By Johnny Walker
Boxing commentator and trainer Teddy Atlas is not exactly Mr. Popularity with many American fighters these days.
After recently guiding Russian heavyweight Alexander Povetkin to a paper WBA world heavyweight title (the rightful champion there is “super champ” Wladimir Klitschko), Atlas has found himself taking fire from some American heavyweights who aren’t impressed with what they see as his hypocrisy and his bizarre, manipulative ways.
In a recent interview with Boxing Insider, veteran American heavyweight Monte “Two Gunz” Barrett lambasted Atlas as a “big hypocrite” for apparently choosing to have his new Russian champion fight very faded past champs like Evander Holyfield and Hasim Rahman, rather than take on a man such as himself, a still viable fighter who recently scored an impressive win over a tough foe in David Tua.
“He’s a hypocrite–Teddy Atlas is a hypocrite when it comes to his fighters. He doesn’t preach what he teach,” said Barrett.
Now, another American heavyweight veteran, Shannon Briggs, has published an expose on Atlas on his blog featured in the online edition of Boxing News.
Briggs calls Atlas “the ultimate control freak,” and describes some of the very eccentric behavior that the trainer would engage in. “One of the craziest things he ever said to me was, ‘When you’re in the ring, you’re the body and I’m the mind’” says Briggs.
“I’m just the body and he’s the mind? What’s that about?”
Briggs goes on to describe how he was a young and naive fighter when he first hooked up with Teddy Atlas, and says Atlas became a father figure to him (Briggs’s real father was serving a life sentence, and his mother was strung out on drugs). According to Briggs, Atlas was fond of using invasive psychological techniques to try and gain control over his pugilistic pupil.
Atlas, says Briggs, was a fierce disciplinarian who would call him up at odd hours, sometimes in the middle of the night, and tell him to be at the gym the next day at a certain hour, only to arrive himself much later. Atlas would then deny the phone conversation, and cause a long argument, only to later admit, “I was testing you. I was testing you to see if you would break under pressure.”
Briggs also contends that Atlas at one time held undue influence over the boxing press, who often kowtowed to what Teddy wanted to see in print.
“You have to understand, he had a lot of influence over the writers, a lot of the journalists were scared of him,” Briggs writes. “When I was with Teddy, you wouldn’t hear anything bad about Shannon Briggs, I was God, I was the future heavyweight champion of the world. The day after Teddy and I split, every writer wrote that I was the worst fighter to ever walk on the planet.”
Finally, in a story very similar to what has been heard from others– like American heavyweight Michael Grant–who have worked with Atlas, Briggs says that he was left with serious emotional scars from his relationship with the trainer.
When Briggs lost for the first time, Atlas “went on national TV and gave me a hard time,” Briggs recounts.
“I was hurt because at that point, despite everything that I thought he was doing wrong, he was my father figure. 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. I felt anger because I had dedicated four years to him and I felt like I had been betrayed.”