cover image Bundini: Don’t Believe the Hype

Bundini: Don’t Believe the Hype

Todd D. Snyder. Hamilcar, $29.97 (344p) ISBN 978-1-949590-20-3

Snyder (12 Rounds in Lo’s Gym) delivers an excellent account of the life of Drew “Bundini” Brown (1928–1987), who, within the fabled Muhammad Ali entourage, was the champ’s master motivator and cornerman, known for his saying, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” Born in impoverished Jim Crow Florida, Bundini enlisted in the U.S. Navy underage in 1942 and later served 12 years with the Merchant Marine. The narrative revs up when he moves to Harlem, where he exhibits the gift of gab and frolics in jazz clubs with his Orthodox Jewish wife. After befriending Johnny “Honey Boy” Bratton at a barbershop, who introduces him backstage at the boxing ring, Bundini uses his teasing nature to prod to fighters, and over time he joins up with Sugar Ray Robinson and then Ali. Boxing fans will delight in Bundini’s comic antics in motivating the two greats, providing just the right spark to beat their opponents. “Drew charged Muhammad’s batteries,” fellow trainer Angelo Dundee says. The trainer’s roller-coaster career (which also included a recurring role in the Shaft films) was hampered by his drinking, emotional miscues in his marriage, and alleged theft of Ali’s championship belt. But overall this is an effective tribute to Ali’s controversial confidant, who sacrificed himself in service of the sport. (Sept.)