not going to happen.
"That's the mistake people make," the legendary trainer said. "They keep waiting for a guy to come along who acts like and sounds like and fights like those guys, but they don't realize that every fighter and every individual is different. They all have different outlooks and they all do things in different ways.
"Once they come along, the cast is broken and you'll never see it again."
Dundee, now just a few months shy of 90, last made the rounds awhile back with the release of his latest book – "My View from the Corner: A Life in Boxing" – written with fellow Hall of Fame member Bert Sugar and featuring a foreword by his most famous in-ring charge, Ali, with whom he worked big fights from the 1960s through the 1980s.
I recently plucked the hard cover off a shelf at a local discount store. And by the time I made it to the checkout counter a few aisles later, it was already sure to be a pittance well spent.
I subsequently caught up to the long-time Floridian for a chat to discuss the book and pick his brain.
And I found out advanced age or no, Dundee’s eye for talent remains as sharp as ever.
“I pay attention to everything. I watch all the fights I can and I go to the cards here in Tampa, where they put on about one a month," he said. "I feel obligated to watch every fight because someone might ask me a question about something, and I want to be able to give them an honest answer if they do."
For those unaware, the 336-page book touches on Dundee's relationships with his 15 world champions, including Ali, Leonard, Carmen Basilio and Willie Pastrano, and tells behind-the-scenes tales of some of the most famous events in the sport's history - including Ali and George Foreman's "Rumble in the Jungle" and the to-this-day controversial match involving Leonard and Marvin Hagler in Las Vegas.
Still, in spite of the classic and sometimes bitter rivalries his fighters had with noteworthy adversaries like Joe Frazier (three fights with Ali) and Thomas Hearns (two fights with Leonard), Dundee said that a more collegial relationship always existed between him and the trainers of those foes behind the curtain, even alongside the intense competition.
"Sure, you'd try to lick each other when you had guys against them in the ring, but we'd spend far more time helping each other," he said, relating a little-known anecdote involving Emanuel Steward and Hearns – who was featured on the undercard of Ali's forgettable, cowbell-addled December 1981 swan song at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre in Nassau, Bahamas.
"Emanuel's kid had fought a guy from Philadelphia (veteran middleweight Ernie Singletary) that night and got cut, and he came to me at the hotel, where I was talking with a friend of mine who was a plastic surgeon. He asked him to take a look at the cut, and the guy wound up working on him all night right there in the hotel room while we ordered sandwiches.
"He got 106 stitches and it saved the kid's career."
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF featherweight title – Atlantic City, N.J.
Yuriorkis Gamboa (champion) vs. Jorge Solis (unranked)
Gamboa (19-0, 15 KO): First title defense; Second fight in New Jersey (1-0, 1 KO)
Solis (40-2-2, 29 KO): Second title fight; Lost IBF title shot in 2009
Fitzbitz says: “Streaking young champion should pass capable veteran test.” Gamboa by decision
IBF junior featherweight title – Johannesburg, South Africa
Steve Molitor (champion) vs. Takalani Ndlovu (No. 1 contender)
Molitor (33-1, 12 KO): Second title defense; Beat Ndlovu in 2007 (KO 9) and 2010 (UD 12)
Ndlovu (31-6, 18 KO): Ninth title fight (4-4, 2 KO); Held IBO 122-pound title (2005-06)
Fitzbitz says: “Third time no charm for Ndlovu, even on home turf.” Molitor by decision
IBF flyweight title – Johannesburg, South Africa
Moruti Mthalane (champion) vs. Johnriel Casimero (unranked)
Mthalane (26-2, 17 KO): Second title defense; Eighth fight in Johannesburg (7-0, 4 KO)
Casimero (14-1, 8 KO): First title fight; Third fight outside Philippines (1-1, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: “Incumbent champion a formidable foe at home.” Mthalane by decision
Vacant IBO super middleweight title – Kempton Park, South Africa
Thomas Oosthuizen (No. 28 contender) vs. Evert Bravo (No. 70 contender)
Oosthuizen (11-0-1, 8 KO): Second title fight; Draw in IBO title shot in 2010
Bravo (15-1-1, 11 KO): First title fight; Unbeaten in 15 fights since 2005 (14-0-1, 10 KO)
Fitzbitz says: “Higher grade of foe the ultimate for young KO artist.” Oosthuizen in 10
Vacant IBO super bantamweight title – Kempton Park, South Africa
Tshifhiwa Munyai (unranked) vs. Danilo Pena (unranked)
Munyai (20-2-1, 10 KO): First title fight; Four wins in six fights since 16-0 start (4-2, 2 KO)
Pena (22-8-2, 10 KO): First title fight; Lost only fight since 2009
Fitzbitz says: “If nothing else, Munyai’s nickname – ‘Atomic Spider’ – is an edge.” Munyai by decision
WBO middleweight title – Ekaterinburg, Russia
Dmitry Pirog (champion) vs. Javier Francisco Maciel (No. 10 contender)
Pirog (17-0, 14 KO): First title defense; Sixteenth fight in Russia (15-0, 13 KO)
Maciel (18-1, 12 KO): First title fight; Half of 12 career KOs in first round
Fitzbitz says: “Rising young champion should prevail in bombs-away slugfest.” Pirog in 8
Last week’s picks: 2-1
Overall picks record: 188-60 (75.8 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him at www.twitter.com/fitzbitz .