I Love Teddy Atlas. He’s an excellent commentator to listen to, he’s one of the great voices of the sport, he is always a fascinating interview subject with an abundance of stories and examples. His book was terrific too.
But there is a big “but” coming. I think Teddy Atlas is wrong to continually criticize Mike Tyson and Wladimir Klitschko, as he frequently does, for what he says are their mental weaknesses.
Come on now, Teddy, if Mike Tyson and Wladimir Klitschko have mental weaknesses as boxers in their primes, it’s the equivalent to a paper cut. Mike Tyson and Wladimir Klitschko are two of the greatest heavyweight champions in the history of the sport. You don’t get to the top of a brutal and violent and unforgiving business as heavyweight boxing by being mentally weak, or extremely vulnerable to be taken to a weak area and then knocked out. It takes incredible amounts of physical and mental strength, self-belief, talent and dedication to be the heavyweight champ – and stay the champ.
I believe Teddy Atlas is wrong when he criticizes Mike Tyson and Wladimir Klitschko – wrong, misleading and inaccurate. Sure, Mike Tyson and Wladimir Klitschko have flaws and suffered failures in their careers, but as fighters in their primes, they were/are absolutely devastating, dominant wrecking machines, in their own ways. Perhaps even unbeatable.
To say that Tyson was a bully and could not deal with fighters like Douglas and Holyfield and Lewis because they stood up to his intimidation is just not accurate. Tyson was once a great fighter – in the physical and psychological areas – but through poor personal decisions, being exploited and losing his focus and discipline – Tyson declined and became a shell of himself and a beatable fighter. It wasn’t in the cards for Mike Tyson to maintain his level of excellence beyond 1986-88. He wasn’t weak in any way, he just didn’t have the staying power or longevity of unique people like Louis, Marciano, Ali or Holmes.
In the case of Wladimir Klitschko, he is not mentally weak or vulnerable to be taken to a weak area. He was still a learning, growing fighter in his losses to Purrity, Sanders and Brewster. Now he has fully matured and learned from the mistakes he made – mental preparation and physical execution-wise in those fights and he is now a totally devasting wrecking machine who has barely even lost a round on any scorecards in five years. With the help of Emanuel Steward, Klitschko has fixed his errors and strengthened his weak areas.
If there are still weak areas that are vulnerable in Dr. Steelhammer, why wasn’t Teddy Atlas able to train, develop and build his fighter, Alexander Povetkin, to be able to take advantage of those supposed weak areas? Atlas has been working with Povetkin for about a year now, you’d think he’d be able to coach Povetkin to do the job, which he makes seem so simple.
And if Wladimir Klitschko is so mentally weak and vulnerable, why are David Haye, Nikolay Valuev running scared to safer fights?
If Klitschko is just a glass-jawed pretender with a great jab and right hand, then why doesn’t Teddy Atlas talk Shaq or Dwyane Wade or Ray Lewis or Kobe Bryant or Brandon Jacobs into trying boxing in their off-seasons, surely those physical and athletic specimens would be able to take advantage of the mentally weak Klitschko, right? No, they would not. They would all be brutally knocked out for ten counts by Klitschko, even worse than Peter, Chambers and Brock got it. Even if Teddy Atlas taught them boxing for 20 hours a day for six months straight.
To try to say such a finely tuned, masterful boxing machine like Wladimir Klitschko still has mental weakness is nonsense. Pure, utter nonsense.
Jack Johnson and Jack Dempsey got knocked out early in their boxing careers, you don’t read the historians ever saying they were mentally weak, do you?
Teddy Atlas, you are a good man and a legend in boxing, but you are prone to making mistakes and misjudgements, like every one else. You are doing the sport a disservice and an injustice, every time you say a top heavyweight champion like Wladimir Klitschko is mentally weak.
“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as WE are.” –Anais Nin