Local Obituaries

Angelo Dundee’s office manager Betty Mitchell dies at 91

Betty Mitchell was the office manager for 44 years for Angelo Dundee, who trained heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali at 5th Street Gym in Miami Beach. Mitchell and Ali, “The Greatest,” take a breather in 1977.
Betty Mitchell was the office manager for 44 years for Angelo Dundee, who trained heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali at 5th Street Gym in Miami Beach. Mitchell and Ali, “The Greatest,” take a breather in 1977. Mitchell family

Angelo Dundee was often called the greatest boxing trainer of all time and, with 15 world champions in his stable of greats, including Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman, Willie Pastrano, Pinklon Thomas and Luis Rodriguez, who would argue?

But what’s that they say, ‘Behind every great man is a great woman…’

One woman, for 44 years, was right at his side, making sure Dundee’s life ran as smoothly as it needed for him to develop his athletes at the famed 5th Street Gym in Miami Beach and, later, the Angelo Dundee Training Center in Dania.

Betty Mitchell.

Mitchell, who began her career as a freelance accountant, saw her duties expand when she met Dundee and his brother Chris in 1964. Angelo Dundee trained the fighters. She managed the business. The pair were together until 2008, about four years before Dundee died at 90.

Mitchell, who died on March 15 at 91 in Pembroke Pines, juggled the needs of the various prizefighters like Ali, the sports media like Howard Cosell, the Hollywood celebrities who swarmed around the gyms such as Ernest Borgnine, Jamie Foxx, Robert DeNiro and Will Smith, who played Ali in the same-named 2001 film.

And both Mitchell and Dundee, into their late 70s, dreamed of adding just one more boxing great to his unprecedented list of 15. So close, they’d echo one another.

“World champion number 16,” Dundee said while showing a Broward/Palm Beach New Times reporter around his Broward gym in 1999. “Number 16,” Mitchell repeated, “eager to take one more ride to the big time with him,” the article continued.

“In boxing, a lot of the people are rude, crude and socially unacceptable, from the promoters to the trainers and matchmakers, straight on down to the boxers. She was a little Jewish lady, couldn’t have been more than 5-feet [tall]. Always had a big smile to anyone who walked into the office, no matter how mad they were at Chris [Dundee] or Angelo,” said Dwaine Simpson, a former pro boxer who served as a supervisor with the Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation Department for 42 years.

Born Dec. 4, 1924, in Wichita, Kansas, Mitchell met her husband Paul in high school, later marrying him and, with their two children, David and Cindy, moved to South Florida in 1956.

The fight game was not where one would expect to have found Mitchell. The soundtrack of a gym is marked by the sounds of grunts, fists against face, the rapid staccato of a punching bag in motion, the cursing and the groaning. Mitchell, who learned piano as a child, was drawn to musical theater.

For all the time she devoted to boxing and the Dundees, Mitchell could also be found on stage with an amateur theater group performing in musicals like Oklahoma!, Annie Get Your Gun and Damn Yankees.

Said Simpson: “She was a jewel; she held it all together. Not only in boxing, but just as a person.”

In addition to her son and daughter, Mitchell is survived by her grandson Scott Brandon. Services were held. Donations can be made in her name to Hillel International.

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen

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