Angelo Dundee: An appreciation by Ferdie Pacheco
The Fight Doctor, Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, a cornerman for Muhammad Ali and a former boxing analyst for NBC, has sent The Times a tribute to Ali's Hall of Fame trainer Angelo Dundee, who died last week and is being laid to rest this week in Florida.
At 90 years of age, Angelo is finally gone to his just rewards. He deserves the best.
Angelo, more than any man I know, lived a full, rich, rewarding life filled with accomplishment, suffused with honor and a life of fun and free from hatred and bad feelings.
I traveled the boxing trail with Angelo as his second banana. Angelo needed no help in working a corner. I was there because he let me be part of that historic trek he took. Oh, I was functional when injuries required a doctor. I gave Angelo another card to play when injuries threatened the outcome of the fight.
And after the fight, we never went to an expensive emergency room. I took care of all but the most dire of injuries, right there in a dingy dressing room, or back at our hotel room. I came prepared for Spartan accommodations. Angelo stood by, hands folded in front of him, waiting until I finished. Then he said, “Looks good.” And went to bed. That was what I brought to Angelo. Of course, for more than 30 years, we grew close as brothers. His brother Chris was the best man at my wedding. Angelo was the godfather to my beloved Tina. I don’t believe she ever appreciated the honor that that designation carried. She was Angelo Dundee’s godchild! Angelo Dundee!
Angelo was simply a good man. He was kind, gentle, self-effacing, incapable of hurting anyone. He was generous to a fault. He was always ready to help out an old boxer, or an old trainer. Angie was an easy touch. After the gym closed at 2 p.m., we gathered the detritus of the afternoon. We’d have a boxer or two, at least three gray men (Sully, Sellout Moe, and Larry Golub) and any writer hanging around to get “the good stuff.”
What was the one ingredient in these lunches? Angelo always picked up the tab! Always. It made his wife furious. But it was Angie’s way.
The word “generous” springs to mind when I think of Angie’s ease with which he gave “free” professional advice. If you wanted to learn boxing, or corner work, Angie was willing to sit down and spend hours teaching. Of course, the best examples of this would be how Angie taught a raw kid to box and then how to win fights, and finally if he listened, how to become a champion.
And the biggest measure of Angelo’s unreserved love of family was his serf-like devotion for his older brother, Chris. It was Chris who took the returning servicemen from the labor pool and made a place for Angie by his side in boxing. Not that Chris was easy. Chris was hard. Times were hard. He made Angie work a corner for $5. He made Angie sleep in the gym. He made Angie train fighters who were broke -- for no fee.
Angie learned the hard way. I never heard Angie complain. When Angie became famous, and he had six world champions, Chris would still send Angie out in his car to deliver fight tickets and pick up the cash. Chris should have sent his teenage son, but he didn’t trust the kid like he did Angie. And Chris always had a “piece” of any fight Angelo had. Angie smiled and opened his wallet. “He’s worth it," was how Angelo saw it. "After all, he made me!" Angie said, his big eyes brimming with tears.
Most people in life quickly forget who “brung them to the dance.” Angie didn’t, and until he died, Angie was at Chris’ side. And it took 10 tough years for Chris to die. Greater love hath no man.
So, the rough, tough world of boxing is short one of its brightest lights. I’ve been deep in boxing for 30 years and I never ran into anyone like Angelo. And I never will.
Goodbye old friend, I’ll miss the little day’s lunch at the Puerto Sagua, and the huge night of the Ali fights. And I’ll miss you. There will never be another Angelo Dundee.
Photo: Angelo Dundee. Credit: Mike Powell / Getty Images.