DUNDEE, The Socrates Of Boxing

BY Raymond Markarian ON October 22, 2008
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The best part about the sport of boxing is the unpredictability. Usually, even the most outmatched opponent has a puncher’s chance to win. And when the boxing world tunrs on its head like it did last Saturday night, it is always good to return to the lessons of the Socrates of boxing, Angelo Dundee, to make us all feel normal again.

Not to say that some people did not think Hopkins could win. Angelo sure did. (By the way, I am still gloating about the bold prediction I put on B-Hop.) But it was the severity of the schooling that Pavlik received from the hands of the Executioner that shocked most of us.

Read on as the wise one reflects about the past, present, and future. Every time Angelo Dundee speaks, I picture him walking through a grassy field wearing a dashiki, spitting out knowledge that just comes out of his brain with a calming assurance that things will be ok. The translations of Dundee’s points are, “Do not worry my son.” Yes, master, I say. Yes, master.

This time around Dundee chats up a Pavlik comeback, his insight on an unknown De la Hoya advantage, and the essence of a boxing wrapper.

RM: What did you think of that Hopkins fight on Saturday?

AD: Oh, I loved it. It was a great fight. But look, this kid Pavlik is still the best middleweight in the world. Hopkins had the style to beat this kid. Style wise, talent wise, everything. Now I am looking back and thinking I had a kid named Willie Pastrano that went through same thing. He fought a great boxer named Bobby Dykes. Willie’s regular style would not have beat Bobby. So I had to turn him into a club fighter during that particular fight. See you have to fight certain fights to beat certain people.

RM: I see. I heard you chose Hopkins to win before the fight.

AD: Yes, well before the fight I said in order for Pavlik to beat Hopkins, he had to be a great fighter. Well, he wasn’t a great fighter on that night; he got beat by a superior fighter. But there are no worries because Pavlik will be back, he is young enough.

RM
: So as a trainer, how do you help a fighter deal with a devastating loss? I am asking you this question because Pavlik was considered a heavy favorite going into the fight.

AD: He’ll deal with it himself. Pavlik is a tough enough kid. He has an attitude that is great. I like the way he conducts himself.  Pavlik is a talent. He can learn from it. Good fighters learn from situations like that. You know, I have had kids who had losses and I say, “Look, if you learn something from it then you are ahead of the game.” It is no big loss really. He got beat, that’s all.

RM: You have a point. There are positive things to be taken away from a loss. In boxing when a great fighter gets beat, everyone is quick to doubt him. Why is that? I mean Miguel Cotto was in the same boat a few months ago that Kelly Pavlik is in right now. But now there are question marks for both of them.

AD
: Yeah, you move on. You get better. Maybe Pavlik will learn a few tricks from the old guy. You can’t copy another guy, don’t get me wrong. But the good fighters adjust, and add a few new wrinkles into every fight. Pavlik will be back, just like Cotto will be back. Pavlik is a class act. You can just tell he will be back because of the way he conducts himself.

RM: There are a couple of big fights coming up at the end of the year. Who do you like in the De la Hoya vs. Pacquiao fight?

AD: I like De la Hoya against the smaller guy. It is not going to be an easy fight but I think De la Hoya is going to beat the Pac Man. Do you know why Ray? All De la Hoya fought when he was a kid was little guys. So he knows how to handle the little guy. The Pac Man is a great fighter. But the problem is that he is so much smaller.

RM: Right. What are your thoughts on Roy Jones vs. Joe Calzaghe?

AD: I love Roy Jones. I really do. I don’t know how Calzaghe will attack him. Roy Jones seems like he has that confident attitude back. He is going for the win. I saw him at the Hopkins fight. He looks tremendous. I did not recognize him because he had a big beard on him. But he is loose. He looked like he is ready to fight.  I like Jones in the fight.

RM: How do you go about predicting a winner in a fight?

AD: You know there is a guy named Jay Larkin who used to be with Showtime. He used to always say that I was the worst at picking fights. He said, “You know Angelo, I am not listening to you about boxing anymore.” (Angelo laughs) But I think I have gotten better. When I pick a fight, there are a lot of circumstances. And I think Calzaghe is an excellent fighter. But he has not been in there with a guy that has quicker hands. Roy Jones has talent, you know. If he lets it all hang out I think he beats Calzaghe.

RM: Do you see it being a knockout?

AD
: Well, it is tough to call a knockout because you never know. But these are two very talented guys so I see it being a distance fight. Jones should win the decision. I do not see Calzaghe winning. You have to be rough to beat Jones. You have to a wrapper.

RM
: A wrapper? What is a wrapper?

AD: A wrapper, you have to be a good wrapper…. You know, oh, I am just talking fight language. (Dundee laughs)

RM: (Markarian laughs) A wrapper, huh?

AD: A wrapper. Yeah. Like, a banger.

RM
: Ok, I have never heard that one, but I like it.

AD: I am talking fight language. That is how we talk where we talk.

RM: Ok, keep it going. I am learning.

AD: Well, great, thank you. You have to remember that when you and I have these conversions, I like to speak freely. This is just me. None of this is planned.

RM:
Good. That is even better.

AD: Let me tell you this, you are talking to a guy that has been around a long time. And I still enjoy going to fights.

RM
: As a spectator, what is the best part about going to a live event?

AD
: Well, just seeing the momentum changes. I think that is interesting. And I like to see what is going on in the corners.

RM: I heard that you are going to be participating in a boxing appreciation event at Hofstra University. What is going on over there?

AD: They are doing a thing about Ali’s fight in Zaire. And I have a lot of input about that (Dundee laughs.)  But there is going to be a lot of nice people out there so it should be fun. Bert Sugar is going to be there and some more of my old friends. So I am going to have a great time just hanging out with my old buddies from the past. It is going to be a great time, really.

RM: It sounds like a good time.

AD: Well, the sport as a whole is getting a lot better. Let me just say this, I am proud of the promoters in boxing lately. There have been some very good fights. You see the sport needed that. And now, fans are slowly coming back to the sport. The promoters need to continue working together and make those blockbuster fights and I am looking forward to it.

RM: Sounds good Angelo. Thank you for your time.

AD: Anytime my friend. 

Millennium High School Boxing Club Update

The most important element of teaching is time management. You have to be able to adjust your lessons on the fly. Because some things do not always turn out the way you want them to be. In the boxing club, I made an adjustment that has turned out well.

After writing the piece about the club in September (http://www.thesweetscience.com/boxing-article/6191/boxing-dying-not-millenium-high-school/), I showed the Prince vs. Kevin Kelly. The students were both entertained and confused by Hamed’s lengthy ring entrance. After watching the high action scrap, the kids liked Hamed’s interview during the post fight. So I went on YouTube and searched for Prince Naseem Hamed’s funniest interviews just to satisfy the crowd. The Prince was a unique character, more than an excellent boxer. And I tried to show the students why his presence was important for boxing.

The following week, I focused on two great middleweight bouts. The first one I showed was Tommy Hearns vs. Marvin Hagler, from 1985. I explained to the students that their fight was in the making for a few years and turned out to be one of the greatest scraps of all time.

I also told the students about how Hearns famously had his legs massaged in the dressing room before the fight and came out pressing, creating a classic encounter as a result.

The second middleweight championship fight I showed that week was Pavlik/Taylor I. The students liked that one as well.

The following week was Mike Tyson time. I gathered together a few clips of the best highlight reels I could find on Kid Dynamite. I also showed some of his old fights that I have on VHS, such as the first fight against Bruno and the one against Michael Spinks. There was an eight minute montage that I found about Tyson on YouTube that showed some of his funny interviews and knockout punches which was enjoyable as well.

The students laughed hysterically during the famous, “I broke my back” statement given by Tyson after the Clifford Etienne fight. But I did not feel like I did the students justice. The Mike Tyson story is cannot be told in a matter of 45 minutes. It is nearly impossible to chronicle all of the ups and downs in Tyson’s career without spending at least a few hours on it.

I still plan on showing Tyson/Ruddock 2, both Tyson/Holyfield fights, and the Tyson/Buster Douglas fight, in due time, of course.

The past few weeks have been focused on De la Hoya/Mayweather 24/7. As we all know, the buildup was great but the fight, not so good. To my surprise, the students loved the fight. Each student was scoring a fight for the first time in their lives and all of them had De la Hoya winning by a landslide. And I am talking 118-112 for De la Hoya type of scorecards here.

I could not believe my eyes when I saw those scorecards but I guess everyone has an opinion. Or, maybe I am not doing my job correctly. At least they are showing up, right?

Things are getting better in the club. There is a core group of about ten to twelve students that show up each week asking questions and itching to see what I will show next. The HBO countdown shows are helpful because they give great insight and most of the kids do not know much about the fighters outside of what I tell them.

Next week, we are going to show the countdown to Margarito/Cotto, then the fight on the following week. After that I am going to pop in Hopkins/Pavlik. I am looking forward to showing the kids some good Mayweather fights, like the one against Gatti, and Hatton.  And I have not even touched on Roy Jones yet, so that is definitely going to be exciting.

With the boxing club everything is a process. We’re taking it one step at a time just like a boxer coming up the ranks.

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