Cornerman Angelo Dundee
Photo/Text by Donna Malloy
Angelo, wife Helen and son Jimmy Dundee pose in front of a photo gallery featuring the boxing greats of the past at Jimmy’s Belleair Optical shop in Belleair.
When Hollywood directors and the boxing world need a cornerman, they call the real Burgess Meredith; International Boxing Hall of Famer Angelo Dundee. Born Angelo Mirena Jr., in Philadelphia, PA, Dundee legally changed his last name after brother Joe changed his from Mirena to Dundee.
“My father didn’t want Joe to box, so Joe boxed under the name Dundee, after the professional fighter Johnny Dundee.” The name, synonymous with boxing champions, stuck and Angelo rose to boxing fame as Angelo Dundee.
Dundee learned his trade the old fashioned way; hanging around Stillman’s Gym and watching the techniques of coaching greats Chickie Ferrera, Charlie Goldman and Ray Arcel, to name a few. In due time, Dundee rose from water boy to cornerman for world welterweight champion Carmen Basilio, who defeated Tony DeMarco to win the crown.
“Now he’s busier than ever” stated son Jimmy Dundee with a smile. Angelo Dundee was recently hired by Golden Boy Oscar dela Hoya as a consultant for his fight against the younger Manny Pacquiano. The fight between dela Hoya and Pacquiano is scheduled on Dec. 6 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and Dundee will be there by dela Hoya’s side.
Hollywood Director Ron Howard summoned Dundee to Australia to train actor Russell Crowe in preparation of his performance as boxer James J. Braddock in the film Cinderella Man.
Howard filmed Dundee as himself, the cornerman talking strategy to his boxer.
“In one scene, Ron asked me if people would usually be around the ring when I was working with a fighter. I told them no. I felt bad that he got rid of the extras, but he wanted it authentic.”
Boxers work hard, but actors work harder” stated Dundee. “They work very long days.”
“Each boxer is unique” stated Dundee. Mohammed Ali was a “hard worker, very talented and loud.” Ali now suffers from Parkinson’s disease, but they still “keep in touch. I just talked to him the other day. He always says he’s ‘going to start training;’ that’s our joke. I don’t think the shots to the head caused his Parkinson’s, but it didn’t help him either” stated Dundee.
Heavyweight champion George Forman “knew how to train an old body” stated Dundee. And George “always wanted me to speak in his ear; real quiet. He didn’t want anyone to hear what I was saying.”
But things were not always friendly between Foreman and Dundee. In fact, it took Foreman 17 years to again team up with Dundee. That’s because in 1974, Foreman accused Dundee of tampering with the ropes before the Rumble in the Jungle fight in Zaire.
“I tightened the ropes at 4:00 p.m. the night before the fight. The fight was scheduled for 4:00 a.m. the next morning. In the meantime, the hemp began to loosen because of the humidity there” stated Dundee.
The loosened ropes aided Ali in his “Rope-a-dope technique, a technique in which he bounced off the flexible ropes to gain momentum. Ali went on to win the fight that night.
Hollywood Director Michael Mann hired Dundee to train actor Will Smith for the movie Ali. Both Smith and Russell were really nice guys” stated Angelo. “Russell invited me out to his ranch outside Sydney; he swims everyday and practices yoga. I got tired just watching him” stated Dundee. The actors and film crew then moved on to Toronto for one month to complete the film.
When not being summoned by Hollywood or the boxing world at large, Dundee enjoys sharing his time in Florida with his wife of 57 years Helen and their adult children Jimmy and Terri and six grandchildren.
“That’s how you spell their names: Jimmy and Terri. We figured everyone was going to call them that anyway, so we might as well spell them that way” stated Dundee.
Helen and Angelo met in 1949 at the fight between Jackie Cranford and Gino Buonavino. Buonavino was Helen’s cousin.
“He got licked that night” stated Helen about cousin Buonavino.
But, as they say, one man’s loss is another man’s victory.
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