Ali’s trainer is a legend himself: the great who trained the very greatest

Ali’s coach is a legend himself
The very big, who trained the very biggest

Muhammad Ali is the greatest boxer of all time. His struggles and achievements are legendary. He was accompanied, formed and encouraged by his trainer Angelo Dundee, who is himself a legend of his trade. A memory ten years after his death.

He trained “The Greatest”, but Angelo Dundee was also a great of his kind. And when he died ten years ago on February 1, 2012 in Tampa at the age of 90, his son Jimmy summarized his father’s vita as succinctly as it was apt: “He loved life and his boxers, and he loved Ali.”

From his first professional fight in 1960 to the sad end of his protégé’s career 20 years later, the son of Italian immigrants was in the corner of the ring with his favorite student Muhammad Ali. Every workout at Fifth Street Gym in Miami, every fight. And the boxer, born Cassius Clay, returned his coach’s love.

“Angelo always let me be exactly who I wanted to be and he was loyal. I love him for that,” Ali wrote in a foreword to Dundee’s memoir. The little man, born in Philadelphia, was even more important to the master of all classes than his Islamic faith. The Black Muslims called in vain for Ali to replace Dundee with a black coach.

14 other pugilists, including superstars such as George Foreman and Sugar Ray Leonard, led Dundee to the world championship belt. But Ali remained unique for him: “He was the most complete fighter, he could do everything.”

It was all the more painful for him to have to witness the physical deterioration of his long-time protégé due to Parkinson’s disease after his boxing career. The two “friends for life” last met on Ali’s 70th birthday. Then Dundee was shaken like never before: “I could cry because I can’t help him.” Barely three weeks later, Dundee died of a heart attack. Four years later, Ali’s life ended – without Angelo at his side.

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