Angelo Dundee, who trained the two most celebrated fighters of his era, Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, and 15 world champions in all in a Hall of Fame career that began in 1952, has died. He was 90.
If Dundee hadn't taken over on two occasions with Ali, one of the greatest careers in boxing history might have ended almost before it began.
At the end of the fourth round of a 1963 fight against Henry Cooper, Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, was surprised by a left-hand punch that floored him and left him dazed. Fortunately for Clay, it was the end of the round, allowing him to stagger back to his corner.
It was there that Dundee, trying to buy time until his fighter's head cleared, stuck his finger in a slight split in the seams of one of Clay's gloves, causing a slightly bigger split. That allowed Dundee to ask the referee for another pair of gloves. None were available, but the incident added valuable seconds to Clay's rest time, allowing him to recover and go on to win on a fifth-round technical knockout.
His next fight, against heavyweight champion Sonny Liston, might not have occurred if Clay had lost to Cooper.
In the fourth round of Clay's 1964 fight against Liston, another crisis occurred. A substance of undetermined origin got in Clay's eyes, temporarily blinding him. In the corner prior to the fifth round, Clay ordered Dundee to cut off his gloves, ending the fight.
The trainer would do no such thing. He wet Clay's eyes, alleviating some of the sting, and then literally shoved him back out into the ring when the bell rang. Clay, still unable to see, was told by Dundee to just run.
Run he did until, midway through the round, Clay's vision cleared. At the end of the sixth round, Liston, claiming a shoulder injury, quit in his corner.
Thanks to Dundee, Clay had his first title and a launching pad for the meteoric career that would follow.
Dundee's most memorable moment in Leonard's corner came in 1981, in Leonard's first fight against Hearns. Momentum had slipped away from Leonard by the end of the 12th round of the 15-round match.
"You're blowing it, son," Dundee told him in the corner.
Leonard responded by rallying for a 14th-round TKO victory.
As he had with Ali, Dundee had again possibly saved a Hall of Fame career, ensuring himself a spot among the pantheon of boxing trainers.