Happy Birthday, Angelo Dundee

By Gordon Marino on August 30, 2015
Happy Birthday, Angelo Dundee
Ang was saying what all the great religious cornermen were telling us. Have compassion.

This is one hour when I find it very easy to remember Angelo Dundee, with much love and gratitude…

Born on August 30, 1921, Angelo Dundee would have been 93 today. I only got to know him during his last decade but I treasure that time. Ang’s love of people and life was a life lesson.

I was blessed to be in Louisville with him at the opening of the Ali Center. We went out to dinner together at an Italian restaurant; a love of Italian food was something we shared. During dinner we could hardly get a bite in. One person after another would come up to recite a memory and ask for an autograph. He didn’t just accommodate people, he would thank them for their interest and spark up a conversation.

The poetess, Mayou Angelou, said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will not forget the way you made them feel.” I know Ang had a different persona when it came to the world of the ring. He was all business in boxing. But outside the arena, he made everyone feel special.

You might never have guessed it from his south Philly patois, but Dundee was a Freud at reading people. Of course, he was a master a deciphering the character of fighters but he was also a matchmaker of friendships. Over the years, he kept telling me you have to meet these two guys, Hackie Reitman (“The Fighting Surgeon”) and Mike Joyce, a professional boxer who became a prominent lawyer. I said “sure…sure” but was thinking “yeah…yeah, there are a lot of people I should meet.” But Ang was right. As soon as we met we became fast friends.

So many celebs today are so narcissistic that they can’t tear themselves away from themselves for more than a minute. But like his beloved Muhammad, Ang would always be willing to walk across the street to give another person’s life a bump up. He was like a telephone operator, always connecting people, always trying to open up opportunities for others. 

When we were in Louisville, Ang was going over with Ali to see the champ’s new house. He wanted to introduce me to Ali. He was hurrying me along. The van was getting packed up but I peeled off to visit the men’s room. Just as I was coming back, the van was departing and Ang was looking out the window at me, shaking his head and fist as if to say,  “Gordon you are a moron.”

Even after his health was in decline, Ang would often make two or three public appearance in one day. He would always explain, “It doesn’t hurt to be nice.” Mr. philosophy professor here would yawn at those seemingly clichéd words. But in time, I would come to understand that in his own concrete terms, Ang was saying what all the great religious cornermen were telling us. Have compassion. Taking care of others won’t detract from your life—just the opposite. Angelo Dundee walked his talk.

Kierkegaard understood that life is a battle with time and forgetfulness. The Danish poet and philosopher taught that we should never say we are always going to remember someone; just stick with trying to remember them for an hour! This is one hour when I find it very easy to remember Angelo Dundee, with much love and gratitude.

A professor of philosophy at St. Olaf College, Gordon Marino writes on boxing for the Wall Street Journal. He is on the board and works with boxers at the Circle of Discipline in Minneapolis, as well as at the Basement Gym in Northfield, MN. His The Quotable Kierkegaard was recently published by Princeton University Press. You can follow him on Twitter at @GordonMarino.

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  1. gordon marino 05:59pm, 09/05/2015

    Love that one Mike “of course I know you” and he did because I can recall him mentioning your name.  Thanks for the kind words Bob! Ang was such a blast—and so funny—- one time I was at a funeral with him——ah I won’t go there (-: 

  2. Mike Silver 10:09pm, 09/01/2015

    So very accurate and recognizable to anyone who ever had the good fortune to meet Angelo. Years ago I once called him for a quote and figured he had never heard of me, but as soon as he got on the phone he said “of course I know who you are”.  To this day I’m not sure he did, but I still remember how he made me feel. A perfect tribute to one of boxing’s redeeming personalities.

  3. Bob 07:11pm, 08/31/2015

    Beautiful tribute to a wonderful man. I met him on many occasions, and I’m sure he never remembered me specifically , but always acted like he did. You never felt worse after spending a few moments in his company. He was a true ambassador to the world, a genuine, warm, loving and giving human being.

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