Dundee: Legends come just once in a lifetime
By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Boxing Contributing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network)
Here's a little advice from Angelo Dundee.
Don't spend any time pining away for the next Muhammad Ali, Ray Leonard or Joe Louis to save the sport from its perceived (by some) doldrums, because it's not going to happen.
"That's the mistake people make," the legendary trainer said, in a Tuesday evening phone interview. "They keep waiting for a guy to come along who acts like and sounds like and fights like those guys, but they don't realize that every fighter and every individual is different. They all have different outlooks and they all do things in different ways.
"Once they come along, the cast is broken and you'll never see it again."
Dundee, now 86, is once again making the rounds with the release of his latest book - "My View from the Corner: A Life in Boxing" - written with fellow Hall of Fame member Bert Sugar and featuring a foreword by his most famous in-ring charge, Ali, with whom he worked big fights from the 1960s through the 1980s.
"I pay attention to everything. I watch all the fights I can and I go to the cards here in Tampa, where they put on about one a month," he said. "I feel obligated to watch every fight because someone might ask me a question about something, and I want to be able to give them an honest answer if they do."
Angelo Dundee is once again making the rounds with the release of his latest book - "My View from the Corner: A Life in Boxing."
The 336-page collection touches on Dundee's relationships with his 15 world champions, including Ali, Leonard, Carmen Basilio and Willie Pastrano, and tells behind-the-scenes tales of some of the most famous events in the sport's history - including Ali and George Foreman's "Rumble in the Jungle" and the still-controversial Leonard-Hagler decision in Las Vegas.
Still, in spite of the classic and sometimes bitter rivalries his fighters had with noteworthy adversaries like Joe Frazier and Thomas Hearns, Dundee said Tuesday that a more collegial relationship existed between him and the trainers of those foes, even alongside the intense competition.
"Sure, you'd try to lick each other when you had guys against them in the ring, but we'd spend far more time helping each other," he said, relating a little-known story involving Emanuel Steward and Hearns, who fought on the undercard of Ali's forgettable December 1981 swan song at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre in Nassau, Bahamas.
"Emanuel's kid had fought a guy from Philadelphia (veteran middleweight Ernie Singletary) that night and got cut, and he came to me at the hotel, where I was talking with a friend of mine who was a plastic surgeon. He asked him to take a look at the cut, and the guy wound up working on him all night right there in the hotel room while we ordered sandwiches.
"He got 106 stitches and it saved the kid's career."
Fittingly, Dundee will be on the scene for a book-signing prior to this generation's epic welterweight showdown in Vegas, where unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. will face unbeaten Ricky Hatton on Dec. 8 at the MGM Grand - some 26 years after Leonard and Hearns met for the first time as unbeatens at Caesars Palace.
And not surprisingly, he's got an opinion.
"I think Ricky Hatton's the best 140-pounder in the world and a great fighter, no question," he said. "But he's fighting not only the best welterweight out there, but the best fighter in the world today in Floyd Mayweather. I think Mayweather wins it, going away."
Don't let the scorecards fool you.
Regardless of the totals that judges Chuck Giampa, Ruben Garcia and Tom Miller arrived at from their vantage points in Moscow last Saturday afternoon, Sultan Ibragimov was clearly not the real winner.
Rather, the fighter who came out of the bout with the most legitimate claim on superiority in the heavyweight division was quite likely no closer than 470 miles to the tedious goings-on at the Khodynka Ice Palace.
His name? Wladimir Klitschko.
In fact, all the Ph.D.-toting 31-year-old resident of Kiev - already a two- time title claimant in his career and currently a three-defense holder of the IBF's belt - needed to cement the newly elevated status was a comfy couch and a willing remote control.
Even in his absence, each successive round of Ibragimov's tactically monotonous snoozer against Evander Holyfield precipitously widened the already gaping chasm between Klitschko and the rest of the heavyweight gaggle.
And truth told, it was the only drama the whole event actually provided.
Nowhere during his vanquishing of the reticent 44-year-old - which I also scored 117-111, in bleary-eyed lockstep with Giampa and Miller - did Ibragimov show any signs of being more than the quick-handed, puff-bodied space-filler he resembled upon arrival.
And as for anyone assuming that a similar jab-bob-shuffle-clinch scheme would topple even a subpar version of the Klitschko who's unbeaten in three-plus years against a higher grade of opposition? Well, to paraphrase John Lennon, I'd love to see the plan.
At a rock-hard 6-foot-6 and seemingly past the mysterious confidence and conditioning issues that were his downfall against Ross Puritty, Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster, Klitschko looks poised to dominate the division for pretty much as long as he wants.
A three-knockdown escape from Samuel Peter has been his only real challenge since the now-avenged Brewster loss, and given the Nigerian's recent wobbly- legged struggles against Jameel McCline, a rematch of their 2005 get-together would presumably yield fewer tense moments.
And beyond the powerful but limited Peter, who's now in possession of the WBC's "interim" belt until Oleg Maskaev returns, there's little else from which to choose while seeking legitimate co-champions or other impending threats to Klitschko's reign.
WBA belt-holder Ruslan Chagaev is an unknown quantity whose biggest win was a downing of skyscraper Nikolay Valuev, headlining what's left of a consensus top 20 pock-marked by clinging former stars and untested novices with little name recognition.
Given the dreary state of affairs, it's not hard to see why promoters are willing to give yet another shot to compelling guys like Holyfield, who's still able to command $35 per customer on pay-per-view even 10 years after his most signature victories.
And it surely boosts the event-chasing prospects of fringe-ish novelties like Joe Mesi, who falls admittedly short in terms of quality of recent opposition, but more than makes up the deficit with a riveting back story and an always advantageous set of demographics.
If given that choice between sideshow and dull show, I'll take the freaks every time.
It's been a while since their beloved Stanley Cup came to town, but residents of Montreal might nonetheless get a chance to celebrate a championship this weekend.
Rangy southpaw Lucian Bute, a 27-year-old Romanian now living in 'la belle province,' gets his first career title shot Friday night when he faces Colombian veteran Alejandro Berrio for the IBF super middleweight title at the Bell Centre.
Bute won 15 straight bouts by stoppage after turning pro in 2003, but has gone the distance four times in his last five outings, including a unanimous 12- round decision over Sakio Bika in a title eliminator on June 15.
He's fought 14 of his 20 bouts in his adopted hometown - 11 at the Bell Centre.
Berrio, a 31-year-old with four KO losses on his record, surprised unbeaten Yusef Mack by sixth-round stoppage in a May 2006 eliminator, then claimed the vacant crown with a third-round blowout of former conqueror Robert Stieglitz on March 3 in Germany.
Stieglitz had won their initial meeting with an 11th-round stoppage in 2005.
The IBF belt was held as recently as last year by consensus 168-pound kingpin Joe Calzaghe, but was declared vacant after his successful defense against Bika last October in Manchester, England.
Other former claimants include Murray Sutherland, James Toney, Roy Jones Jr. and Sven Ottke, who defended it a record 21 times between 1999 and 2004.
Elsewhere, Armenian-turned-Australian Vic Darchinyan climbs three pounds in hopes for title-fight redemption when he meets Filipino journeyman Federico Catubay for the vacant IBO super flyweight crown on Saturday in Sydney.
The 31-year-old Darchinyan had been successfully scaling the mountain of lower-weight recognition until July, racking up six defenses of his myriad 112-pound belts before he was shocked via fifth-round TKO by Nonito Donaire.
Saturday's bout will be his first above the flyweight limit since he weighed 116? pounds while stopping Falazona Fidal in April 2004.
Catubay has won just 20 of 36 career bouts, including a unanimous 10-round loss to Eric Barcelona for the Filipino super flyweight title in February. He won his most recent outing, scoring an eight-round decision over Roy Doliguez on July 10.
In Halle, Germany, middleweight Felix Sturm defends his WBA title for the second time when he faces unheralded American Randy Griffin at Gerry Weber Stadium.
Sturm, perhaps best known for a controversial loss to Oscar De La Hoya one fight before the "Golden Boy's" unsuccessful challenge of Bernard Hopkins, began his second reign as WBA champion with a unanimous decision over Javier Castillejo in April.
He's since made one successful defense, defeating unbeaten Noe Tulio Gonzalez Alcoba by 12-round decision on June 30.
Sturm's first reign began when he defeated Maselino Masoe by decision in March 2006, but ended in defense No. 1 when he was stopped in 10 rounds by Castillejo four months later.
Griffin, meanwhile, is 13-0-2 since his lone career loss, a six-round decision to James Lubwama in May 2002. He earned the shot at Sturm after defeating Masoe by unanimous verdict in a title eliminator on July 8 in St. Louis.
Lastly, streaking Mexican super flyweight Cristian Mijares risks his WBC share of the 115-pound title for the fifth time against Frenchman Franck Gorjux at the ever-popular Autodromo de Go Karts in Cancun.
Mijares, unbeaten in 22 fights over the last five years, has fought and won three times already in 2007 - beating Katsushige Kawashima (TKO 10), Jorge Arce (UD 12) and Teppei Kikui (TKO 10) to defend the belt he won from Kawashima by 12-round split decision in September 2006.
Gorjux, now 31, has won six straight fights since 2004 after running up an inglorious 10-7 record in his first three years as a pro. This is his first world title bout.
Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at email@example.com. He is a periodic contributor to the Dave Smith Show, broadcast weekdays from 6 to 9 a.m. on Sporting News Radio (radio.sportingnews.com).