Teddy Atlas had to laugh, which isn’t something he’s been doing a lot of lately.
Atlas can thank former WBO cruiserweight champion Marco Huck for his temporary good humor, for it was Huck who suggested at a press conference called to hype his Feb. 25 showdown with WBA heavyweight champion and former Atlas protégé Alexander Povetkin that the split between the champion and his trainer was one based on fear more than on business.
“Atlas found a way out because he wanted to avoid the embarrassment of Povetkin’s failure in the fight with me,’’ Huck (34-1, 25 KO) boasted.
Alerted to this comment, Atlas snorted, which in his case passes for laughter.
“Sasha will kill this guy,’’ Atlas said of Povetkin. “He’s too big. He hits too hard. He’s far from a finished product but he’s more polished than Huck. Huck will walk in with those wide punches and get hit in the face. A lot.’’
When Huck’s challenge was first made the night of Povetkin’s successful title defense against Cedric Boswell last December, Atlas was also visibly amused. A German boxing writer suggested it to him during a post-fight press conference and Atlas’ reply indicated nothing resembling fear of Huck.
“Can we do it tonight?’’ he asked. It didn’t sound like he was kidding.
Huck was a German favorite during his days as cruiserweight champion and hence a logical foil for the undefeated Povetkin (23-0, 16 KO) but the assumption was Atlas would be in his corner, where he’s been since transforming him from a stalled former Olympic gold medalist going nowhere slowly into a world champion over the past two years.
But when Povetkin and his people scheduled a title defense during ESPN’s Friday Night Fights schedule and then refused to train in the United States so Atlas could avoid scheduling conflicts with his regular job and preparing Povetkin as they were contractually obligated to do, Atlas balked. That has left Povetkin’s manager, Vladimir Hrunov, continually hinting Atlas would be on the next plane to Moscow when he knew that would only be if ESPN had a fight scheduled in Moscow, Idaho, which they do not.
So come Feb. 25, Povetkin will risk his title and an eventual big-money shot against one of the Klitschko brothers with Alexander Zimin in his corner rather than Atlas. Conspiracy theorists abound in boxing, even in Germany, and some wonder if Povetkin’s promoters, Wilfried and Kalli Sauerland, purposely set up the match in the hope a conflict would result that split their fighter from a trainer who has often warred with them over how Povetkin’s boxing future should be run.
There is no way of knowing whether this is the case or not but everyone in boxing was well aware of the contentious relationship between Atlas and the Sauerlands. Removing him from the picture, they might well have concluded, was good for business whatever happens to Povetkin because like most promoters they have both sides of the fight on Feb. 25 and thus will continue to control that portion of the WBA title whether Povetkin has it or Huck does.
Atlas declined to comment on that but Sauerland has already agreed to having the winner face former champion Hasim Rahman within 120 days, assuming no injuries result from the Feb. 25 match in Stuttgart. Might Atlas and Povetkin be reconciled by then? Not likely.
Atlas recently rejected an offer from Miami-based promoter Luis DeCubas to train one of his undefeated Cuban prospects after working with him in a training session for several hours. Atlas did not reject DeCubas’ offer because of any doubts about the fighter. He rejected them because of his disillusionment with the fight game in general.
“He was a nice kid and I like Luis but I told him I just don’t want to be betrayed anymore,’’ Atlas said. “Everyone says Sasha (Povetkin) broke our contract but it was more than that. He broke our trust. I don’t need that anymore.’’
So if Marco Huck really wants to know why Teddy Atlas won’t be staring back at him from Alexander Povetkin’s corner he can ask DeCubas or Kalli Sauerland why. The former is the one who knows best why Atlas is insisting he’s finished training fighters and Sauerland is the only one who knows if the problems that led to that were merely coincidental or part of a larger conspiracy to rid Povetkin’s corner of the one voice always arguing for him.