If there is one thing that should be obvious by now, it’s that Teddy Atlas is an opinionated guy. His penchant for telling it like it is (or at least as he thinks it is), in his Staten Island-flavored accent, is what has made him a popular commentator for ESPN2’s Friday night boxing telecasts, as well as the voice of NBC-TV’s coverage of Olympic boxing.
Atlas’ fearlessness in taking strong positions, however, sometimes has proved to be a double-edged sword. Many applaud his outspokenness, while others cringe at remarks that sometimes appear to be self-serving or, at the very least, not politically correct. Atlas is not and has never been into subterfuge, but his blunt brand of honesty sometimes comes with a high price tag, to others as well as to himself.
It’ll be interesting to see what the fallout will be from Terrible Teddy’s broadsides at embattled and now-former Nevada State Athletic Commission judge C.J. Ross as well as at the whole stinking mess that Olympic boxing has become. Atlas “guarantees” that the 64-year-old Ross, who took what was termed an indefinite leave of absence from the NSAC after a firestorm of criticism arose in the wake of her highly dubious 114-114 scorecard for the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Canelo Alvarez megafight, will eventually be seen at ringside again with pencil in hand. He also said he is forever through with calling Olympic boxing, although you have to figure the folks with the IOC and AIBA he has criticized so loudly and so often through the years are as eager as he is for him to go away.
First, let’s check in with Teddy on his thoughts on the judging acumen, or lack thereof, of Cynthia J. Ross, whose out-of-left field scoring of Mayweather-Alvarez came 15 months after she deemed Timothy Bradley Jr. a 115-113 winner over Manny Pacquiao, in another head-scratcher that seemingly defied reason. The only difference is that Mayweather wrested Alvarez’s WBC and WBA super welterweight titles on a majority decision, while Bradley eked out a hotly disputed split decision over WBO welter champ Pacquiao, as Ross’ colleague, Duane Ford, also submitted a scorecard that had Bradley winning by a 115-113 margin.
So controversial was Ross’ take on Mayweather-Alvarez that Bill Brady, chairman of the NSAC, personally apologized to Nevada Gov. Rick Sandoval for any embarrassment her card had caused the state. Brady’s mea culpa is in stark contrast to the stance adopted by NSAC executive director Keith Kizer, who staunchly defended Ross and decried criticism of her as the result of a media “mob mentality.”
“I’m not chauvinistic, but you see some of the women who are sitting in these positions and you’re, like, `What the hell?’” said Atlas, a comment that almost surely would steam the feminist likes of Gloria Steinem and have the late Betty Friedan spinning in her grave.
“What does someone like that know or care about boxing? And the guys, a lot of them, are no better. But if you put a woman in there, at least put in a woman who has some background in the sport, and not just because she knows somebody. It’s absurd. It’s disgusting.
“I got rid of (Ross). Me! I got rid of her by screaming away on my platform. Fortunately, it’s a big enough platform that (influential) people could feel uncomfortable and feel that they needed to get her out of there.
“But what good is it, really? She’ll be back. I guarantee you, once the smoke clears and the dust settles, she’ll be back. I guarantee you that somebody with the (NSAC) probably even told her that. He probably said, `You got to go away now and wait for the smoke to clear, but we’ll let you come back.’”
To hear Atlas tell it, Ross would fit in just fine with the overseers of international amateur boxing at AIBA, who have befouled the stage that first propelled Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay), Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya into prominence with their gold-medal-winning Olympic performances for the United States.
“NBC might not even show (Olympic boxing) anymore,” Atlas said. “Who knows? People have told me that if I wasn’t doing the broadcasts, they wouldn’t even watch. I at least try to make it interesting. But it’s hard to break down a sport that’s morphed into what boxing has become through the corruption of AIBA and by the incompetence of so many, including USA Boxing.
“In the end, the bureaucracy wins out. You can’t beat City Hall. The same old crap goes on and on and on. Olympic boxing has become a joke. It’s not even relevant any more. The scoring is ludicrous. You see a guy from Japan drop a guy from Azerbaijan seven times and he still loses the fight … I mean, come on. You can’t even watch it after a while.
“I live up to my commitments. I promised NBC I would stay with it through the gold-medal bouts (at the 2012 London Olympics), and I did. But I told NBC officials I will never do another Olympics unless they promise to force the IOC to investigate AIBA and, basically, get rid of it. Put somebody else in there. Clean house completely. But who’s going to get the ball rolling? The IOC? It’s basically corrupt, too. You’re going to ask an agency with warts all over it to cleanse itself? Talk about fighting a losing battle.”