Teddy Atlas gets back to his duties this week calling the fights alongside Joe Tessitore on ESPN2's “Friday Night Fights” from the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas. During his fall hiatus, Atlas spent a good deal of time in Russia, where he worked his other gig- training heavyweight contender Alexander Povetkin.
He had hoped to fit in about four or five fights during this stretch, instead they got in a pair of bouts, against Teke Oruh and Nicolai Firtha. This period of time was designed to further season the 31-year-old Povetkin, who was scheduled to face IBF heavyweight titlist Wladimir Klitschko in September before being pulled out of there by Atlas.
"We spent five weeks there, then we fought there. He scored a fifth-round knockout with a kid that's never been knocked out, Teke Oruh. And not that he was a high-level guy; he was a game guy, a guy that had never been stopped," explained Atlas. "Then we came back and we just fought over in Germany. [Povetkin] came over here [in the States], trained for five weeks over here for that last fight, which took place two weeks ago. I think he's progressing. Is he progressing in the way that everyone in their minds perceives the way he should? Probably not because everyone has different perceptions of what they think it should be. Some people think he should be a Russian Tyson; some people think he should be the ‘Russian Marauder.’
"To me, I'm trying to make him what he's supposed to be and get him an identity that fits him. A reliable fighter, a pro. A guy that can use his left hand, a guy that can have defense and offense and a guy who can be consistent in these quarters, in those areas. A guy, who again, who can know he can rely on himself. It takes experience. That takes work in the gym, which were doing. That takes finding that identity, working on those technical things, forming those technical things, those habits. We're doing that, where he's got ideas, where he knows how to deal with different situations, where there's definitive ideas about what he's doing every time he's in the ring. But it takes experience, it takes confidence and I don't think Sauerland and all those guys- I gotta be honest with ya'; they say, 'Oh, we should've fought Klitschko; we should've fought this one- I think they should've had the guy more active. And now he's paying a price for not being active. He's showing some of the faltering, some of the shallow points of a guy who hasn't been active. He needs to become more consistent in certain areas and some of that consistency will come with some of the things were working on in the gym."
Make no bones about it, Atlas believes that it would've been irresponsible for Povetkin (who earned the top stop in the IBF by defeating Eddie Chambers in an elimination bout in January of 2008 in this 15th pro outing) to be allowed to face Klitschko at this juncture of his career. To him, it would have amounted to nothing more than just a cash-out bout.
Atlas said bluntly, "Listen, I feel Sauerland and they just wanted the biggest money fight. He was the number one contender for awhile. He was very inactive and they were going to plug him right away into a fight with the most active, biggest, strongest heavyweight in the world and I just felt he needed more time- it's that simple. I could've put him in that fight; I would've collected my paycheck like everybody else. I just don't think it was the right time. I don't think he was ready the way he could've been ready for that fight and I thought that it wasn't fair to him to just throw him that fight. So we made a decision not to."
In his last outing with Firtha on December 18th in Berlin, Povetkin damaged his right hand early on.
"The good news is he behaved like a pro; he had no right hand and I told him, 'Hey, we got a good left hand; go use it. That's what we’re supposed to do in this kind of situation.' And he did; he got in ten rounds. That's good news, too," said Atlas, who believes firmly that these are the types of scenarios his fighter needs to experience. He bristles at those who are critical of the path they have chosen. "Some people- and I think they're morons; I do. I gotta be honest and they may think I'm a moron and that's fine. That's the great thing about America; we can all call each other morons if we like it- but they think, 'Oh, he should've knocked the guy out' or we should've done this. I heard one of the guys- and I don't know who he makes a living [for] in boxing- but [Povetkin] says he regressed since Chambers.
"Well, the last time I saw the Chambers tape, [Povetkin] was getting hit with right hands from the first bell to the last bell and that's not happening no more,” Atlas admitted. “So I think that he has progressed in areas that he needs to progress. But because he goes the distance with Firtha and he hurts his right hand in the second round and he can't use it anymore, now that means he's fallen backwards? I don't understand it. I look at it as though, hey, he kept himself together mentally; he did things with his left hand that he hadn't done before and from a defensive standpoint, he was fairly reliable. There's still more work to be done but I look at that kind of progression."
Atlas hopes to have Povetkin back in the ring within a few months, depending on how his hand heals up. The respected trainer knows that Klitschko is a tough mountain to climb for anyone but he believes it's his duty to give his man the best opportunity to do so, whenever they should square off. Look for 2011 to be another year of the developmental process.
"Look, if we're not held up because of the hand injury, I'd like to get a couple fights and then look to see where we fit in. To see what fight is a fight that we fit into that is substantial. Because the pressure is going to be on us to do that. Everybody is chomping at the bit," he says.
Atlas, as he gets back to work for the “The Worldwide Leader in Sports,” will work with Povetkin in Middletown, New Jersey on Monday through Thursday before heading off to whatever fights are scheduled by the network for that week. With the most recent attempts to make a fight with David Haye going by the wayside, there will be increased pressure for contenders like Povetkin to step up and take the challenge.
"I understand we're at the point now we're going to have to make a decision on that," said Atlas. "I just want to be able to make that decision in the best conditions possible. That's all."
Speaking of Atlas, on Wednesday afternoon, I received The Ultimate Book of Boxing Lists, which is co-authored by noted historian Bert Sugar and Atlas, as they go through their opinions on everything from the most spectacular knockout, greatest rivalries, best quotes, fastest hands, best footwork, most controversial decisions and many other subjects. The book has a foreword from Brian Kenny of ESPN and has contributions from the likes of Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Ernie Shaves, Angelo Dundee and others.
The book is published by Running Press and retails for $14.95.
A few weeks ago, I was sent the first season of “Lights Out,” which premieres next Tuesday on FX, which is about a former heavyweight champion, who runs into some real-life pressures during his retirement. I have to say, like “Lil Mikey” eating Life cereal, I liked it. I really, really liked it.
I'm not going to give away any real spoilers but this isn't so much about boxing (although boxing is the backdrop of this drama) but about a man who has to make tough, compromising choices to support himself and his family. It shows that life isn't really about the black-and-white but a lot of gray areas. I tore through the 13 episodes in about three days. I thought as the show went on, it really built up some momentum.
The ol' Kimster gives it a hearty two chopsticks up.
“Lights Out” premieres next Tuesday at 10 PM, ET/PT.
BE HOME BLYLEVEN FLURRIES
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