I can’t recall the exact date in which I had the pleasure of meeting Angelo Dundee, but it was in the summer of 2001, in Miami. Mr. Dundee used to pronounce it Mi-a-muh, as many in his generation often do. In any case, we were both on our way to Jamaica (not together), when I spotted him at one of the concessions at the airport.
While I don’t consider myself to be either an autograph seeker nor someone who goes all gaga over celebrities, I did however, consider it providence to be alongside someone I revered so. After all, Mr. Dundee was the man in boxing. He is considered a legendary trainer, cut man, manager, and loyal devotee to boxing, having already been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992.
Adding to my luck on the fateful day Mr. Dundee and I met, our flight was delayed by a few hours. I was as giddy as a school girl, eager to share words with Mr. Dundee, and listen to him regale me with boxing stories. He did not disappoint. He was engaging, humble, and someone I wouldn’t have minded having as a next door neighbor.
For the next several hours, we talked about some of our favorite fights, favorite fighters, his training tactics and strategies, and life in general. It was like hanging out with a buddy, but without the beer. I really took to him, and I would say he took to me as well. If he hadn’t, he certainly wouldn’t have given me his address in Weston, Florida, along with his personal number. “Call me whenever you want to chat, Joe. Maybe you’ll get a chance to meet my newest prospect.” I remember him saying. I never abused the privilege. I knew that even at eighty years of age, he had to have had a very busy schedule. It was around that time that he had finished serving as consultant for the movie, “Ali.”
The movie became a pretty big topic of our conversation as well. I recall Mr. Dundee being excited and impressed at the athletic prowess of actor, Will Smith. I was surprised to hear him say, “If this kid (Will Smith) had decided to take up boxing, he would’ve been really good at it.” This just made me want to see Mr. Smith’s portrayal of Muhammad Ali even more, but the movie was still months away from being released in theaters. It was still good to get the inside scoop, though. True to his word, Mr. Smith’s athleticism was clearly evident on screen, and the fight choreography was dead on, so much so, that I was juxtaposing the actual fights to those in the movie.
All in all, I had a memorable and fantastic time talking to Mr. Dundee, and for the first time in my life, I was delighted that our flight was delayed.
When Joe Frazier died last year, I was hurt because I grew up watching him fight, and I think it’s common to feel a certain kinship with a person even when you’ve never met them. However, when I heard the news that Angelo Dundee had passed away, I felt more like I had lost a dear friend; someone whose number I still have on my phone. I doubt I’ll ever delete it. A picture of us hangs on my wall at home, and at the boxing gym I train my boxers out of.
Rest in peace, Angie. You lived a long and charmed life.