Ali's Trainer Told FBI Of Boxer's Islam Ties

Angelo Dundee met with agents before 1964 title bout

Muhammad Ali

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Angelo Dundee FBI File

FEBRUARY 1--Two weeks before Muhammad Ali beat Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship, the boxer’s trainer met secretly with FBI agents and identified members of the Nation of Islam who were associates of Ali, according to bureau records.

In a "confidential" February 1964 memo to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, a supervisor in the bureau’s Miami office reported on a meeting with “trainer-manager” Angelo Dundee and Dundee’s brother Chris, who was promoting the fight between Liston and Ali (who was then still known as Cassius Clay).

The interview of the Dundees was done in connection with the FBI’s ongoing examination of the Nation of Islam, a probe investigators categorized as a “security matter.”

Ali’s connection to the Nation of Islam was of great interest to Hoover & Co. since the athlete was the most high-profile public figure to be aligned with the group, which is described in one FBI memo as a “semireligious Negro organization which preaches extreme hatred of the white man.”

Along with identifying suspected “members of the NOI,” the Dundee brothers provided agents with the names of “Clay’s associates,” according to the February 13 memo to Hoover. The names of individuals fingered by the Dundees were redacted from the document, which was released in response to a TSG Freedom of Information Act request.

Angelo Dundee is pictured with Clay, then 20, in the above February 1962 photo.

The FBI’s meeting with the Dundees came about three weeks before it was revealed that Clay had joined the Nation of Islam and would henceforth be known as Muhammad Ali.

The Dundees also spoke to federal agents about an individual who had just checked into a Miami Beach hotel (and whose tab was being charged to Cassius Clay Enterprises). The brothers were apparently upset about this development and told FBI agents that if they “received any further information” they would “bring it to the attention of the Miami office.”

A second FBI memo reported that the Dundees “added that they do not know if Cassius Clay is a member of the Nation of Islam and know nothing of any financial contributions he may have made to that organization.”

On February 25, 1964 Clay defeated Liston at Convention Hall in Miami Beach, capturing the heavyweight crown. On March 6, Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad announced Clay had been renamed Muhammad Ali.

Angelo Dundee, who died last year at age 90, trained Ali for almost his entire 20-year professional career. He also trained Sugar Ray Leonard, who won world championships in multiple weight classes. In 1994, the Dundee brothers were both inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. (5 pages)