by Mark Scheinbaum
February 3, 2012
ANGELO DUNDEE, 90,LEAVES THE ARENA
HOUSTON, Feb. 2, 2012 -- The 20th Century's premier boxing trainer, Angelo Dundee, died yesterday at age 90 in Tampa after a lifetime in the spotlight of sports and the shadow of Muhammad Ali, and only one flaw is attributed to him.
"Angelo cares about his fighters too much," was the comment by the late sportscaster Howard Cosell, describing how Dundee would throw in the towel too soon rather than see a boxer get hurt.
He didn't get it quite right. Angelo Dundee perhaps cared about people too much, not just boxers.
During more than four decades in the Miami area, Angelo and his late brother, Chris Dundee, put people ahead of everything, including profits.
It was his steadfast patience and support for Ali which put Angelo's face on tv and in newspapers for the general public and occasional sports fan.
But for boxing purists, for every Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard there was a Jimmy Ellis, Luis Rodriguez, Gomeo Brenna, or Vicente Rondon who owed part or all of their careers to the Dundee Brothers.
The old Fifth Street Gym on Miami Beach was a place of refuge for aspiring boxers and washed-up pugs. For Former Cuban champs such as Rodriguez, there was always a job of some sort and a place to hang out in the years after Fidel Castro.
Up the road at their tiny office inside the Miami Beach Convention Center, the Dundee brothers held court in their boxing promotion business, which was run by Chris more like a clubhouse for buddies than a business.
The brothers were Angelo and Chris Mirena, born in the rough neighborhood of South Philadelphia. Older brother Chris,, the promoter, took Angelo under his wing.
Angelo once told me, "Italian kids were not that welcome on those early days because all the great fighters had Irish names. We knew a fighter named Dundee and it sounded better, so we used that name."
The brothers had no idea whether their name actually sounded more like it was from Scotland than Ireland, but would laugh that they didn't worry about that.
One day, when I was a younger newsman for United Press International and was assigned to boxing from time to time, I was babysitting my 3-year-old son on the same day Angelo had arranged for me to meet with former Bahamian policeman Gomeo Brennan and Venezuelan champ Vicente Rondon, prepping for their upcoming bout.
"Bring the kid along - we love kids!" Angelo laughed. To this day a photo of my son mugging with Rondon is a prized possession.
With the ascendency of Cassius Clay, the Louisville and Olympic phenom who changed his name to Muhammad Ali and changed Angelo from a sports trainer to a member of a royal family of boxing ambassadors, Angelo Dundee became a media star.
He was always diplomatic about political issues and re-directed interviews back to boxing. During the three years Ali was exiled from boxing due to his refudsal to accept the Army draft, he would tell me, "I am worried about the kid. I am worried about him as a person, as a man with a family."
But it was not the press conferences, weigh-ins or receptions which I think of when I remember the Dundee Brothers. It is the innovative coup they once scored against Miami Beach and Dade County.
A long-standing contractual dispute forced the Dundee promotions away from the Miami Beach/Jackie Gleason Theatrec convention center complex.
Anti-boxing ordinances in surrounding communities and the county also prohibited using even state-sanctioned boxing licenses on any municipal land.
Naturally, Chris kept promoting and Angelo kept training fighters, and for a few years they held boxing matches on a barge moored to the Rickenbacker Causeway in Biscayne Bay.
Like a finely trained boxer, they dodged legal blows for several years on the grounds that their boxing matches technically were "not on the land."