MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Just like old times, Angelo Dundee and Muhammad Ali were together again at the gym they made famous.
Nearly six decades after it first opened, the famed 5th Street Gym was brought back to life Thursday night, a gala unveiling that brought out plenty of former fighters and trainers — most of whom were there with hopes of grabbing a glimpse of Ali, who trained at the South Florida facility under Dundee's watch for years.
"It's a beautiful thing, really," the 89-year-old Dundee said. "But you know, you can't live on nostalgia. You've got to live on the present. Right now, we're going to create some good fighters for the Americans. We need it. And I want to be part of that. I want to get a heavyweight. I want to get a heavyweight so we can make some noise."
Dundee said he might be working soon with a 14-year-old heavyweight prospect. On this night, though, all eyes were on the 68-year-old former prospect who arrived amid chants of "Ali! Ali! Ali!" and took a seat immediately next to Dundee at a round table set up next to the new ring that was still being built just hours before the party began.
"He told me he'll be here," Dundee said before Ali's arrival. "So he will."
Sure enough, around 9 p.m., "The Greatest" arrived in fashionably late style. He entered through an alley and not the facility's front door, and party guests were under strict orders not to photograph Ali, who wore dark sunglasses and appeared to be slightly taken aback by the reception.
Ali and Dundee visited recently at the trainer's home. Dundee said the effects of Parkinson's disease continue taking a toll on Ali, but that the fighter is still fighting.
"If anybody can kick it, Muhammad will," Dundee said. "He's sharp as a tack."
This modernized gym looks nothing like its predecessor.
Dundee's brother, Chris Dundee, opened the original gym in 1951, and it eventually hosted Ali, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson and countless others. It was torn down 17 years ago, five years before Chris Dundee's death.
The new gym has bright multi-colored lights shining from the ceiling, pictures of past champions who worked in South Florida adorning the walls — and there's even air conditioning. It'll be far more than just a boxing facility, with mixed martial arts and other classes planned.
"We brought this to Angelo and he was excited about it. That's all we needed," said Dino Spencer, one of the partners in the facility. "That energy that he's brought to the ring for the last whatever it is, 60 years, we can start again to make champions."
There were some strange twists of fate that allowed the group to reopen the gym in its old neighborhood.
The ownership group was looking at a spot a couple of blocks away, until one of them just happened to see a "For Rent" sign pop up near the corner of 5th Street and Washington Avenue. From there, things simply fell into place.
The formal opening to the public is Saturday, and there's some finishing touches that still need to happen. For Thursday's event, the ring was in place, with two championship belts on display. Dozens of photos were hanging, and a row of heavy bags — waiting for work — were leaned against a wall, and guests mingled alongside Shannon Briggs, Bert Sugar, Emanuel Steward and others.
"We've got kids here who now how to train fighters," Dundee said. "They're going to come here and be well-taught and then you guys are going to start recognizing our American fighters, which is important."