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MAN IN THE CHAMP'S CORNER

May 24, 1965
May 24, 1965

Table of Contents
May 24, 1965

Clay-Liston
Masked Marvel
Angelo Dundee
People
Rowing
Baseball

MAN IN THE CHAMP'S CORNER

He is Angelo Dundee—the incomparable manager, chief second and cut man to Cassius Clay. Dundee conceives of his job, which he insists is no big schmier, as that of a combination psychologist, engineer and surgeon

I'm not an egotistical pig," Angelo Dundee, the manager of Cassius Clay, is saying, biting the ears off the rabbit's head on the end of his swizzle stick. Angelo is swarthy (100% Calabrian blood), his nose is gracefully arched and he has large, prominent, soulful eyes, what were once called lamps. "I'm an ear-breaker," he says. "I'm also a tape-chewer." He explains that in the corner he chews adhesive tape like gum. Now, in the Playboy Club in Miami, Angelo is facing his third Irish coffee, which he doesn't count as drinking since he stopped drinking. "I'm not spectacular," he goes on. "I lead a very uneventful life. I'm an ordinary guy. Out of town, I'm only looking to run. I enjoy a very happy home life. I go fishing all the time. Last week I caught a snook. I go square dancing twice a week, don't laugh, I'm a Palm Swinger and a Grand Square from the Northwest Shopping Center. I have my Grasshopper badge for doing it on grass. I'm a Moonlighter for dancing under the moon and a Square Duck for doing it in a swimming pool. I'm a backward type of guy. I'm not ostentatious. 'Me great hero. Me killum 9,000 Indians.' I don't go that route. It's no big schmier, the job I do."

This is an article from the May 24, 1965 issue Original Layout

What Angelo does is work with fighters, which, besides calling "time" and wiping off, means putting out "50 bananas" for their bail bonds, getting them a "roomski over thereski" and letting them beat you out of money. "Angelo is going to go down in history," says his big brother, Chris, "as the softest touch in the world."

Chris promotes boxing in Miami Beach, where Angelo shares a formica desk with him; on the office walls are photographs of Chris with his arm around the near great, the width of the lapels indicating the year they were taken. Chris never talks on less than two phones at the same time. "Hello," he says on his phones. "How are you? You're looking good," Says Chris: "Angelo's good because he's heard me over the phone all these years. He's a clean boy, he does no harm, and he has the patience of a.... Only he could have the patience he has. It's remarkable the patience Angelo has."

"If I was the type of a person that got bugged," says Angelo, "I'd be in an insane asylum. If I have it, they got it. I know it's a bad risk, but I love fighters. Making a living at fighting is a tough contract. It's harder than working. Anybody can go to work! One day I yelled 'W-O-R-K' in the gym and six guys jumped out the window. I love fighters. I admire their hardships. It's a heartwarming thing to help these fellows. The biggest feeling is seeing something grow—the fighter growing into manhood. But sometimes you see something that looks like the best piece of merchandise in captivity and then—bam! I love fighters, but they deuce me to death."

Fortunately, not all of Angelo's fighters go bam! in the middle of the ring. In addition to managing Clay, he is the manager of Willie Pastrano, who was the light heavyweight champion, the American representative of Luis Rodriguez, formerly the welterweight champion, and of Sugar Ramos, likewise the featherweight champion. "American representative" has got to be a euphemism—but for what? Angelo doesn't argue. "Call me anything," he says. "I'm working."

Says Angelo: "When you're working with a fighter, you're a surgeon, an engineer and a psychologist." He defines psychology as putting the fighter in the best "mental frame of mind." As Angelo told one of his fighters at the end of the eighth round, when, slumped wearily on his stool, he complained that his legs were killing him, "That's a very good sign. It means you're getting your second wind." Says Angelo: "Tired is a disgusting word. You never say tired to a fighter, even if he's ready to drop from exhaustion. If he even starts thinking about being tired, you're dead."

Angelo regards Johnny Holman as his psychological masterpiece. Holman came to Miami from Chicago in 1954 after Bob Satterfield had knocked him out twice in his last three fights. "His managers were going to retire him," Angelo says. "What he needed was a change of scenery. Atmosphere has a lot to do with a fighter. In Chicago, Holman was just another heavyweight. In Miami we wanted him to feel like a somebody. When he'd come up the steps to the gym I'd have everyone primed. As he came in sight, we'd all yell, 'Big John. Hey, Big John. What do you know, Big John?' He'd laugh. We'd given him a monicker. We'd tell him things to pep him up, tell him how good he was.

"What Big John wanted more than anything else was a house—with shutters on all the windows. He'd tell me about the shutters by the hour. Now he's fighting Ezzard Charles, and Charles is putting a licking on him. At the end of the fifth round I cuss him out in the corner. He wasn't used to me using the vernacular. 'What's the matter with you, Big John? This man's taking your house away from you. He's taking your shutters!' When the bell rings I threw him into the ring. He knocked Charles out.

"I always give my fighters a little lift," Angelo says. "It encourages them. In the first few rounds it's a tap on the rear end, but after a while it's a pretty good backhand. I also drop ice down their pants, pinch the flesh about the waist or slap them high on the inside of the thigh. You get to be too homey with a fighter, it's no good. You've got to be able to get a reaction from a fighter. You've got to be impersonal. You stop working when you get too attached. You're there to assist your fighter, not to get involved emotionally."

"Angelo tees up a man," says Drew (Bundini) Brown, Clay's trainer. "When you snatch a stool, do you know what the other man is going to do? Angelo gives a man spirit. He knows how to handle men, not telling them how to throw a left hook but giving them courage. Write it on the wall: Bundini was in the joint."

"If you have Angelo in your corner," says Luis Rodriguez, "he make you win the fight. He make you work. He try to make you be smart, throw more punch. He get opponent, I never worry about. 'Ooh,' my friends say to me, 'Angelo get you that fighter! Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! Ooh!' I don't worry. If Angelo, he get the fight, I don't worry. In California I look for the opponent at the weigh-in. I see this tall guy. I say to myself, must be heavyweight from California. Angelo say to me that's my opponent. I say to myself, this tall guy gonna fall."

Angelo defines engineering, as it applies to seconding fighters, as "maneuvering a fighter to do the things you want him to do." To wit, this is what he told Luis Rodriguez—full of wheedle, rant and con—between rounds when Rodriguez fought Garland (Rip) Randall in Tampa last month:

1) "Outside, outside. Stay outside. Don't clinch. He hit you low, you hit him low, you understand me?"

2) "Hit him in the belly, hit him in the belly. Don't go backing up with your head in the air. Jab this guy. Drive him crazy. When he comes in—in the belly."

3) "You can't back up. You got to hit this guy in the belly. Don't sleep in there."

4) "Stay out of the clinches. Box him from the outside. Keep boxing him from the outside. Don't stop. Please, please box. Please."

5) "Bing, bing, bing. Get out. Do what I tell you. Stay out of the clinches, stay out of the clinches. Fight this guy outside."

(To the referee, in the course of the sixth round: "Keep that bum's head out of his face, will you please.")

6) "Don't laugh. You're gonna lose. You won't listen to me. Stay out of the clinches. You're going to get cut. Come on, listen to me, will you please. Fight from the outside. Louie, listen to me."

7) "Stop holding. Bing, bing, bing. Move. This is No. 8, Louie. Bing, bing, bing. Move. In and out, in and out."

8) "Come on, Louie. Side to side. Punch for punch. Move. Louie, you're going to lose it. You won't get a return match. Double hooks you can hit this guy."

9) "The last two minutes I want you to fight like hell. Come on, Lou, damn it. Don't clinch. Don't laugh at this son of a bitch. Louie, I want three minutes of fighting to show the people something. No clinches!"

Rodriguez won a decision that was never in doubt.

Angelo Dundee is one of the best cut men in the business—which, word for word, is what they say about all the other cut men in the business. Ah, but Angelo really is. "There's no trouble sewing up any of his work," one doctor says. "Angelo doesn't damage tissue." "First, you wipe away the blood with a gauze pad," Angelo explains, "then apply the coagulant. Don't rub, put on pressure. Just before the 10-second buzzer put on the final bit of pressure, then your grease. The grease goes into the cut, and it's still creating coagulation. A lot of doctors crack to me they couldn't stop the bleeding I do."

When, on the night of May 25, Angelo accompanies Cassius Clay into the ring in the Central Maine Youth Center, he will be carrying gauze pads and Q Tips—sticks broken short, tips wrapped with additional cotton—in his left shirt pocket ("It's a filthy habit, walking around with Q Tips behind your ear," says Angelo); smelling salts and absorbent cotton in his right shirt pocket; two jars of coagulant ointment, a bottle of powdered coagulant containing thromboplastin, and a jar of bismuth subgallate, a powder used in conjunction with coagulants, in his left hip pocket; three bottles of liquid coagulants containing adrenalin, thromboplastin and Haemostatic R.C. respectively, in his right hip pocket; more gauze pads in his left back pocket; a pair of surgical scissors in his right back pocket; and a vial of smelling salts behind his right ear.

"You see why I look so fat at ringside," says Angelo.

Angelo Dundee, who is 43, was born in South Philadelphia, the second youngest of seven children, under the name of Angelo Mirena Jr. Angelo Mirena Sr., who, with his wife, came from Cosenza in Calabria and laid track for a living, was originally Angelo Mirenda. "The d dropped dead somewhere," says Angelo Jr. "I taught my daddy how to write his name. I can imitate his signature today. Certain things stick out. 'Go back and dot the i, Daddy. Finish the o like that.' " Angelo and brother Chris, the second oldest, took the name Dundee from brother Joe, who worked on an ash truck for the city and fought as Joe Dundee, The Fighting Ashman. " 'Joe,' I used to tell him," says Angelo, " 'call yourself, please, The Fighting Sanitation Man.' " Joe, in turn, had taken the name Dundee from the late Johnny Dundee, who won the world featherweight championship in 1923 and whose real name was Giuseppe Carrora. Joe called himself Dundee so his father wouldn't know he was fighting. "My mother was sweetness and light and my dad could lick all of us," says Angelo, who legally changed his name in 1952, when he got married.

After high school Angelo went to work in the naval aircraft factory in Philadelphia as a final-assembly test inspector on N3Ns. "I love aircraft," says Angelo. He was drafted into the Army in 1943, where he had a dozen fights without a loss. In time he became a staff sergeant in a C-47 servicing outfit in the ETO. When Angelo was discharged, he went back to work for the Navy. However, he was shifted to inspecting radar-controlled missiles. "I didn't know what I was doing," Angelo says. "It was a degrading feeling, the mechanics knowing more than me."

In 1948 Angelo quit and went to New York to help out Chris, who was the manager of such stick-out fighters as Ken Overlin, Georgie Abrams and Tommy Bell. "I'll never be the hustler Chris was," Angelo says. "He was a great hustler. Once Chris had seven fighters fighting on the same night in seven different cities. I think he has the record." In those days Chris had an office in room 711 in the old Capitol Hotel, where Angelo slept on the studio couch.

"I went to a fight the first night I was in New York," Angelo recalls. "Bobby Williams fought somebody at Fort Hamilton. Chickie Ferrara, who was handling the fighter for Chris, said, 'Wrap this guy's hands.' I said, 'What's that?' Chickie said, 'There's the bandages, there's the tape.' I said, 'What do I do?' Chickie said do this, do that. I was feeling sorry for the fighter. I'm happy to say he won the fight and didn't break his hand.

"You got to be a great listener in boxing. I listen to everybody. I use what I can to my best interest. I listen to the lowliest guys, the nothing guys, the hello-how-are-you guys. I've got a fantastic memory for voices. I'm bad on names, but I'm terrific on faces; I'm good facially. I won't want to hurt nobody. I love everybody. I have a hello, a stock greeting for everyone.

"I've watched 100 trainers wrap hands. I've copied and applied my own style. I'm always looking for edges. I'm always thinking way ahead. Nothing's too menial when you're working with fighters. When I started out I was Gunga Dinning. There's a right way of carrying a bucket, a wrong way of carrying a bucket. When I first carried the bucket I made a lot of mistakes. I spilled the bucket. You got to tilt the bottle so you don't overbalance the bucket. Just put in a little bit of ice, a small smathering of water, so it don't melt so quick."

In 1949 Chris went to Miami to promote, leaving his fighters with Angelo. Angelo followed him down in 1951. "I saw the handwriting on the wall," Angelo recalls. "All the small clubs were folding, there wasn't enough activity. I went to Cuba and started hustling down there. I learned Spanish. That's how I wound up with all my Cubans. It was public relations."

Angelo is a strong advocate of P.R. Clay's heroic poetry wasn't inspired solely by Calliope, and Angelo got Luis Rodriguez to learn English so the writers could get a kick out of his accent. "Every year I send out over 300 Christmas cards," Angelo says. "I've got a mailing list of over 100 promoters. I've got a file of writers, fighters, managers, sportscasters. I correspond with guys all over the world. I got a guy that's a brain in England, Richard Reekie, works for me. I got a guy who went to Argentina who's raving about a light heavyweight. I've been trying for years to get a Chinese fighter. He'd be very big in Kingston, Jamaica. My phone bill is $600 a month. I've got a girl comes in twice a week to send out propaganda. I've been in England a dozen times or more with fighters; France, Italy, Johannesburg, Accra, Japan, Nassau, Curaçao, Aruba, Jamaica, Bimini. I make a living in boxing. I'm proud of it. Any black eye on boxing is a personal affront to me. I drop lines to writers. If I'm in England I tell them about soccer, I give them guys to meet would make columns. I've learned what you can sell, what you can't."

Angelo's big break occurred in 1952, when he worked the corner for Carmen Basilio in the Baby Williams fight in Miami Beach. From then on Carmen, who went on to become welter and middleweight champion, would always bring Angelo in 10 days before he fought. "Carmen didn't like gauze on his palm," Angelo recalls. That same year a couple of kids on summer vacation from high school came to Miami from New Orleans, and Angelo picked them up at the bus station—Willie Pastrano and Ralph Dupas, later the junior middleweight champion. As Angelo says, "Eveverything started blossoming up."

It took three more years, however, before Angelo felt he was in enough clover to buy a home. The Dundees live on a corner lot in northwest Miami. Their modest, attractive house is bordered by crotons, which Angelo planted; the remains of a mango tree, topped by the hurricane of 1964, endures in the back yard. Angelo's wife, the former Helen Bolton, was a showroom model and is a cousin of Jackie Cranford, who was a heavyweight; this is how Angelo, who carried Cranford's bucket when he lost to Gino Buonvino on Jan. 30, 1948, met her. Helen is as tall as Angelo; Angelo says he stipulated she had to wear low heels when they went out. "Or he said I could walk in the gutter," says Helen. The Dundees have two children, Jimmy, 10, a judoka, and Terri, 8; two dogs, T.J. Wong, a pug, and Philippe Filippi, a toy poodle named after a French fight manager; four television sets (three paid for); and an unlisted number. "I got calls from bars in California," Angelo says. "Guys with bets. There's a three-hour time difference."

One afternoon last month, shortly before Cassius Clay left for his Chicopee, Mass. training camp, Angelo stood in the Fifth Street Gym (SI, April 6, 1964), which Chris owns, admiring Clay. "You're looking at a rarity," he said, pointing to the ring. "This is the stage where the great artist performs for his audience. Before him there was no one like him. After him there'll be no one like him. This ain't every one of my fighters. This is a new kind of person, a new kind of human being. This is a special case where you can't give orders. He don't like to be yelled at when he works out. I don't yell at my fighters anyway. If I had tried to domineer Clay, we'd be throwing punches at each other. You tell him what's deficient after the workout. You use the power of suggestion. 'Gee, your left uppercut was working to perfection,' I'll say. He hadn't thrown a left uppercut, but tomorrow he will. This is my easiest job. The guy's a glutton for work. I beg him to take off.

"The value of a gymnasium—how the fighter looks—is nil, as long as he works and trains. None of my fighters have fights in the gym. I don't want no wars. You don't take lickings in the gym. You practice it. When you get in the ring, you do it. I don't like guys to have great chins. I like those guys who don't want to get hit. A chin is like a concrete block. If water keeps chipping it, it cracks. I don't like those guys who eat razor blades and bang their heads against the wall. None of my fighters use grease in the gym. Don't depend on grease. Slip the punches. I don't like guys who fight with their face. I have a habit of winning fighters. If you want longevity, have a good defense.

"Look how Cassius lets his brother hit him in the body. It's his theory—it toughens the body. How can you rap perfection? The guy's never been licked. Take Luis Rodriguez. He runs at night, because he says he doesn't fight in the morning. He drinks a bottle of stout before a fight. If it makes him feel good, it's good. Another cardinal sin—hitting the bag with bare hands. Cassius feels that it toughens the hands. Every fighter's a different study. A fighter got to be an individualist—has to be an individualist; proper English. I know all my fighters, because it's all I know."

Angelo first met Clay in Louisville in 1958, on the eve of the Pastrano-Holman fight. "Big John's managers got it into their head they could lick Pastrano. 'No,' I said. 'What do you want it for? A Holman can never lick a Willie. I've seen them fight 1,000 rounds in the gym.' But it was a windfall for me—Clay called up on the lobby phone. My name is Cassius Clay, he said. I won the Golden Gloves. I won this. I won that. After this long list of accomplishments, he tells me how good he was. He came up to the room and questioned Willie and me about boxing for three hours. 'Don't you want to manage me?' he said. 'Don't you want no money? You're not with it.' I said, 'I live in Miami. You want to be a fighter, come and see me.' "

Which, of course, is what eventually happened. The Louisville Sponsoring Group hired Angelo as Clay's trainer at $125 a week plus bonuses, and Clay came on down. "I didn't make no money with Clay until the last fight," Angelo says. "Twenty grand in three years." When Bill Faversham, who had been acting as Clay's manager, suffered a coronary in November, Dundee took over as manager.

"Angelo was ideal for me," Clay said after he had finished sparring. "He'll listen to whatever you want to say. He considers how his fighters feel. I knew just about all the art of it before I met Angelo. He showed me a few mistakes, so I corrected them. He showed me the best way to shoot the left—"

"You never take from a fighter," said Angelo. "You always add to. His jab was a flick. Then it got to be a weapon."

"...right uppercut—" said Clay.

"I borrowed that from Basilio," said Angelo.

"...left hook," said Clay. "Body punches. There ain't never no boss between me and Angelo. We discuss things on a sensible basis. I've never seen Angelo really mad, arguing, fussing. He's always jolly and playful. We have a lot of fun together. Plus a lot of places he can go with me because he's half colored."

While Cassius was hitting the speed bag Angelo said: "They didn't see him at his best the last time. At his best he'll destroy Liston. Everything he does counteracts Liston's best points. Brute strength can't lick science, speed, reflexes." Angelo took out a sheaf of photographs. "I had this guy take these pictures for me of Liston sparring," he said, "somebody like a fight fan. You can see Liston's in good shape. I'm just hoping he'll overwork. An old body can't overwork. He's bending in here, legs widespread. Cassius can slip off a clinch, throw punches and Liston won't be able to get at him because of that widespread stance. In this one his left hand is down and he's getting hit with a jab. His left leg is pointed to the left. Cassius can slip to the right and nail him. Notice how deep and evenly his feet sink into the canvas. You can't change directions when you're like that. Look how tight the muscles in Liston's legs are. He's too set. Look at this—he's coming in with his hands low, left foot off the canvas. A right-hand counter is liable to upset him. In this one Liston can't go to his left because his legs are pointing right. He ain't going to change his stripes. He comes from the book.

"He has one way to win. A K.O. punch early. If he tries to be more exacting, he'll get messed up more. Those wild hooks last time might have been an asset. A couple of times he missed Cassius by that much. If he looks to load up, Cassius'll keep picking, keep picking. He'll try to put Cassius up against the ropes, keep him there, but what people don't realize, Clay is very strong.

"Last time Clay circled Liston. This time he's going to go back and forth, in and out. I'm just going to give him the basic things in the corner. Stay in the center of the ring, don't drop your left. I'll tell him Liston's trying to set him up for hooks, and to play the ring. Don't worry if you see me rubbing Cassius' side around the third or fourth round. A lot of people misinterpret that. He just likes me to do that for him. All I got to install in Clay is one thing—box!"

Angelo put the photographs aside and came across a letter he had neglected to mail. "It's to the mother of one of my fighters," he said. "I'm dropping her a line, telling her her son is all right."

Angelo saw that Cassius was through with the speed bag. He hustled over to the wall and pulled Clay's rubbing table out so he could do his bicycling on it and at the same time watch his brother Rudy sparring.

"I moved the table," Angelo whispered. "He saw me. Case in point, nothing's too menial when you're working with fighters."

PHOTOSOULFUL GAZE of Dundee belies a tough mind that never stops working for his boxers.