Angelo Rottoli, Boxer and Man About Town, Dies at 61

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This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

MILAN — The long reach and good looks of the five-time Italian heavyweight champion Angelo Rottoli earned him the nickname Beautiful Ali in the ring.

Outside it, he became equally famous in his town near the northern city of Bergamo for his gift of gab, and for episodes like diving off a bridge into the Brembo river, riding a motorbike down a ski slope and showing the actress Brigitte Nielsen a night on the town.

“Girls stuck their foreheads to the gym’s windows to watch him train,” his friend Omar Gentile said. Two women were once said to have hidden in the trunk of his car to find out where he lived.

Rottoli died of the new coronavirus on March 29 in Ponte San Pietro, a few days after losing a brother and his mother to the disease, his brother Giacomo said. He was 61.

Rottoli (pronounced ROE-toe-lee) won the first of his heavyweight crowns in 1983. When he fought for the W.B.C. world cruiserweight title in Bergamo in 1987, the whole city seemed to stop. He lost to the champion, Carlos de Leon of Puerto Rico, on a technical knockout when the bout was halted because of cuts to Rottoli.

After the match, he saw reporters waiting in front of his changing room. “Good,” he said. “So I am still a celebrity.”

That remained true for years, even after his retirement at 31.

Angelo Rottoli was born on Dec. 14, 1958, in Presezzo, near Bergamo, to Giuseppeand Ester (Colleoni) Rottoli. His father worked in a textile factor; his mother was a homemaker.

One of eight siblings, Angelo took a job as a metalworker right out of middle school. He first put on boxing gloves at 18, and by 22 he had given up his job to fight professionally.

Even after becoming prominent enough to have his matches shown on national television, Rottoli. still found time to sit with younger fighters, imparting wisdom (“When a match is even, the more handsome one wins”) and asking them how many situps they had done that day ( letting them know he had done “a million”), Gentile said.

He was “the absolute king of Bergamo’s nightlife,” said Luca Messi, a younger boxer and Rottoli’s neighbor.

Later in life Rottoli would often wake up in the afternoon and leave the apartment he shared with his mother and an older brother to play cards or checkers with friends at cafes. He didn’t drink alcohol, but locals said he could down up to 15 shots of espresso a day.

As he aged, his brown curls turned white, and he regaled fellow nightclub patrons with songs and stories, including those about dates with Italian actresses, or the summer Ms. Nielsen ate a Popsicle while watching him play soccer, or yacht trips off Monte Carlo with the racecar driver Keke Rosberg.

“I don’t care if his stories were true or not,” Messi said. “He gave us the stardom we all dreamed of.”


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