Teddy Atlas his way
Chapter 2 Teddy Atlas and your Unprofessionalguy Kimo Morrison - 10/07/2004
After the embarrassing introduction to legendary Teddy Atlas, I cut talks short with "Super" Zab Judah, piled notebook and recorder in the truck and drove as close to the speed limit as possible, dreading to be late in what would soon become the education of a lifetime. As a fighter/trainer I had many things that I wanted to ask, but once the conversation started, I couldn't help but just get drawn in… as though hypnotized, not saying word one in response for nearly 15 minutes. Here is how I will remember that moment!
I tell the wife what is happening, briefing her on my "foot in mouth" experience which just occurred minutes before, then making clear that I will be in the bedroom where I was to be left alone!
I lay on the bed jotting down as fast as possible the questions I wish to get off before the moment fades into yesterdays history and BOOM! Damn I say to myself, knowing it is him and wishing that he was as procrastinate as myself, as to give me more time to prepare for my "FIRST BIG INTERVIEW!" I let it ring 3 or 4 times to gain composure and off we go!
Starting off it was awkward as it would be with ANY person you have never met and are expected to talk to. So this is how the first little bit went
KM: Hey there Teddy! Thanks for calling back so soon!
TA: No problem……………………………………..What can I do for you?
KM: Oh sorry! I thought it had already been discussed, Oh man,…I'm sorry and sorry about that whole thing at work and all…but anyways I was just wondering if you wouldn't mind doing a short interview for the hardcoreboxing public?
TA: That would be fine.
KM: Okay, okay, okay…sorry, I just walked in and need to get this organized real fast…alright! First off, How did you get your start? Not only with training but well…fighting too.
TA: ………………………………………………Well this is already out there for the public to read about ya know?......................................................................but…..
KM: breaking the silence: Well, first hand for the hardcore fans and myself, of course, would be great cause I never have heard your life story or nothing…
TA: Okay, well…..
I couldn't even begin to type all that he said, dropping names so fast that if it were rain I would have to build myself an Ark right on the spot for I have never heard so many names dropped at once. It was like listening to a recording of a boxing history museum and who they featured. Some of which, I will be honest, I have not even heard of myself and I consider myself to be pretty knowledgeable with boxing. Past and present alike, these are people not only from a different era but a different walk of life. As Teddy describes his journey from the slums to boxing in basements of churches, he talks of an accident that left him debilitated as a fighter and scared for life. It was here that his life's course changed; be it slow as it may have been, it was a course that would lead back to one of the most respected of men in the boxing world, that of Cus D'Amato. Cus, who would eventually have it his way (as I hear from those who knew him this was usually the case), had left a bug in Teddy's ear about working with him as a trainer. He had seen not only the talent of a fighter but the even more rare ability to impart knowledge to those under him. Cus had mentioned that he would like to take him under his proverbial wing passing on to him the wealth of boxing secrets as well as lessons in life much better learned through somebody else's mistakes. When Teddy finally gave in to the legendary trainers persistent wishes he told Cus that he would only move if he were able to bring two boxing students that he has already started. Though now after being cleared out of their basement boxing gym they would meet daily in a local park. Cus, surprised that Teddy had already started training kids on his own, agreed knowing that Teddy was adamant that he not just abandon the process already started in these young students. This was not only boxing lessons but direction in life as he felt that boxing is an outlet for a young mans anger and how he deals with it. The trio moving shortly after all accommodations had been tended to. Teddy had started down a road that would be an escape from less fortunate quandaries and to a new life.
Being in the corner of a world championship match at the vine ripe age of 19, Teddy not only worked with an ever growing congregation of kids, but he trained world champions! They came from all over as word of mouth spread that there was this kid teaching other kids how to box, and he was great! Teddy though, was a rare talent that had the equally rare opportunity to work under a boxing genius. In this he says that he was very fortunate to be there at that young age learning from some of the best in the business, and feels that in the sport today there are far too many young trainers with no experience as he tells here…
KM You know I was wondering what you thought of the complete bias of some of today's most recognizable T.V. personalities calling fights such as…
TA: It doesn't matter, so they have an opinion. It all has to do with professionalism …It doesn't matter, what matters is the safety of the fighters, not what is being said about them. Most of these men don't know what it is like to get in there so they offer opinion based on hearsay. We need to address that, not bias…
KM: Interrupting: You don't think that it has ANY bearing whatsoever on the outcome of a fighter's public persona?
TA No, and it is not what matters, what matters is their safety and with guys in there now days….you know, all you need to get into the ring and train a fighter today is throw a towel over your shoulder and that's it! You had to have years of experience starting from the bottom to get in there and train fighters then, but now anybody can be a trainer.
KM: Speaking of professionalism, I am glad you brought that up a minute ago, what about the professionalism of…
TA: What about the professionalism of the trainers in the sport today…it's wrong that anyone with a towel, a bucket and a little know how can be in there with fighters not knowing what they are doing. There really needs to be regulation in this area because it is the fighters that pay the ultimate price in there and if you don't have the experience you could end up getting some one seriously injured or even killed.
KM: I totally agree I also feel that there should be more mandatory training at an amateur level before moving into the pros. You know it is funny that you said anybody can be a trainer, that all you need is a towel, which kind of leads to something that I wanted your view on…do you think that the trainers get far less credit than deserved for the outcomes of big fights? They are responsible primarily for laying out a game plan, focusing on perceived weakness and molding the man. If not for some great corner men, I feel some fighters would have NEVER pulled off their upsets or victories, like with you and Michael Moore cause I think it was you that...
TA: It doesn't matter! Cause the fighter knows who got them there and that is all that matters. The fighters who know care and it doesn't matter about what anybody...
KM: elaborating quickly: You don't think they go far too unrecognized for strategy, most are…
TA: Yes they are overlooked, and yes they deserve credit, far more credit in many cases but it really doesn't matter to most of them, cause they know and the fighters know,… that is all that really matters.
KM: Do you ever plan on training again?
TA: I have been doing this for about 30 years now, and I am tired… I have all this with the broadcasting and calling fights, I am very busy; I don't have the time for it right now. I am not currently working with any pros right now and I don't have time for that stuff right now.
KM: Forget the pros, you said earlier that it was helping the kids stay out of trouble and changing direction in their lives that drew you to training, now will you or do you ever want to go back to doing something like that again... Just helping the kids that are less fortunate and need direction.
TA: Yes, that is something that I can see doing later, something for the community. That is what matters. But for now I am happy where I am at. Boxing is a great outlet, a great way to open the doors to kids and it is something that is on the verge of being lost. With kids today focusing on basketball, baseball, football, soccer … boxing is really becoming a cult sport.
This is the conclusion of Part 2, though there is much more, I feel that some of the conversation should be in confidence and will put out only one more segment of Teddy's interview. As hard core fans we must appreciate the fact that some things just can't be told best unless told to you personally. There must be some parts kept for just me to remember…
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