TAMPA, Florida — Angelo Dundee, who has died aged 90, was one of the greatest boxing trainers of all time and helped Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and more than a dozen other world champions to glory.
During a career that spanned six decades it was Dundee’s work with Ali that he was best known for, having been recruited in 1960 to guide the then Cassius Clay, already an Olympic champion, to professional success.
Dundee died following a heart attack on Wednesday night at a rehabilitation center in Clearwater, Florida, the Miami Herald reported, having initially been admitted to the hospital with a blood clot two weeks ago.
The trainer’s son, Jimmy, told US television broadcaster ESPN that his father died with his family beside him.
“It was the way he wanted to go. He did everything he wanted to,” he said.
Dundee was in the corner when his heavyweight protege first became world champion by defeating Sonny Liston in 1960.
He also guided him in all three fights against “Smoking Joe” Frazier, and in the infamous fight where Ali regained the belt against George Foreman in 1974.
Together they crafted the “rope-a-dope” technique which helped Ali dethrone Foreman with a blistering set of punches during “The Rumble in the Jungle,” in Zaire, which was called the fight of the year by The Ring Magazine.
Dundee, who was born in Philadelphia, worked with Ali right up until his final bout against Trevor Berbick in 1981 — a fight in which the legend by then looked overweight and slow and was out-punched by his opponent.
The duo’s friendship continued long after they left the ring and Dundee was with Ali when the heavyweight legend celebrated his 70th birthday last month in Louisville, Kentucky.
Dundee was considered a quick thinker and the best fight strategist in the sport. He began working with Leonard in 1976 before helping Foreman win back the heavyweight title in 1994 at the age of 45.
With Leonard, who had been out of the ring for three years, Dundee ended the middleweight dominance of “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler in 1987, a win attributed in part to the trainer spotting a flaw in the latter fighter’s stance.
Leonard used his speed to exploit Hagler’s habit of shuffling before he threw punches to outmaneuver his opponent and claim an unexpected victory.
But in his autobiography, “I Only Talk Winning,” Dundee gave the credit to Leonard. “Plans and strategies meant nothing unless my guy had the talent, the brains and the bravery to carry them out,” he wrote.
Dundee’s death comes as questions surround the health of Ali. In November, the heavyweight great was briefly hospitalized in Phoenix, where doctors treated him for dehydration.
That came a few days after Ali attended the funeral of his old rival Frazier, who died of liver cancer in Philadelphia on November 8.