Boxing: teddy atlas

Speaking to 21-year-old U.S. Olympic boxer Marcus Browne on Monday kept giving me flashbacks to when I was 21, and setting new records for doing stupid stuff. During a recent phoner, I told the young light-heavyweight, who grew up and lives on Staten Island, as much, because I couldn't help myself. I was that impressed with his sense of humor, his easygoing manner of communicating and his humility. Bottom line, the kid impressed the hell out of me and I found myself doing what "they" say you shouldn't do as an objective reporter ... I found myself rooting for the kid to get gold.

A three-time NY Golden Gloves champ, two-time National PAL Champion and 2012 USA Boxing National Champion, Browne qualified to take part in the London games on May 8, when he beat Dominican Felix Valera, 12-6, at the Americas Qualifier in Rio de Janeiro. He'd already gotten over the hump to make the U.S. Team when he won at the Olympic Trials last August. But he didn't finish in the top 10 at the Worlds in October, so he had to beat Valera in the quarterfinals, to actually solidify a place in the ring in London.

I asked Browne how it felt, following in the footsteps of the last American to win gold, fellow light heavyweight Andre Ward (2008), who is today seen as one of the five best pound-for-pound pros in the world.

"It's definitely a great feeling," he said, "but I'm still hungry. It's cool to do this step in the journey. But I've been working on the strategy for years, it was not unexpected. I'm not really surprised. Now, I'm focused on the goal."

I liked Browne's mix of confidence (not cockiness), introspection and humility. He said that Varela wasn't a tough out ("He didn't have the legs and speed, he was trying to load up and I was seeing everything"), and that he didn't get the buzz he maybe expected from the win. "I didn't get the crazy feeling I thought I'd get," Browne said. "I celebrated for like ten minutes." That's because he had to fight two more times; he won both bouts, and got a taste of international gold when he beat Brazilian Yamaguchi Florentino in the tourney final, 12-6.

The lefty, who comes out of the Teddy Atlas Cops N Kids Gym and is trained by Gary Stark Sr., describes himself as "a boxer-puncher. I use a lot of lateral movement. I'm not stationary, I'm slick. Go on YouTube, and be the judge for yourself. I don't like talking about myself. They say the trumpeter who toots his own horn is not going to be as famous as one who lets others do it for him. I've got to stay humble and hungry."

Check back for more on Browne, including how he got into the sport, and how he felt when he got verified. The kids will know what that last reference means ...

Teddy Atlas won't watch Povetkin-Huck fight

February, 24, 2012
2/24/12
4:21
PM ET
Russian heavyweight Alexander Povetkin (23-0 with 16 KOs; age 27; from Serbia, lives in Berlin) will fight cruiserweight champion Marco Huck (34-1 with 25 KOs; age 34 ) on Saturday in Stuttgart, Germany. If you are so inclined, you can watch the WBA titlist do his thing on EPIX, the premium cable network which is streaming this scrap, as well as next weekend’s Wladimir Klitschko-Jean Marc Mormeck clash on their website.

I know for a fact one person who will not tuning in. Povetkin’s former trainer, Teddy Atlas, who worked with the boxer for more than two years, and exulted with him when he beat Ruslan Chagaev to win the vacated WBA strap. Povetkin defended the crown against oldster Cedric Boswell in December, and then the wheels came off the bus.

Atlas says that it was made quite clear that when Friday Night Fights is in season, he can’t and won’t take time off to do training camps overseas. He says that Team Povetkin was made aware of this non-negotiable, and agreed to it. But then they surprised him by asking him to come to Russia to train Povetkin for this Huck scrap. He said nyet, and they didn’t budge, so a happy story turned sour. Atlas had taken a liking to a young man he took to calling “Sasha” and it is evident he has been stung by this turn of events, which Team Povetkin characterizes as a matter of miscommunication.

“Will I watch the Povetkin-Huck fight? Nah,” Atlas told me. “I feel so betrayed, I don’t want to watch. I feel bad not for me but for my family. This is no pity-party with me. It was a real nice ride for two and a half years, and there’s no opportunity to see it through. Hey, I’m no angel, I’ve been no angel in this world. But to keep your word, I just wish a simple thing like that would be honored.”
“Da Momma’s Boy” had his mom smiling from ringpost to ringpost, as Denis Douglin got the better of Steven Martinez in the opening bout of ESPN’s “Friday Night Fights” Season 15.

The judges saw it 77-75 (Douglin), 77-75 (Martinez) and 77-75 (Douglin) in a super-tight contest which on paper looked like a pick ‘em fight, and played out that way at Mallory Square in Key West, Fla., and on ESPN2.

Message board wiseguys might well say that Douglin, trained by his mother Saphya, enjoyed the Haymon edge when it came time to score the bout; he is managed by the all-powerful Al Haymon, and critics will say that was in the back of the mind of the two men who scored it for the victor.

Douglin (13-1 entering; living in Marlboro, N.J., born in Brooklyn; age 23) and Martinez (11-0 entering; from the Bronx; age 21) fought at the junior middleweight class.

Douglin explained pre-fight that the training arrangement works because unlike a situation when a dad trains a son, she isn’t living vicariously through him.

In the first, the leather was swapped from the start. The lefty Douglin threw them a bit straighter and may have taken the frame. He landed four more blows than his foe, according to CompuBox.

In the second, Douglin ate a lead right to the head and then a right to the body and he didn’t care for it with a minute to go. He was the busier man, but Martinez may have made up for that with his power edge.

In the third, Douglin continued to move, so Martinez couldn’t launch his heavy thunder as easily. The Bronx fighter tends to drop his hands and leave himself open in a glaring manner, and Douglin found him a few times. Martinez went lefty and ate a shot right before the bell, so he ended that experiment.

In the fourth, analyst Teddy Atlas said that Martinez looked predictable, and too often did things the same way. He also, Atlas said, tends to back straight up. Douglin’s trainer-mom told him not to overthrow, to throw shorter punches, and to throw and not leave his hand out there and wait for a receipt. All solid advice…

In the fifth, Douglin looked to be first, looked to get his hands on his foe first. Martinez wanted to land that heavy metal, but too often, Douglin saw it coming. Atlas had it 38-38 through four. Douglin landed a clean left at the bell, at the end of another tight round.

In the sixth, Martinez looked to be the aggressor, looked to track down the mover Douglin. Atlas suggested he go to the body to slow Douglin down. Atlas said earlier that he could see Douglin having success and then bam! seeing an anvil dropped on his head. There were now two rounds left for Martinez to drop the anvil.

In the seventh, Martinez landed a clean left hook that made the crowd exclaim, but Douglin’s chin held. His only loss was a stoppage so that was a question mark coming in. After the round, Douglin’s mom told him to keep it tight. “Really? Really?” she asked, as she tried to motivate him to finish strong. Atlas saw it 68-65 for Martinez after seven.

In the eighth and final round, both men fought the last one like it should be fought. I had no idea how the judges would see it.

Douglin went 152-555, while Martinez was 195-715. Atlas liked Martinez by two points.

Ring 8 holiday gala report

December, 19, 2011
12/19/11
12:25
PM ET
Every now and again, especially after I've watched two guys whale away at each other, and I ponder the loss of brain cells and potential long-term damage, I need to be reminded about the best elements of boxing. I got some of that on Sunday afternoon, at the annual Ring 8 holiday gala, which unfolded at Russo's on the Bay in Howard Beach, Queens.

Ring 8 is an organization which honors boxing old-timers, focusing on guys who did their thing decades ago, of whom time may have passed by, but still deserve to be remembered and lauded. Ring 8 also exists to give some of these guys a financial hand-up when needed. And as I was reminded Sunday, the organization does a swell job at getting the word out that boxing can be an absolute lifeline to a directionless kid whose career and life options are likely limited to jail or death. Kids who have an iffy home life are often seduced by the street, embraced by other dead enders who haven't been properly nourished by solid role models, and indulge in antisocial and/or illegal acts.

Roy Jones, who fought on Dec. 10, winning a UD10 over Max Alexander. He will turn 43 in January, and lost three straight before beating journeyman Alexander. But he reminded the attendees that he loves the sport, and will do it as long as possible, because he isn't "afraid to get knocked down.

"Boxing taught me more about life than anything," said the future Hall of Famer. "Every little kid needs to know about boxing, especially little boys." He was given the Fighter of the Decade Award. Wiseguys cracked that no one is sure what decade that is.

Trainer-manager-TV analyst Manny Steward gave Ring 8 a shoutout, calling it "maybe the best organization in boxing" as he received his Trainer of the Decade award.

Teddy Atlas, present to give Marcus Browne the Amateur Boxer of the Year award, told the crowd how important it is for aimless kids to receive direction and boosts in self esteem that boxing can give. "It's an opportunity to not just win the Golden Gloves but to become better people," he said. Brown, a 20 year-old light heavy from Staten Island, won at the Olympic Trials and can secure a berth at the 2012 Games if he enjoys success at the US Nationals in March.

John Ruiz, who just wrote a book for kids ("Hook and Jab"), and opened a gym in Massachusetts, looked fit and trim. But the ex heavyweight champ, who was honored as the First Hispanic Heavyweight Champion, told me that he is done. He turns 40 on January 4.

Attorney Keith Sullivan won Member of the Year, and received a loving testimonial from pal Jack Hirsch, the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Hirsch said Sullivan, who does a huge amount of pro bono work, is almost single-handedly helping the reputation of lawyers in the region. Sullivan helps Ring 8, and the Atlas Foundation, and doesn't get a dime for his expertise. He told me he is happy that Ring 8 membership has seen a huge spike in recent years and that the organization is thriving.

David Diamante acted as emcee, and was congratulated by partygoers when it was announced that he beat out hundreds of contenders to win the spot as voice of the Nets, who will play in the still-being-built Barclays Center. Diamante, who emcees Lou DiBella's shows, owns a cigar lounge in Fort Greene, so his vibe will be a good fit for the team. "It's a blessing," he told me. "I was the last man standing."

Also present at the bash: NYSAC commission chair Melvina Lathan, Tommy Gallagher, his guy Gabriel Bracero, another kid saved by boxing, promoter Rich Komissar, Ring 8 president Bob Duffy, Tomasz Adamek, Delvin Rodriguez, Vinny Maddalone, and Vito Antuofermo.

Roach says Atlas will help Povetkin

November, 29, 2011
11/29/11
5:35
PM ET
It is hoped, among folks who don't care for the risk-averse style of the Klitschkos, especially younger brother Wladimir, that someone, anyone, will emerge soon to at least inject some drama into the mix when a Klitschko fights.

I'm not sure Alexander Povetkin (22-0, with 15 KOs) is the man to do that, but I am that much more curious about him because his trainer is the intense guru Teddy Atlas.

Atlas will be in Povetkin's corner Saturday in Finland, and I figure he won't have to employ much rhetorical magic to spur his guy on against Cedric Boswell, who is 42 and has fought only sporadically for the most part, and when he's been busier, his opponents haven't been a who's who of heavies. I asked Freddie Roach, who trains Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan, among others, how much an Atlas helps a Povetkin.

"Atlas has experience, he's been in with big heavies," said Roach, who will help analyze the Povetkin-Boswell bout, which will run on EPIX Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET; Robert Helenius-Dereck Chisora will precede the main event). "He's definitely a good trainer, he adds a plus to Povetkin's game. But when the bell rings, as the coach we sit down, and it's the fighter's job to win the fight. Teddy can't fight for him. He's a good motivator. I think he'll get the most out of him."

Roach said he doesn't see anyone, not even on the near horizon in the amateurs, who can likely test Wlad or Vitali Klitschko. But he acknowledges that the brothers bear some blame at the lack of buzz on the heavyweight scene, because they don't press the issue offensively.

"They won't knock you out till you're already dead," Roach said.

"When I had Wladimir, he knocked everyone out. Every fight of theirs should end in a KO if it's attainable. They don't take risk; that's part of the problem."

Speaking of problems, I told Roach I am no fan of David Haye getting another shot at a Klitschko, and another Goldman Sachs-y payday, after he committed fraud with a pathetic outing against Wlad this summer. Haye talked a huge game, and then fought with none of the courage or aggression he promised to display en route to a UD12 loss in July.

"I liked the young Haye; he was coming to fight, was aggressive, and I think if he did that with Klitschko, he could throw off them off their game," Roach told me. "If you can punch, put pressure on Wladimir, he's not the most strong mentally in the world. That would be the best bet. Going the distance means nothing; trying to win the fight means everything."

Roach finished off by asking all to tune in to Khan's next bout, against Lamont Peterson on Dec. 10. "Amir is the next star," Roach said.

Atlas Foundation dinner is Thursday

November, 16, 2011
11/16/11
10:38
AM ET
The press has a propensity to concentrate on the bad stuff, the salacious, the material that appeals to the voyeur in us all. This trait is present in fightwriters, who frequently spotlight boxers behaving badly, and judges performing poorly, and promoters fighting amongst each other and ignoring the desires of their customers, the fans.

We fightwriters drop the ball when we don't shine a light on the good stuff that is present in the sport. We forget to regularly remind readers that boxing doesn't exist simply for our viewing pleasure, that the sport takes at-risk kids off the streets, gives them structure and reason for being, and prevents incalculable carnage, as those kids steer clear of gang violence, and drugs and other street temptations which seduce so many kids from forgotten communities.

On Thursday night in Staten Island, we can again be reminded that there is much to celebrate in boxing, as the 15th Annual Teddy Dinner takes place at the Hilton Garden Inn. The dinner will feature dozens of celebrities, including Yankees GM Brian Cashman, former Jets head coach Eric Mangini, and "Jersey Shore's" Vinny Guadagnino, gathered together to raise funds for the Theodore Atlas Foundation. It kicks off at 7 PM.

The Foundation, headed by ESPN analyst and renowned trainer Teddy Atlas, son the the late physician Theodore Atlas, dispenses funds to those who fall in between the cracks. And make no mistake, in these leaner economic times, there are no shortage of people to help.

While scores of heartless politicians use the economic downturn as an excuse to push their agenda, to shrink the social safety net which gives a hand up to the 'have nots,' while they demonize recipients as sponges and grifters, people who can't afford health insurance die. Parents with nowhere else to turn as they try and keep their kids with cerebral palsy, or muscular dystrophy, or other frequently crippling conditions from succumbing to their disease often hit a brick wall when they can't afford equipment for their child, or a rehab regimen, or other "luxuries" which are often available to only the most fortunate citizens. This is shameful, in the richest nation in the world, but it is a reality and thankfully there are organizations like the Foundation to pick up some of the slack.

This dinner is the primary fundraiser for the non-profit organization. Atlas deserves heavy credit for not allowing his busy schedule--in addition to his ESPN work, he trains WBA heavyweight champion Alex Povetkin (22-0), who fights Cedric Boswell on Dec. 3 in Finland--to derail his efforts to lift up those people who get turned away by some of those high profile charitable institutions who shall remain nameless. Foundation board member Keith Sullivan, an attorney who himself volunteers precious time and hours that he could be billing for, tells NYFightBlog, "We truly appreciate everyone's support. We will never let up and let the people in need fall through the cracks."

At the dinner, there will be live and silent auctions. Up for grabs, for a good cause, will be a New Year’s Eve Miami getaway package, complete with 14-person suite to watch the Jets take on the Dolphins, and an all-inclusive luxury trip to the Masters in Augusta. Tickets and tables for the event can be purchased via the Foundation’s website, found at www.dratlasfoundation.com/teddydinner.html, or by calling 718-980-7037.

I will be cutting a check to the Foundation totaling one half my weekly wages for writing this Blog. I humbly urge any reader, especially those in a higher tax bracket, to go big, and donate to a most worthy cause.

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