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Checking In With TSS Friend Angelo Dundee…FOLSTAD

Rick Folstad

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rr2_ali_angelo_punchHe’s 89 and still passing out good times and good advice, a great ambassador to a violent sport, but a guy you’d buy a used car from without looking under the hood.

You trust him because he lives by the motto, “it don’t cost nothing to be nice,“ and he practices what he preaches.

These last few months haven’t been kind to Angelo Dundee. Helen, his wife of 58 years, passed away this past December at the age of 85. Not long before that, Dundee was slowed down by a broken hip.

But he’s opened a new bar in Clearwater, FL, watched the second coming of the old Fifth Street Gym in Miami Beach, and he can still tell you the best way to slip a right-hand lead and smother a hook. And he has more than a few good stories to tell.

Just as sharp and maybe a little wiser than he was 40 years ago, Dundee still works with fighters who are looking for help and are willing to listen. Bring him a raw, 6-foot-4 heavyweight with Ali’s speed and heart and Tyson’s power and sure, he’ll work with him. He’d be glad to.

Along with Muhammad Ali, he’s worked with 16 world champions in his career, including Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman and Willie Pastrano.

Earlier this month, Dundee was the guest on a chat line celebrating the 40-year anniversary of the first Ali – Frazier fight held on March 8, 1971 in Madison Square Garden. It was called the “Fight of the Century,” and some of us think it was.

He was asked a lot of good questions by people who obviously knew the fight game. And who knew all about Dundee.

One of the first questions someone asked was, if they were both in their prime, who would win in a fight between Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali, who Dundee trained for 21 years.

“I’m an expert but I’m a bad picker,“ said Dundee, who was Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992. “And I’m a prejudiced bum when it comes to my fighters. I can’t help it. But Tyson wouldn’t have a prayer. Muhammad Ali would beat Tyson with no problem.

“Muhammad wouldn‘t even get hit by Tyson. Muhammad would keep the left jab going and keep him off balance.  It‘s a hard left jab. It was able to keep Liston off balance. Muhammad would give him side to side motion. Muhammad would surround him.“

Asked if he had a favorite Ali fight, Dundee said it was hard to pick because he had so many great fights.

But then he settled on the first Sonny Liston fight, saying it was one of his favorites because no one gave Ali a chance at winning the fight. And at the time, Liston was considered “the baddest guy on the planet.”

But Dundee said he never doubted that Ali could win.

“I think Liston lost because tough guys are concerned when they can’t figure a fighter out. I think Liston couldn’t figure (Ali) out. He thought Muhammad was insane. Ali badgered him all the time, telling Liston he was too ugly to be the champ. He followed Liston around, harassing him and getting into his head.“

Dundee also talked about how he took Ali into the press room in Chicago In September 1962 where Liston was getting ready to fight Floyd Patterson in Comisky Park.

“Ali goes in and takes over the press conference and he wasn’t even in the fight,“ Dundee remembers. “Ali was the first superstar to talk. The talk was a gimmick. Ali was an introvert. I pressed Ali to talk.“

He taught him well.

“Ali was a trip from Day One,” Dundee said. “We had fun all the time. That’s the key. You got a guy in the toughest profession there is. But we had fun.“

Dundee told how he was staying with Ali in the Alexandria Hotel in downtown Los Angeles when Dundee, who was sleeping, woke up to the smell of smoke. So he called down to the front desk and they came up and checked his room out and found nothing. So Dundee went back to sleep. And he woke up smelling smoke again.

“It’s a hotel, you don’t want to fool around,“ Dundee said. “Those old hotels go up like a cinder.”

So he called downstairs again and they came up again and still found nothing.

“See, the thing was, Muhammad had gotten a towel and burned it and was waving it under the door in the middle of the night,” Dundee said. “Stayed up just to goof on me. He kept everything as loose as a goose.“

Learning the importance of winning the crowd came to Ali after he spent a little time with pro wrestler Gorgeous George. On TV to promote their fights in Las Vegas, Ali couldn’t get a word in with Gorgeous George working the crowd.

When Ali went to George’s wrestling match the night before Ali was supposed to fight, he found a packed house. And he discovered how important it was to promote yourself. And the best way to do that was to talk up a storm.

“I pressed him to do the thing with (Howard) Cosell,” Dundee said. “I had worked with Cosell earlier with another fighter and I saw what a genius he was. And I knew he and Ali would be a perfect match.“

Asked in what fight Ali was at his very best, and whether there was doubt in his training camp before he fought George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle in Zaire, Dundee said his fight with Cleveland Williams in Houston was the best he ever looked.

“He looked tremendous in Houston,” Dundee said. “He hit him with seven punches in mid-air.”

In Zaire, Dundee said “I felt Ali could beat Foreman. Guys that stand tall and have movement, like Muhammad, they bothered George.”

One of the questions was about the Thrilla in Manila and just how close Ali was to not answering the bell for the start of the 15th round against Joe Frazier.

Dundee didn’t hesitate.

“That’s a fallacy,“ he said. “When Joe (Frazier) walked back to his corner after that 14th round, he was wobbly. I told Ali to go get him.”

It was the Henry Cooper fight where Dundee did some of his finest corner work. In that fight, Cooper caught Ali with a hard left hook and put him down.

“My guy got dropped for only the second time,“ Dundee said. “That’s where the cut glove incident came in. I never cut the gloves. They were a little tight and Muhammad complained, but I didn’t do anything because he seemed to be fighting well. But then when Muhammad was having a little trouble, I called the ref over and told him the gloves were tight. So they went to the dressing room to look for some other gloves, and that gave us a little recovery time.

“Now they have a rule that they keep an extra set of gloves under the ring in case something happens with the gloves. I call it the ‘“Dundee Rule.” ’

Can’t think of a better name.

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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