This past week marked the passing of a man many may remember, and many others may have never heard of. I’m referring to an old boxing trainer, and legendary corner man, Angelo Dundee. He trained many famous fighters, including Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, and Sugar Ray Leonard, and even played Russell Crowe’s boxing trainer in the movie, “Cinderella Man.” My hope is that he will not only be remembered by the boxers he trained, but also by the words he used to train them with.
Bert Sugar, a long time boxing writer and sports historian, penned Dundee’s memoirs in his book, “My View From the Corner.” When Mr. Dundee was asked about how he got his boxers to do what he asked, he said; “Every now and then I’d subtly suggest some move or other to a boxer, couching it as if it were something he was already doing. I’d say something like, ‘You’re getting that jab down real good. You’re bending your knees now and you’re putting a lot of snap into it.’ Now, he had never thrown a jab, but it was a way of letting him think it was his idea, his innovation.”
There are two powerful lessons in that passage, and each let you know Angelo Dundee was a man to be admired. The first lesson is found in Dundee’s desire to let his boxer think that the changes he was suggesting were, “his idea, his innovation.” Sound familiar? At the heart of any persuasive process lies the basic principal that any change in behavior must come from the individual, and not be dictated solely by the person who is in the position to persuade. This teaches us that Angelo could sell.
The second lesson can be found in Angelo’s desire to use praise rather than ridicule to motivate his boxer. If you look carefully, he was praising a fighter for a snap in a jab he hadn’t thrown yet. This may sound like a risky move to some, but it’s a tactic I greatly admire. When was the last time someone praised you for something you did, and you were so happy to receive this praise, you decided to never repeat the action you were being praised for? This teaches us that Angelo could motivate.
It’s been said; “Good-byes make you think.” Well, good-bye Angelo Dundee; I’ve always been a fan. We’re going to miss you, and we are thankful for the many lessons you left behind.