History usually never announces itself; it just happens. Steve Jobs or Bill Gates likely had no idea their passions would change the world. Michael Jordan just wanted to make his junior varsity team at one point. And Angelo Dundee merely had to get Muhammad Ali through his first professional fight. The above photo depicts the two – Ali still known as Cassius Clay at the time – in 1963 before Ali’s inaugural bout against Charlie Powell.
So much history, achieved potential and controversy lie in this simple picture. As overly-confident as he was in his own skills, Ali probably never understood the power his words and right hooks would mean to not only boxing, but the world. And to be quite honest, Dundee deserves a portion of that credit as well. He may have been the reason Joe Frazier lost the “Thrilla In Manila.” The world remembers the two titans trading blows in what appeared more like Hercules and Zeus battling atop Mount Olympus. Yet, on several instances throughout the fight, Ali found himself questioning his own will to move forward.
Here was the world’s most popular and controversial athlete who made a career of walking like he talked and hitting even harder unsure of his own talent during arguably the most important sporting event of the 20th century. Dundee’s encouragement convinced Muhammad to muster every ounce of energy left in his body to eventually secure the victory in the third and final match between he and Frazier. And then there’s the urban myth of Angelo loosening the ropes prior to the “Rumble In The Jungle” to ensure Ali’s “rope-a-dope” would be useful.
Some of the biggest moments in boxing history – better yet, sports – showcase the two gentlemen seen here (later Sugar Ray Leonard). It all started in an empty locker room when all they had were one another. Ali always said he was the greatest before he knew he was. And there’s a good chance Dundee helped him believe such. Wise words from a decent man.