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Teddy Atlas: Drama Queen

By Johnny Walker

Famed boxing trainer Teddy Atlas seems to be a natural trouble magnet, so his latest problems with the camp of his fighter, WBA “Regular” heavyweight champion Alexander Povetkin, are in many ways par for the course.

Atlas has been quoted in recent days saying he is very “disappointed” in Alexander Povetkin, a fighter who he has always claimed in the past is a man of sterling character. Now, because he can’t see the sense in coming to the United States, a place he dislikes, to train for an upcoming fight (with cruiserweight champion Marco Huck) to be held in Germany, Povetkin is suddenly, according to Atlas, a bad guy.

Anyone who has followed the career of Teddy Atlas can hardly be surprised at this sudden change of heart. It seems that there are very few people on the planet who measure up to Atlas’s exceedingly high standards, and even less fighters who make the grade. Atlas all too often is a drama queen who quickly gets crushes on certain fighters, romances them and then falls out of love almost as fast, as the reality that everyone (except Teddy) on this planet is imperfect sets in.

And when Teddy Atlas falls out of love with a fighter, the results can be ugly. For example, Atlas wrote in his book, Atlas: From the Streets to the Ring, that he actually wanted to kill his former charge, the Canadian boxer Donny “Golden Boy” Lalonde, after their partnership ended at Lalonde’s request. Atlas admits that he took a gun and waited outside of the fighter’s apartment in New York City with the intention of gunning him down. Luckily for Lalonde, he wasn’t home at the time.

“If he had opened the door, he was dead. I would have pulled the trigger, turned around, and walked away,” Atlas wrote.

According to Fightnews Canada, Lalonde later called Atlas a “certifiable nutcase” who “got into fights with trainers and fighters quite a bit when I was with him.”

“He may not be the most stable person walking around,” Lalonde added.

The Lalonde story is only one of many about the antics of Teddy Atlas. From Michael Grant to Shannon “The Cannon” Briggs, fighters who trained under Atlas have often had major fallings out with him. Briggs claims Atlas became a father figure to him, and then abused him psychologically, especially after he lost his first fight.

“He hurt me and I’ve told him that. It took me a long time to recover mentally from all the things that he said and did,” Briggs has written. “I felt anger because I had dedicated four years to him and I felt like I had been betrayed.”

The stage was set for Atlas’s latest falling out with his own fighter back when Povetkin won the WBA “regular” championship belt against Ruslan Chagaev. Atlas contends that he has an agreement with Povetkin that states that the fighter must train with him in the United States when Atlas is working his regular gig as an analyst for ESPN’s Friday Night Fights. Yet Atlas interrupted his ESPN job for the Chagaev fight to go to Russia at the last minute, making a big show in the boxing media about Povetkin’s abbreviated training camp, and how it might hamper his efforts, hedging his bets in case things didn’t go well against the tough former WBA champ.

Typically, Atlas made himself look like a hero for giving in and going to Russia to train his fighter—for doing his job, in other words. Note the usage of the pronoun “I” in the following quote:

“It got to the point where – it was already late but there couldn’t be any more deadlines,” Atlas said in a pre-fight press conference for the Chagaev title bout. “I had to decide whether I’m not or I am (his trainer). I didn’t want to put the kid through that, so I got on a plane – it was the most nervous I ever was.”

Yes, somehow, no matter what, it’s always all about Teddy Atlas.

Perhaps the real reason that Atlas seems to be looking for a way out of training Povetkin is what inevitably lays down the road for the Russian heavyweight: a fight with a Klitschko brother, most likely Wladimir. Atlas has already pulled Povetkin out of one fight with the world heavyweight champion, for reasons which change depending on who he is talking with (Atlas has claimed that Povetkin “wasn’t ready” for the challenge of Klitschko, and/or that promoter Kalle Sauerland‘s contract was financially unfair to the fighter).

Atlas has rather famously got a major hang-up when it comes to the world heavyweight champion Klitschko brothers: he has spoiled entire ESPN boxing telecasts with his biased ranting against them, even in situations that have little or nothing to do with the heavyweight division. But Atlas has never satisfactorily explained why, if Wladimir Klitschko, as he has claimed on ESPN, is a mediocre fighter who can be easily beaten, he felt that his own fighter “wasn’t ready” to take him on.

Perhaps, deep down, Teddy Atlas doesn’t think Alexander Povetkin has what it takes to defeat either Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko. And having staked so much of his reputation as a boxing analyst on a very negative view of the Klitschkos’ talents, the blow to Atlas’s enormous ego, should his own fighter lose to one of them, would be severe. Better to manufacture a crisis now and get out while still ahead.

Then, if Povetkin goes down to a Klitschko, it will be because he didn’t have Teddy Atlas in his corner.

At least according to Teddy Atlas.

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