“Mr. Snyder writes lyrically, and his research appears to be impeccable: It’s hard to imagine that anyone has slipped through his interview net…When Bundini died…Ali was abroad and unable to attend the funeral, but he sent flowers with a card that read: ‘You made me the greatest.’ Many members of the boxing fraternity, George Foreman and Larry Holmes included, think that Ali wasn’t exaggerating. Mr. Snyder’s affecting portrait will convince the rest of us as well.”―Gordon Marino, Wall Street Journal
Fifty years after he coined the iconic phrase Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, Drew “Bundini” Brown remains one of boxing’s most mysterious and misunderstood figures. His impact on the sport and the culture at large is undeniable. Cornerman and confidant to two of the greatest fighters ever—Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali—Brown lived an extraordinary American life.
After a poverty-stricken childhood in Jim Crow Florida, Brown came of age traveling the world as a naval steward. On being discharged, he settled in New York City and spent wild nights in the jazz joints of Harlem, making a name for himself as the charismatic street philosopher and poet some called “Fast Black.” He married a white woman from a family of Orthodox Jewish immigrants, in dramatic defiance of 1950s cultural norms, and later appeared in films such as the blaxploitation classic, Shaft.
In Bundini, Todd Snyder digs deep into Brown’s expansive story, revealing not only how he became Muhammad Ali’s “hype man”—the prototype for his successors in that role, especially Flavor Flav of Public Enemy—but also, as boxing’s greatest motivator, a model for others who seek to inspire, in any endeavor.
Who Was Drew “Bundini” Brown?
“I think Bundini was the source of Muhammad Ali’s spirit. I wouldn’t even call him a trainer or corner man, he was more important than a trainer. Ali had an unmeasurable determination and he got it from Bundini.”—George Foreman
“When you talk about Bundini, you are talking about the mouthpiece of Muhammad Ali, an extension of Muhammad Ali’s spirit. There would never have been a Muhammad Ali without Drew Bundini Brown.”—Khalilah Camacho-Ali (Muhammad Ali’s second wife)
“Bundini gave Ali his entire heart. Bundini played a very important part in Ali’s career. He was Ali’s right hand man. He knew exactly how to motivate him. He was the one guy who could really get him up to train and get him ready to fight.”—Larry Holmes
Dr. Todd D. Snyder is an Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Writing at Siena College in Albany, New York. He received a B.A. and an M.A. in English from Marshall University (2004, 2006) and a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition from Ohio University (2011). Snyder is the author of The Rhetoric of Appalachian Identity and 12 Rounds in Lo’s Gym: Boxing and Manhood in Appalachia. His scholarly research draws from a variety of fields: rhetoric and composition, community literacy studies, communications studies, cultural studies, and critical theory. Snyder also teaches a course at Siena College in hip-hop studies and contributed a chapter to The Oxford Handbook of Hip-Hop Studies. The son of a West Virginia boxing trainer, Snyder’s work is also intimately connected to his life experience, the theme of working class masculinity serving as primary focus of his writing projects.
“Mr. Snyder writes lyrically, and his research appears to be impeccable: It’s hard to imagine that anyone has slipped through his interview net…When Bundini died—in September 1987, at age 59—Ali was abroad and unable to attend the funeral, but he sent flowers with a card that read: ‘You made me the greatest.’ Many members of the boxing fraternity, George Foreman and Larry Holmes included, think that Ali wasn’t exaggerating. Mr. Snyder’s affecting portrait will convince the rest of us as well.”—Gordon Marino, Wall Street Journal
“[Bundini] has now been rescued from the margins of history by an excellent, new book. In Bundini: Don’t Believe the Hype, Dr. Todd Snyder revisits Brown’s role, putting flesh on the bones of his legend, offering a warts and all, three-dimensional portrait of the man behind so much of the doggerel central to the Ali mythology…Fascinating, entertaining.”—The Irish Times
“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…An effective tribute to Ali’s controversial confidant, who sacrificed himself in service of the sport.” —Publishers Weekly
“Vivifies the cultural icon who was instrumental to Ali’s success…Authoritative and entertaining, Bundini comes through for boxing fans and for those interested in Black American culture.” —Foreword Reviews
“[An] overdue…treatment of a complex figure in the boxing world.”—Kirkus Reviews
“The sport’s trainers, cut men and cornermen are all but lost, which is why books like Todd D Snyder’s Bundini are so important. They make sure we don’t forget…Snyder’s excellent research into Bundini’s somewhat chaotic life, shows a complicated man who drew on his own life to motivate others…This book digs deep.” —The Sportsman
“In the rousing Bundini: Don’t Believe The Hype, Todd Snyder crafts a loving, three-dimensional portrait of this seminal figure on boxing history, showcasing not only Bundini’s linguistic genius and acute boxing strategy, but also the darker moments that haunted Bundini’s extraordinary life. Through rigorous research, as well as unprecedented access to Bundini’s family and friends, Snyder dives into the key moments of Bundini’s life.”—Public Libraries Online
“[Bundini was] a motivator of the highest order, a hype man, but also, as Bundini: Don’t Believe The Hype by Todd Snyder proves, an exceptionally complicated man and the orchestrator of exceptionally complicated relationships…This book goes some way to resurrecting what was one of the most enduring and important relationships of Ali’s entire career.” —Boxing News
“While to most people Bundini’s name is linked with his association with Ali, there is much more to his life than just as a motivator for Ali. This biography does an excellent job of uncovering what else made Bundini the person he was. Each significant moment in Bundini’s life is articulated with the depth that it requires…Snyder does an excellent job of capturing Bundini’s rich and eventful life. A fascinating read not just for boxing fans, but for those who are interested in people who can succeed despite the tough upbringing and times that they have come through.” —Fight Post
“My favourite book of the year. I’ve struggled to finish this review because I’m trying to capture the book and not just gush with praise. Bundini: Don’t Believe the Hype didn’t just exceed my expectations, it blew them away, and it deserves to be considered among the very best biographies…Snyder has done an incredible job in capturing Bundini. Both his magic and his flaws…Snyder is the perfect person to capture Bundini’s life. An incredibly talented writer, the son of a boxing trainer, and a professor of rhetoric and hip-hop, it’s hard to think of a better background for exploring the life of a man who influenced the world’s best boxers with his words and spirit.” —Sports Book Reviews
“Extensive biographical works about Ali exist from distinguished writers like Thomas Hauser and Jonathan Eig. Documentaries about his legendary life are plentiful, but author Todd D. Snyder brilliantly adds to the collection of non-fiction works revolving around Ali and his inner circle by focusing on the life of Bundini…Snyder’s work Bundini dives into the life of a man who shared many epic moments with Ali throughout his storied boxing career and was an instrumental part in developing the champion’s psyche…Snyder deserves credit for unveiling the historical importance of Bundini’s influence on the sport of boxing.” —FanSided
“In this long overdue biography of the man some labelled ‘Ali’s Mouthpiece’, writer Todd D Synder offers exceptional insight into the complicated but kind-hearted soul of Bundini Brown, a man Ali himself felt he owed for moulding him into ‘The Greatest’…Bundini’s stimulating story is pieced together beautifully by Snyder, who leaves no stone unturned in his successful quest to paint his subject as much more than a hype man and motivator. In doing so, he unearths a gem of a character the boxing world can now fully appreciate.”—Bookmakers, “Best Sports Books Released This Year”
”Bundini has found his Bundini—a writer who completes him, who understands him right to down to his beautiful, brilliant, bombastic core! Todd Snyder gives Bundini the impassioned and intelligent treatment Ali’s hype man has long deserved. A total joy. This is one my favorite boxing books of all time.”—Jonathan Eig, best-selling author of Ali: A Life
“If you think you knew Bundini Brown, then think again. This extraordinarily well-written book will give you a nuanced and brilliantly told view of the story of his life. It will surprise you and most of all illuminate for you the flamboyant man who stood next to ‘The Greatest.’”—Al Bernstein, Showtime boxing analyst and member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame
“God gave Bundini the key to everyone’s heart. He knew how to use the key and open their hearts and get to them. This wonderful book tells that story.”—Gene Kilroy, business manager to Muhammad Ali
“Todd Snyder expertly navigates readers through the life and impact of Drew ‘Bundini’ Brown, presenting an intimate, fully-fleshed portrait. Snyder peels back layers and reveals Bundini as someone who was much more than simply Muhammad Ali’s hype man. You don’t have to believe in hype, but you can trust Snyder as a craftsman who delivers.”—Jonathan Abrams, author of the New York Times bestseller Boys Among Men: How the Prep-to-Pro Generation Redefined the NBA and Sparked a Basketball Revolution
“Todd Snyder goes deeper than any previous author in decoding the cypher known as Bundini, drilling down not just into his relationship with the great Muhammad Ali, but also giving us a view of him as a father, husband, and businessman. Boxing fans will enjoy this book, especially those who love Ali, but Bundini’s story is one for everybody who can identify with flawed, big-hearted people.”—Michael Ezra, author of Muhammad Ali: The Making of an Icon