Boxing trainer, fight commentator, boxing historian, humanitarian, are just a few words that help define Teddy Atlas. Teddy has always been a great interview and this one is no exception. Let's once again welcome Teddy into the doghouse.
David Tyler Hi Teddy, Happy New Year!
Teddy Atlas Same to you David.
DT Congratulations on Alexander Povetkin’s third round knockout victory over Leo Nolan last month.
TA Thank you, it was another step towards the progression that you look for as you prepare your fighter for a title and be in the best situation you can be to win it.
DT - Povetkin has some impressive names on his resume, Chris Byrd, Larry Donald, and Eddie Chambers, when will he be ready to fight one of the Klitschko twins?
TA - A lot of that has to do with the timing of the organization with the mandatory and how that plays out. We made a decision not to go with the interim fight, fighting an interim while we are waiting for the mandatory does not make a lot of sense, it's just a word that has no positive meaning to it for this fighter to get better. He's already the mandatory and that means that Wladimir Klitschko has to fight us within a certain amount of time for the title and to fight an interim fight does not add up to anything positive for Alexander Povetkin. What I thought he needed now was to fight fights that are development fights and the next time he takes a risk will be when he fights Klitschko for the title. You've got to think these things out there has to be some rhyme or reason for what your doing and some intellect must be attached to that for the reasons you are doing and like I said the next risky, risky, fight should be for the heavyweight title. He has already earned the right to be the mandatory for the title and he would be taking a risk by fighting anything other than what I call development fights. We should be spending our time by finding him fights that can benefit him as a fighter, progress him as a fighter, and give him a better chance when he fights for the heavyweight title. The more time we get for preparing him for the title fight the better he will be prepared when he fights for the title. If they tell me tomorrow that it's time for the title fight then I will go forward and get him ready for the title fight. In the mean time it’s not tomorrow because Klitschko is going to fight Eddie Chambers in March and we will take a fight in March. I will probably bring him over here at the end of the month and set up training camp to get him ready for that fight in March. Again, the more time we get to progress it can only be beneficial whatever that time turns out to be. Right now I want to give him the chance to do that and use each one of his fights as a learning tool where he will only be a better more complete fighter when the time comes for the title fight.
DT - Teddy, I know that Alexander is 6' 3" and I believe that he has a good shot to beat Klitschko especially if you prepare him properly.
TA - That's the idea and I have a very specific, definitive plan if it turns out to be one of the Klitschkos. You must be thoroughly prepared with such a plan to take the championship from Klitschko and I do have a plan if it comes to that but right now the thing I am concentrating on is giving Alexander more development of his skills and that's what we have been working on for the past five or six months. He is very close to being a complete fighter and the more time we have to prepare for the title can only be of benefit to Alexander.
DT - Teddy, I have just finished reading one of the best books about boxing, that would be Mike Silver’s masterpiece “The Arc of Boxing” and you are quoted throughout the book.
TA - Yes, I think it is an important book and I also think that Mike is an important person in boxing because he is in position to tell us things about the sport, like the past and where we are headed in the future and I think there is only a certain amount of people able to tell those stories, that are invested and committed to boxing where they can have that information and Mike is one of them. Mike is very committed to boxing, very committed to the history of boxing and I think it's important to understand the history of boxing and that's why I helped him with his book. All the other sports seem to do a better job of being able to carry the history of their respective sports, you see stuff on baseball all the time about the Mickey Mantle’s, about the Joe DiMaggio’s, about the Babe Ruth’s and the glorious history of what that sport has been, the same thing with football, the same thing with basketball but boxing unfortunately does not have the infrastructure to do those things. You have a lot of selfish components in boxing, selfish promoters that are power mongers and there is no structure to say let’s think about the whole picture of the sport. These guys know the parts of the sport that serves them, they know the ten years, fifteen, years or twenty years of the sport that’s served them, their little piece of property in their own selfish world. But let’s think about the sport in it’s entirety, let’s think about the past of the sport, and the future of the sport, and to do that we have to know the history of the sport. You have to give the people reason to care about the sport, a reason to cherish that past, to help make sure that the future is secured. We don’t do a good job of that because there is no structure to address these type issues. Because the structure is not there, because the set-up is not in place, there is no incentive to do it. So it’s important that it got started and the only way to do it is for guys like Mike Silver to write the books about the sport’s history in the way he did for the book you referenced. I applaud him because it’s obviously not a thing not attached to a financial incentive because he is not making money on that book. It’s obviously a labor of love and because he cares about the things we just talked about, the sport as a whole and the future of the sport.
DT I loved the book and have recommended it to several of my friends that have the same passion for boxing. I wonder how many current boxing fans can name the top Middleweights of the 1950’s? I very carefully studied the chapter about performance enhancing drugs and steroid use because that’s in the news today. As you are aware Floyd Mayweather Jr. has insisted that Manny Pacquiao submit to Olympic style random blood and urine testing while training for their bout. What are your thought on the subject?
TA I don’t have anything against testing for Performance Enhancing Drugs. I think that athletes should be clean and they shouldn’t have anything to hide especially in a sport like boxing which is one man against the other, it’s his will as much as his skill, the way that will is defined, the way that will is formed and has been developed over the course of years, the choices that he has made to develop his identity and of course the ability with that identity of making hard fast choices under very extreme conditions more extreme that most people will ever find themselves in over a lifetime, especially in any other sport, any other profession, that shouldn’t be enhanced or in any way influenced by anything other than what it should be which is what they are, the way they have made themselves spiritually, physically, emotionally, and technically. There is a purity to boxing, a reason that it’s been around for over 200 years even without the structure that other sports have gotten, because there is a real curiosity, a real appeal that people have for the sport because they want to see how the other person behaves when he is challenged under the tough conditions that are there to challenge fighters, they want to see that maybe he will act better and do well under the conditions and hope that maybe this will transforms to their own lives where they will be able to handle the tough challenges that life presents and handle them in the same manner that their favorite fighter does. It also reminds people that no matter how you were born, with or without the proverbial silver spoon, there is a time when you can make everything even just by making a stand, just by developing yourself in a way for that moment that you are going to behave in a strong way. A stronger way than you thought you were born to behave with, the things that you haven’t gotten, the privileges that weren’t there in your life, that none of that matters right now. Right now it’s an even playing field and it’s who can make the better decisions who wants to be stronger, who wants to be better, who wants to be prouder and there are very few places where things are that pure, that driven, where a guy with more can be beaten by a guy with less. I think all these things should continue to be pure and if blood testing has to be brought into the equation to make things equal then let it happen. Boxing is way behind other sports in having problems with PED abuse. There has been many more athletes that have cheated in baseball, football, and other sports, it’s been documented. Boxing has not had as many, not nearly as many, not even close. But there has been a few instances in the recent past, like Shane Mosley whose name showed up on the Balco list, Fernando Vargas who showed up positive after the De La Hoya fight even though it did not help him because these drugs do not help the soul, they don’t help a fighter’s mental constitution, and that’s what this sport is about, not just the physical aspect. Since there have been instances of steriod abuse, along with such a watched fight, such a high profile fight, the sport wants to take the precautions to make sure that there is nothing compromising the purity of the sanctuary of the sport, then that’s good, I can’t be against that, I’m all in favor of that, but it should be in place across the board for all fighters. I don’t know what the financial burden of the testing would be, how the fine details would be worked out, these are questions that I am very cognizant of but at the same time the testing should be done in a consistent manner across the board as much as possible.
DT I agree completely with that observation. So Teddy, do you think that Mayweather Jr. is being impractical or just trying to get inside Pacquiao’s head with his demand for blood testing?
TA Only he knows, I don’t think it is impractical, I think that when athletes are going to compete on this level it should be pure, it should be clean, it should be an even playing field. One person should not be able to grab an unequal advantage especially in boxing where it is as much about your will as your skill. One person should not be able to circumvent the purity of the sport or compromise the integrity of the sport. I again emphasize that this kind of blood testing should be implemented for all fights just to ensure that the high standards and integrity of the fighters have not been placed in jeopardy. I think that it should be the job of each individual state boxing commission to protect the fighters by implementing this kind of testing to ensure that one fighter does not have an artificial advantage, that the public is protected too, that when they see their guy go into the ring it is on the up and up and that no artificial advantage is to one fighter over the other. This would ensure the purity of what makes this sport different from others, that on any given day, one man who was born with less than others can be on equal ground with someone who was born with much more. That to me is what is so appealing about my sport of boxing and that should not be compromised. Putting things in place like testing the fighters would only boost the integrity of boxing and ensure that the fights are on the up and up, it would be a very good thing to have happen to our sport. I don’t know why Pacquiao is balking at taking a blood test, as thinking people with an intellect and with an honesty to go along with that intellect, one of the things you would have to say…..is he guilty of something? You would have to say that, you are not accusing him of that, you are not convicting him of that, you don’t have the information to do that, but when he says no to such a test, and then you have to wonder why? Here is a guy who has moved up many weight classes, maintained his speed, maintained his strength, and of course maintained his success rate, and when he says no so suddenly, you have to wonder….. why are you saying no? Again, I think it’s something that everybody should be doing not only for big fights but also, if it is practical and the economics can be worked out so the testing is not prohibitive for smaller fights.
DT Good point about Pacquiao. I love watching both of these terrific fighters because their styles differ. Do you think the fight will happen?
TA I think there is a very good chance this fight will happen because the promoters and others locked into making money off the fighters are all greedy and they want the big money and they will not let the fight slip away. They are going to bring in the mediator and do everything possible to keep that fight and the money associated from going away. I do think the fight will happen, maybe the mediators will not have time for the March 13th date but certainly the fight will happen sometime this year. I just don’t think the fight is really dead until it is dead because there is just too much money and too many greedy people will benefit from this fight. I was going to say that there is too much at stake but there is nothing at stake here but the money. Sure the public might get to see a good fight against two of the better guys in the sport and see whether Floyd Mayweather Jr. with the guile, speed, great confidence and great defensive skills which have all been developed since he was a little kid, he is like a Tiger Woods who was brought up to be a champion in golf, whose father tutored him endlessly to be a champion. Can he be beaten by a guy who has moved up many weight classes who has beat a lot of big names, a guy who been very successful who has very fast speed and tenacity and fights with the pride of an entire country who believes in him. I think that this is a very interesting matchup for those reasons. The main thing for the people involved in the fight is the money. No doubt about that fact, but the public is not thinking about the money they are interested in seeing something that rarely happens in this sport and that’s two of its best guys fighting each other. It’s usually one guy being navigated around another and the promoters and others making millions to convince the public that the fight will be one of the great mega fights and that’s the reason for you to pay the money and buy the fight. You know that it is really not a competitive fight that it is not an even playing field; you know that one guy has a bigger advantage in the equation and has more reasons to win than the other guy. We just don’t get enough chances to have the best guy fighting the best guy anymore. There was a time in boxing where that’s all you got and that’s when boxing was at its healthiest. That’s what the fans want and because they don’t see enough of those kinds of fights, they don’t feel they get their money’s worth by watching the many non-competitive fights and that’s one of the reasons that a segment of fans have turned to the Ultimate Fighting where the best guys fight the best guys. They just don’t have too many fights where you know going in that one guy has no chance against the other guy. A situation where the promoters are trying to sell you a fight where one guy has a 25% chance and the other guy has a 75% chance. That happens way too often in boxing and when you get a chance to get away from that and have the best guys fight each other, it’s good for the sport because it’s what the fans want. But for the people that are to gain money from this fight, they have a chance to gain the most money ever from one fight in the history of boxing and I just don’t see them letting that go away too easily.
DT I agree about the money and the greed in the sport. Teddy as a boxing historian, is it unusual for a boxer to move so far up in weight and gain speed and strength along the way. In a nutshell, are Pacquiao’s accomplishments unparalleled in this sport?
TA I don’t think that it’s fair to say gain speed because he was always fast, maybe we just noticed it better when he fought more high profile, marquee, fights. Pacquiao has been matched very well against the competition. You could make the argument that of his last three fights one of them was completely shot and had never won a big fight, the other one did not know how to fight and was made to order for the Pacquiao style, that would be Hatton, a guy who was not physically strong, certainly not stronger than Pacquiao, and then another guy who was very, very, easy to hit and was damaged goods coming off the Margarito fight. So you could make the argument that the three fights that gained him worldwide fame and all the attention in his own country were all well navigated, well maneuvered choices that fit perfectly with his style of fighting where there would be little or no doubt of the outcome and maybe we did not see that at the time but those things have become clear, these opponents did not make for good fights against him like the Marquez fights where he easily could have lost both fights. The last fights have been very timely and very fortunate for Pacquiao, who benefited greatly from the way that things lined up. He has always been a fast guy who has improved with the right hand more. He is technically more solid and he was always a good puncher. But yes the answer is that I have seen guys move up in weight and maintain their speed and power, it rarely happens today but if you go back to the glory days of boxing I have seen plenty of guys move up in weight and get better as they move up. The sport has shown a history of that, Pacquiao is not the only one who has accomplished this feat. It’s just that most people don’t study the history of boxing and I’m sure that most people think that Pacquiao is the only one who has ever done it!
DT You’re probably right. I do hope the fight happens. I don’t know who you are taking but I don’t care if Pacquiao is loaded with every performance enhancing drug known to man, he will lose by a unanimous decision to Mayweather. I say this because his style of taking out aggressive fighters will not fair well against a pure technical fighter like Mayweather…………
TA - I would take Mayweather by a late round knockout. I think Mayweather will dominate the fight, especially with his defensive skills. Like we discussed his last three fights have been against guys who were very hittable and Mayweather does not fall into that category.
DT Teddy, think you very much for your time and keep fighting the good fight through your foundation which has done so much good in your community by reaching out to help others who are less fortunate.