CLEARWATER, Fla. - Hall of Fame boxing trainer Angelo Dundee was remembered Friday as a master motivator and someone who left a legacy of kindness during a funeral service attended by Muhammad Ali.
Dundee helped mould Ali into a world champion, and Ali was among several hundred people at the 80-minute service. Dundee died last week at age 90.
The former heavyweight champion entered the Countryside Christian Center through an entrance not visible to the public. He was seated in the front row in front of the casket and a stage lined with flowers, pictures, a painting, and a pair of red boxing gloves sitting on a stool.
Ali's wife, Lonnie, spoke on behalf of her husband, who has Parkinson's disease.
"He used to call us all the time and say it doesn't cost nothing to be nice. ... It was like his mantra," she said. "Whenever we saw Angelo there was a smile of his face. He was always a happy guy."
Promoter Bob Arum was among the speakers, calling Dundee "one of the nicest people I ever met."
Dundee died Feb. 1 at his Tampa Bay area apartment. A family member said he recently had been in hospital for a blood clot and briefly spent time in a rehabilitation centre before returning home, where he was surrounded by family members when he died.
Best known for being Ali's corner man for most of the former heavyweight champion's career, Dundee was a brilliant motivator who trained 14 other world champions, including Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman, Carmen Basilio and Jose Napoles.
"When you think about the beauty of Angelo, when you think about the personalities that he had to coach and train, I actually have to start with Muhammad," Lonnie Ali said.
"Muhammad's not an easy person when it comes to boxing because Muhammad thought he knew how to train himself. He had that ego. But Angelo somehow realized that the best way to make Muhammad great was to get out of his way, to let him do his thing. He really didn't have to coach him. He just had to come in and do the little things. ... Angelo was able to do that with each and every one of his fighters."
Dundee's career, which led to his induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992, spanned six decades. He last got together with Ali for The Greatest's 70th birthday party last month in Louisville, Ky. — a visit Dundee's son said meant a lot to his father.
With the native of south Philadelphia in his corner, Ali became the first to win the heavyweight title three times. Dundee began working with Leonard late in Ali's career and trained him for many of the former welterweight champion's biggest fights, too.
Dundee joined Foreman in 1994 to help him become the oldest heavyweight champion at age 45.
"He made all of our lives better," said Arum, who promoted some of Ali's biggest bouts.
"Dad was a simple guy. He never thought he was anything special," Jimmy Dundee said, adding his father treated everyone he met — from wide-eyed little kids on the street to the fighters he helped win championships — the same.
"Dad loved everyone. No one wasn't his friend. We've got people here from the rehab centre where he stayed six days. ... All the fighters in dad's past life loved him because they weren't fighters, they were family."