Aftermath: Teddy and the Tsunami

By Robert Ecksel on June 13, 2012
Aftermath: Teddy and the Tsunami
Teddy sometimes sounds like a prophet wandering the desert evangelizing to cacti (HBO)

“Everybody looks out for their own little piece of land,” said Atlas. “They don’t give a shit about how it contaminates the countryside…”

The tsunami that swept over Las Vegas Saturday night, before slinking back into the sea, left a wide swath of destruction in its wake. People are looking askance at boxing, not for the first or last time. The sport’s credibility is being questioned, as is its head, its heart, and its very soul.

Boxing took it on the chin over the weekend. No matter if one scored the fight for Manny Pacquiao or Timothy Bradley, there’s no ignoring the uproar that ensued. What went down, however unpleasant and unjust, comes as no surprise to those who follow the sport. Boxing has always attracted the rogue element. Rascality is in its very marrow. Yet boxing has also drawn into its embrace those for whom amorality isn’t second nature.

That boxing encompasses beauty and ugliness, thrills and boredom, exuberant highs and devastating lows in equal measure is a testament to that old black magic’s versatility at weaving its spell. The debacle at MGM Grand notwithstanding, boxing is still, if not the only game in town, the most compelling game in town. I can live without other sports. I cannot live without boxing.

The hundreds of thousands who are up in arms about what transpired may not be boxing insiders. They may know no more about boxing than your Average Joe. But they have eyes and they can see. They believe what they believe, for whatever reasons they choose to believe, and it’s not for me to tell them otherwise.

Not everyone of feels that way. Some writers can turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. I both admire and despair their willingness, their eagerness, to engage in revisionist thinking, as though fictionalizing the past will act as a balm if swabbed liberally on those who think they’ve been burned.

Teddy Atlas has been talking about fixed fights forever. There are some who wish he would shut up already, collect his paycheck and start acting nice. Given the sanitized landscape in which we operate, he can sometimes sound like a prophet wandering the desert evangelizing to cacti. And yet there are other times, like now for example, when all his preaching, railing and finger-pointing seem eerily prescient, if not quasi-visionary.

When I spoke to Atlas earlier this week, he sounded terrible. His voice was raw. His attention was splintered. His energy, which is usually off the charts, was flagging. He knew why I was calling. He knew what I wanted to discuss. And as exhausted and just plain worn out as he was, Teddy obliged me before collapsing.

“I’m a little sick of it,” said Atlas wearily. “I’ll be honest with you. I want to leave this sport. I want to get out of it. Maybe I will. It’s a little different when that’s what you’ve invested your life in. It’s kind of hard. So I don’t know, I don’t know. All I know is that when there was a rogue NBA official a couple of years back, the FBI, the league, it seemed like the whole government got involved to make sure that the integrity and sanctity of the game was protected. They dealt with it and the credibility of the sport was kept intact. When there were steroids in baseball, Congress—which I thought was busy, which I thought was running the country—and I have doubts about that and about their integrity—dropped what they were doing and came in to explore the use of steroids in baseball and demanded that there be full scrutiny of such things.”

Atlas made an apt comparison. But baseball and basketball are a far cry from the dog-eat-dog world of boxing.

“Boxing has been around longer than both those sports,” Atlas said. “Guys lay themselves on the line more than both those sports’ athletes do. Aren’t fighters just as important? Is it because they’re from the inner cities and from broken families that they’re not as important to protect? I’m confused. I’m confused how our country works that we would jump up and clean up these other sports and protect these other sports and look out for these other sports. Meanwhile these fighters have no guaranteed contracts. They don’t get $100 million contracts like the NBA players. And god bless them they get those contracts. They’re set for life. But these fighters don’t get that. They don’t get $250 million contracts like Alex Rodriguez does in baseball. But they put themselves at risk. They work hard. They pull themselves up by their bootstraps to become better people, better athletes and better family providers. Don’t they deserve the same protection when something takes place, when something goes wrong like in those other sports? Don’t they? I think they do. I don’t get it. I’m on whatever forum I can be on every week talking about this. I’m dying. I’m tired of it.”

I could hear how tired Teddy was. He wasn’t being dramatic. It sounded as though he was played out, sick of banging his head against a wall, sick of talking about things no one wants to hear, let alone respond to.

“Why are we making a big thing out of this now? Because Pacquiao’s name is attached to it? Because it’s a marquee name, it’s a huge name, and everyone wanted to see him and Mayweather and they’re angry? They weren’t angry when Richie Abril got robbed when he fought with Rios. That kid’s not a millionaire. Pacquiao’s at least a millionaire. If he’s blown his money, shame on him. But at least he’s got a chance to earn that money and he deserves it. But Richard Abril deserves a chance to get there. He got robbed against Rios. Nobody’s up in arms about that. The red light only goes on about Pacquiao?

“Someone told me one of the judges had THE AUDACITY to make the statement that “Bradley boxed his ears off”? They’re going to tell me that, instead of keeping their mouth shut and hiding somewhere? Are you kidding me? No you’re not kidding me, because there’s no accountability, because nobody’s going to do anything. That’s what bothers me. That’s what upsets me. Nothing is being done. A National Commission, a Federal Commission—boot all these pieces of garbage out. Boot all these looters of the sport, all of them, that pillage the sport, that bring this sport down, that force fighters to go all the way back to the end of the line when they already got to the front of the line. Because of their ineptitude, because of their corruption, whatever is the cause, it’s not acceptable. They should be booted out. Now these fighters have to take thousands of more punches to get back to the place where they can provide for their family, where they can succeed and get the things professionally and personally that they worked so hard to get.”

It’s hard to get anywhere in life, and ten times harder to get anywhere in boxing. We can pat ourselves on the back all we want. But when there’s a family to care for, when there are mouths to feed, when fighters risk their health and future in a sport that is known to eat its young, more care and consideration, not less care and consideration, ought to be the rule.

“What about the kid Molina?” asked Atlas. “I almost forgot about him. He was in with the bigger, stronger guy all night long against Kirkland, the insider, the fighter with the money, the fighter that’s going to make money, the fighter with the promoter. And he found a way to even the playing field, through determination, through a fight plan, through strategy to do what he had to do to win. Molina’s winning the fight handily. He gets dropped. Fighters get dropped. He got up—he behaved like a fighter—at the end of the 11th round and the bell rings. His cornerman acts like a cornerman acts when a bell rings. He got up in the ring. The referee disqualified him. Are you kidding me? DISQUALIFIED HIM! Can you tell me if it was reversed and it was the house fighter that happened to, can anyone tell me that referee’s instruction would have been the same? Please. Go tell it to somebody else. Go talk to yourself in an empty room—because I don’t want to hear it, because you’re either full of shit or you’re not living in the real world. What about Molina? He was close to earning a big payday, to take care of his family, and he has to go to the back of the line again. Who are these people that have that power to do that? WHO ARE THEY?”

Atlas asks searching questions. But more often than not his questions are rhetorical, linguistic sleight of hand, because he had the answers all along.

“I’m sick of it. I’m sick of nobody doing nothing. The smoke is going to clear in a few days and we’ll be back to the same thing, business as usual. In the sports of baseball, football, and basketball, I don’t know if those owners are good. Some of them are probably shit. Some of them are good, just like a few of them are good over here. But they all have to look out for their sport, because they’re forced to, because it makes sense. There’s a commission in place. There are policies in place that make sure they look out for the betterment of the entire sport, down the line. They don’t do that in our sport. They don’t give a shit about the betterment of the sport, the survival of the sport, the sport two years from now, ten years from now, twenty years from now—two minutes from now. They DON’T care. None of them do. There should be a reason for them to care. But why are they going to care if there’s not a set up, structured reason by a national unit, a national forum that’s created to MAKE THEM CARE? Of course they’re not going to care. Human beings left to their own devices, they can be selfish. They can be thoughtless. They can also be great. They can be selfless too. But when you put money into the equation in this kind of setting, too often they’re not. They do what’s most convenient, what’s easiest, what’s best for themselves…and that’s what these power mongers do. THEY LOOT OUR SPORT. THEY PILLAGE OUR SPORT. At the end of the day when that’s done, what’s left? What’s left? Nothing.”

In 1960, Sen. Estes Kefauver formed a commission to investigate corruption in boxing. (Jake LaMotta’s “You win some, you throw some” pretty much sums up the proceedings.) The International Boxing Club (IBC) was dissolved, and Frankie Carbo and Blinky Palermo were sent upriver for long stretches. There’s no Estes Kefauver in our midst. The thought of a politician crusading against corruption (Super PAC doesn’t refer to Manny) is too funny for words. Yet when I made, as I was about to learn,  the mistake of mentioning what wishy-washy Harry Reid said about Saturday’s fight—“I feel confident there has been nothing untoward but if an investigation makes everyone feel better, do the investigation”—Teddy blew his top.

“Don’t talk about Harry Reid,” he said angrily. “That’s the same guy out in Nevada that when John McCain was trying to pass a National Boxing Bill and he couldn’t get it past either the House or Senate, he was one of the guys giving McCain problems, standing in the way. Was it a coincidence that he also happened to get campaign contributions from Arum and King? Oh yeah, I guess so. I guess so. I don’t want to hear that guy’s name.”

Inasmuch as the phone in my hand was growing hotter by the second, I made a mental note to never again bring up Harry Reid. But the subject was still the subject. There was no getting around it. So I mentioned the giant-sized ticket for Pacquiao-Bradley II that had been printed and mounted and was on display at the post-fight presser. It seemed so transparent, so obvious and heavy-handed, such a disdainful slap in the face, that I couldn’t help but wonder what Top Rank was thinking.

“They just care about what is in front of them,” Teddy said, “another payday. Tell me any other business, any other sport, where one person controls both sides and the one person who controls both sides wins, no matter who wins or who loses. Tell me. I’d like to know. I don’t know any. Bob Arum had both fighters. He couldn’t lose. He walks out a winner. It wouldn’t make sense for him to match anyone with Pacquiao, the golden goose, unless he owns both sides. Boxing allows for that, that’s the problem. The NBA finals are starting. Does one guy have both teams? No. It’s absurd. Please. How could it not be corrupt? How could it not be crooked? How could it not be upside down? The whole landscape is formed for it to be upside down, for it to be corrupt, for it to be incompetent. How is that going to change? Those judges are going to keep working. There’s no accountability. There’s no slap on the wrist.

“When I was in school, when I was a kid—of course they’re not allowed to do that anymore—all I had to do was say one word that was wrong and they’d slap me with a ruler on my hand. These judges destroy people’s lives. They did worse than I did as a kid. They destroy people’s lives. I didn’t do that in the classroom. I didn’t take a livelihood away from somebody. SOMETHING has to be done.”

Teddy’s frustration was palpable. I’d have poked holes in his argument if I could, but of course I could not. The sport we love so passionately will never love us back. It’s like loving a whore with a heart of gold and then discovering she was unfaithful.

“Everybody looks out for their own little piece of land,” said Teddy. “They don’t give a shit about how it contaminates the countryside. They don’t give a shit how it spoils acres and acres of future crops. They don’t care. As long as they’ve got theirs, they don’t care—as long as they get theirs.”

I was growing as depressed listening to Atlas as you are no doubt growing depressed at reading what he had to say, even though we both know that it’s true. How the hell did we get into this mess? How did we get stranded in such a godforsaken place?

“I was on a radio show today, one of twenty-two. And the guys didn’t know I was on already, so I’m waiting, waiting until they bring on Teddy Atlas. And they’re talking and finishing their conversation and they’re saying, ‘Yeah, you know, but at the end of the day what do you expect? It’s boxing.’ I was so angry. I was ready to jump through the phone. I tore into them. I don’t think they wanted that kind of interview. And I said, ‘How dare you? How dare you say, “What do you expect? It’s boxing, it’s those people.”’ That’s the answer to your question. That’s how we got here. Because people say ‘It’s just boxing. What are you going to do?’ And they shrug their shoulders and DO NOTHING.”

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  1. Bart 05:37am, 05/23/2013

    I’ve said for a long time that the combination of pay-per-view, bad refereeing, bad decisions, and cutting championships to 12 rounds has screwed boxing. Teddy Atlas tells it like it is. Pretty sad when most people can’t even tell you who the world heavyweight champ is. Then MMA came along and another nail in boxing’s coffin. Wish I was back to the days of ABC Wide World of Sports with Howard.

  2. Mike Silver 10:12am, 06/21/2012

    This interview with Teddy Atlas is right on the money. Best I have ever read on the subject. How can one respect a sport that pays homage to and honors characters like King, Arum and Sulaiman—all of whom are in the so-called “International Boxing Hall of Fame”.  What a pathetic joke. How many times must boxing fans be abused and disrespected? Let’s get it straight—we pay the bills. Just boycott the pay-per-view scams and see how quickly boxing will begin to straighten itself out.

  3. Micky 01:26pm, 06/14/2012

    I scored 115-113 PACMAN. Not so big difference but clearly Pac won. 10 points difference is too much for me, but 4 or 6 points difference is also reasonable. This is very fishy. Teddy is right, Top Rank and Golden Boy are running the show and most of the fights are inside the stable. This is the first step to make in boxing. Not alowing 2 promoters to run a sport/business. Second step is to make champions of different bodies fight each other and unify belts. MUST BE ONLY ONE CHAMPION per weight.

  4. The Thresher 01:14pm, 06/14/2012

    I admire Stevenson AS WELL

  5. The Thresher 01:13pm, 06/14/2012

    FD, This was the worse rip off since Foreman-Briggs. Casamayor- Santa Cruz and Lewis-Holyfield were bad as well and so was De La Hoya-Trinidad.

    Also, Lara-Williams and Rios-Abril.

  6. The Thresher 01:09pm, 06/14/2012

    Pay Per View should now be called Pay Per Screw. If I didn’t have to write about some of them, I would not buy them anymore. Piss on PPV. Its target audience should be blue collar but it’s price is white collar. These morons just don’t get it—-or maybe they do and we are the morons. And now that Tommy Hauser is an HBO “Consultant,” I wonder what he thinks about all of this?.Gee Tom, I have seen no changes since they took you on. 

  7. Don from Prov 01:04pm, 06/14/2012

    FrankinD: Good point, the easiest and most sensible way to protest is with the pocketbook—just don’t buy the fights.  A lot of people say they won’t buy them anymore, but then the next one comes around.  For instance, how about the first fight Money has after getting out of jail?  What a story that will be, and after his epic with Cotto…

    Anyway, I’m with you, but instead of baseball, I have a great NBA matchup that I’ll be looking forward to watching.

  8. The Thresher 12:50pm, 06/14/2012

    Gulp. OK

  9. FrankinDallas 12:40pm, 06/14/2012

    That’s funny, Ted, there is more crime in boxing than there is in the crime world. I’ve posted here about what I felt about the decision. Atlas mentioned the Molina/Kirkland fight, and he (and the rest of us) can think of many worse decisions than this one. Hell, I thought Jimmy Young beat Ali. Anyway, I’ve about given up on what I’d call “big time” boxing, or at least PPV boxing. I’ll just watch the FNF or Mexican boxing. If there is a crap decision, at least I didn’t leave any money on the table. If we don’t buy the PPV’s, then they won’t happen. And finally, it’s baseball season so I have plenty of sports to see without feeling filthy about it like I do sometimes about boxing.

  10. Don from Prov 12:40pm, 06/14/2012

    And yes he got reamed.  Agreed.  But I wouldn’t say he fought like the old Manny but more like an OLDER Manny: Mr. Pacman takes some time off now in rounds, yes?

  11. Don from Prov 12:37pm, 06/14/2012

    I’m talking about BEFORE the fight…......

    You feeling me?

  12. The Thresher 11:12am, 06/14/2012

    Are you feeling mem on this Prov? :twisted:

  13. The Thresher 11:12am, 06/14/2012

    Don from Prov, what are you trying to say here? Manny got reamed for Christ Sakes. He fought like the old Manny and got reamed. That warrants as much press as can be written. We should not let up on this. Maybe it will take something like this for all the fans out there to stop paying for Pay Per Screw!!

  14. The Thresher 11:09am, 06/14/2012

    You know, I was going to stop writing about boxing and morph to True Crime but what the f—k, there is more true crime in Boxing than there is in true crime!! I’ll stick around a while because it’s going to get even worse.

  15. Don from Prov 10:45am, 06/14/2012

    “Everybody looks out for their own little piece of land,” said Teddy. “They don’t give a shit about how it contaminates the countryside. They don’t give a shit how it spoils acres and acres of future crops. They don’t care. As long as they’ve got theirs, they don’t care—as long as they get theirs.”

    That quote from Mr. Atlas pretty much sums up how our country runs right now, and as—I’m sorry, but honestly—boxing has often been somewhat shady and now also merits such a low rung in the sports world, what more would anyone expect?

    I’m still more angered? mystified? upset? about the hype generated by boxing writers about the fight than I am about the decision.  Let me repeat: I have seen one, one!! boxing historian’s (and I don’t even remember who he was) ATG list at Featherweight that included Manny in the top ten (at ten): Manny may have been a great, or edge of great Featherweight, but he’s far from a great Welterweight, and Tim Bradley is a pretty good Jr. Welterweight: Why all the hype?  That, senseless hype, is what I’m bored with.

  16. andrew 09:09am, 06/14/2012

    don’t give up so easy. keep fighting the good fight!

  17. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 09:01am, 06/14/2012

    Robert Ecksel- As I posted on an earlier thread…Teddy is the Charles Krauthammer of boxing…the expert’s expert! You are at the top of your game with this report!

  18. danny c 08:15am, 06/14/2012

    Some points to ponder on:
    The fight indeed had only exposed bradley; still a baby on his career. He still has lot to learn to be amongst the boxing elites. He can’t capitalize his victory to be considered as an emerging pound for pound king.

    The defeat of Pacman will give more reason for Floyd to duck Pacman:

    1. Since Pacman was dethrowned, he can reason out now that the pacman don’t deserve an equal paycheck .

    2. He’s no longer in his caliber having been defeated by Bradley. The devaluation of the Pacman.

    3. Floyd may opt to fight Bradley instead having seen Bradley’s weakness or may say he will fight Bradley since he’s the currect champion. Cherry pick logic.

    4.Floyd now can substantiate his demand for the Pacman to junk Bob Arum for the fight to happen. Since accordingly Arum is responsible of Pacman’s demise or why the fight is not happening between them.

    Perhaps the Mayweather’s will now refrain calling the Pacman a midget since their brother Bradley is even shorter than the Pacman. Unless it is a racial issue for them?

    Torn between fighting Marquez or a rematch with Bradley plus the jailing of Floyd are the essence here. Both fighters here are the edge of their prime.

  19. Pete The Sneak 04:51am, 06/14/2012

    All valid and on the money points by Teddy. However, nothing will change gang. As Saturday’s ‘Controversy’ subsides, all the blowhards that have been chirping about this ‘being Boxing’ will move on to the NBA Finals and other sports and leave the real boxing fans to deal with our sport and its inconsistencies, trials and tribulations. As a matter of fact, I have already seen several ‘Respected’ boxing scribes, who at first were yelling about what a farce this decision was now saying that after reviewing the fight a second/third time it may have been closer than when they first saw it. And this may very well be the case and as many have said on this forum, this was certainly not the worst decison in Boxing; perhaps not even the worst decison this year. But all I’m saying is that we (the loyal Boxing followers)) will somehow temper this thing like an abused wife who makes excuses for her blackeyes and bruises to everyone and will still remain with him because she ‘loves’ him. It’s very sad but true. It sounds like Teddy however, is planning to finally pack up and leave the abuse behind. Will he?  Will any of us? Truly? Peace.

  20. Joe 04:30am, 06/14/2012

    Yes, this may be the tipping point for lots of people who have a little left in the tank for boxing.  Personally, I’ll always be a fight fan but this was the first time I absolutely stopped watching prior to actually hearing the decision; Manny’s victory was that decisive and to find out a couple days later that Bradley won even bothered me….......but that’s boxing.

  21. The Thresher 03:36am, 06/14/2012

    This one could be the one that tips the scale of a lot of people. I still have some writing to do, so I’m not about to walk away, but I would not blame others if they did.

  22. norm marcus 01:28am, 06/14/2012

    Robert: What you and Teddy are saying is 100% correct. No one cares about boxers or the sport, its just a cash cow to most in the sport. Maybe because its a poor man’s sport? Who was the last guy to really care about the poor? Jesus? Maybe FDR? The list is very short.
    This all brings to mind the Cuban boxer Teofilio Stevenson. He was a tremendous Cuban heavyweight. Won 3 gold medals in the Olympics, remember? The West was always trying to get him to defect from Cuba and turn Pro here. He would never do it. He said “I prefer the love of 8 million Cubans.” Could have been a millionaire here, wouldn’t do it. Maybe he remembered when the mob ran Cuba, like they still run boxing in a way? He wanted no part of it.
    He always said he was an civil engineer not a fighter-and he was right. “He would rather be red than rich.” He meant it. He turned down millions to fight Ali in the 70s.
    He never walked away from the pros, he never went near them in the first place. He avoided the corruption of boxing and enjoyed the pure sport as the greatest amateur boxer of all time.
    As a matter of fact I’m going to do a piece on him for you. It will be my pleasure.
    This whole situation reminds me of a line from the Billy Wilder movie comedy “123” with James Cagney-
    “Capitalism is like a dead herring in the moonlight, it shines but it stinks!” I’m no Commie, I’m an ex marine but I admire Stevenson. He stayed away for the love of the sport. The shine didn’t fool him.

  23. procopy 11:57pm, 06/13/2012

    the guys owning both pacman & bradley may have been the biggest winners but bradley, i think, is the biggest losser here. you see, pacman seems not affected by the outcome. yeah he may have lost his wbo belt, but he is still $21M richer than bradley, while bradley sits in his wheel chair agonizing about his broken foot and holding that shiny belt that a lot of people are now cursing him for. i do hope even in the slightest that there would be some reform on the sport.

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