Monday, May 4, 2015

Boxing’s Atlas, Its Compass, Its Very Soul


If you’ll be kind enough to pardon a bad pun, the sport of boxing has been on rubber legs now for quite some time – or, perhaps (if we factor in the Brothers Klitschko), hobbling about on a pair of stilts. (I know, that’s two bad puns – so kill me!)

For all its woes, the fight game’s got one thing that no other sport can claim, and that’s the unimpeachable voice of Teddy Atlas.

To current aficionados (both hard-core and casual) of the sport, Teddy Atlas is the long-time voice of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights. Quick to call out a judge for a funky scorecard as well as call for a national commission to monitor and regulate the sport he genuinely loves, Atlas is as technically knowledgeable an analyst as there is in sports media. Add to that an open, honest, oft-critical advocacy for a sport (and the self- disciplined that it demands) that has altered the life course of so many, himself included. His memoir of 2006 is a must read, if only for the Tyson trivia, not to mention the story behind the facial scar that gives him the proverbial “face made for radio.”

As in great tragedy, the tales and people of boxing legend involve emotional and gut-wrenching suffering – both in and out of the ring.

Teddy was in rare form this morning with the ESPN Mikes. On the heels of the weekend’s latest “Fight of the Century,” the pathos in his voice was palpable as he referenced Manny Pacquaio’s birth “on a dirt floor” but cited the fighter’s absence of urgency in his showdown with Floyd Mayweather. Atlas even gently pooh-poohed Pac Man’s claim of being hampered by a bad shoulder – not in Round 4, says Teddy. His critique of the selfie Manny and manager Freddie Roach took during their entrance was a bit more pointed, however.

While the interview was mostly monologue, the guru was at his eloquent best while addressing the expectation that Mayweather would have been more aggressive in his pursuit of a legacy-cementing knockout.

Kudos to Greeny and Golic, by the way, for understanding (a) “Genius at Work” and (b) “Silence is Golden.” Long live clichés!

For all we know, Atlas’s mind may have drifted back to his own grooming in the sport and a mentor named, of all things, Cus.

“People born square don’t die round.”

Whatcha wanna bet that line turns up in a yet-to-be-published oeuvre penned by Mr. Greenberg?