Born in Philadelphia in the early 1920s, Dundee picked up his boxing education in the then ‘Mecca’ of boxing, New York City, before starting his legendary career with a string of famous fighters including Sugar Ray Leonard, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. He learned his trade ringside and soaked up as much information as he could. “School for me was watching the other great trainers,” he said. “I would assist them in the corner as a bucket boy, and I observed these guys talking to fighters, taking care of their cut, getting them prepared for the fight and I picked up an education.”
“The thing about boxing is you never meet the same type of fighter; they’re all different style-wise, conditioning-wise, preparation-wise. When I go into a gym and see a trainer train a fighter, I advise the trainer what’s necessary to make this guy a better fighter. And that is to always add to a fighter; never take away from them. Something you never do is change a fighter. You get what he has and you embellish it.”
Another important lesson he learned is to make the training exciting, “Muhammad Ali loved to go to the gym, it was his theatre, it was his place; he enjoyed it. See if you can avoid the boredom of training and make it fun, then you’ve got the whole thing licked.”
This excitement that surrounds boxing means it is perfect fodder for Hollywood. It’s Dundee who has ensured that the biggest names in film look the part. So how did he get someone like Will Smith, who he trained for the movie Ali, in shape? “Until I worked on Ali I thought boxers were the hardest workers I’d seen. But I soon found out that actors work as hard, if not harder,” he said. They’re dedicated and disciplined as fighters, working from early in the morning till late at night. I also trained Russell Crowe for Cinderella Man and he could have been a professional fighter. Will Smith could have been a professional fighter too, but I would have ruined their acting careers if I’d have taken them down that route!”
Dundee thinks of the trend of boxing in fitness is also a good thing. “Any innovation that is gonna get people in better condition when it’s fun, where it’s not a grind and it’s not something they don’t look forward to doing is a good innovation.”
“In my opinion, fighters in the ring and the condition they get into is second to none, so now the fans can capture it. All sports advance so there’s no reason why boxing can’t advance. The techniques are getting you conditioned by utilising your own body. Fighters use callisthenics; it’s not just sparring in the ring. It’s the conditioning of your body to be able to spar in the ring.”
What about the future of what he calls, “the toughest profession”? As a last word of advice he adds, “boxing changes, it gets more advanced, it gets easier, and you learn from the guys from the past and utilise their talents, and apply it to yourself.”
This feature was first printed in the October/November 2009 issue of Fitpro Network magazine.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Fitness Professionals Ltd or Virtual Magazine. Consult a qualified health or fitness professional before making changes to your diet or exercise.