Given his extensive background in boxing, hip-hop and writing, Todd Snyder, Ph.D., was arguably the most qualified person on the planet to write about legendary boxing trainer Drew “Bundini” Brown.
Brown’s family thought so, too, so they selected the associate professor of English to write the definitive biography of the man who helped make Muhammad Ali “The Greatest.”
Bundini: Don’t Believe the Hype was published August 25, and Snyder has an international hit on his hands. His third book is receiving rave reviews, including glowing write ups in the Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly.
“It’s been a wild ride,” he said. “The most unbelievable thing I’ve ever done.”
Bundini, as he was known, was the trainer, motivator and all-important cornerman for Ali – one of the greatest boxers who ever lived and one of the most celebrated, and sometimes controversial, figures of the 20th century.
The idea for the biography came from Siena’s annual Hip Hop week, which Snyder acknowledges in the book. Snyder and rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy were in conversation during the 2016 event, and the subject of boxing – and Bundini – came up. Chuck D said, “Someone should write a book about him.”
So, Snyder got to work.
Bundini, who died in 1987, was also a writer who penned poetry and screenplays as well as many of the memorable quotes that Ali made famous. “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” was his.
“In a way, Bundini was one of the early originators of hip-hop lyrics.” His language was a rhetorical archetype of the hip-hop lyrics we know today. Ali – because of Bundini – was one of our first rappers, which I talk about with my students.”
Snyder spent 15 months researching his book (“real get your hands dirty kind of research,” he said). He made multiple trips to Atlanta to interview Drew Brown III, Ali’s daughter Khaliah, and other family members. He spoke with boxers George Foreman and Larry Holmes, and sparring partners who knew Bundini as trainer and friend. He had full access to Bundini’s poetry and writings, which Snyder called “a real treasure trove.”
“Ali was such a dynamic character that he tended to overshadow everyone around him,” he said. “But Bundini was a fascinating and notable individual in his own right. I wanted readers to see him not only as a luminary of the boxing world, but as a man. He was a person who took advantage of every good opportunity that came his way in life.”
Snyder credits Siena for “taking a chance on him” as a young academic and writer.
“The College has been a big part of getting to live my dreams. I am very grateful to my colleagues and I’m blessed to be part of such a supportive institution.”