He’s been there for the duration, Staten Island Teddy, telling truth, melting down, decibels up, throwing down, telling it like it was, to those who needed a dosage of some bitter medicine…the harsh truth.
Crappy and inept and maybe corrupt judges, toothless commissions, even those within his own company who signed off on a subpar match that should have been shot-down, Teddy Atlas since 1998 on Friday Nights entertained fight fans, and tonight, he did color on his last FNF.
In October of 1998, Bob Papa and Atlas called the bouts, and Brian Kenny and Max Kellerman did their thing in the studio. The cast changed some over the years, and Atlas was a constant. He will be missed, because while he will still be part of the ESPN family, Atlas will be part of the Premier Boxing Champions series on ESPN regular, because Al Haymon, in his quest to snag platforms galore to show his athletes off, has locked down the airspace on The Worldwide Leader.
Haymon is paying ESPN to use their platform, so there won’t be, I don’t think, the same latitude enjoyed by Atlas to speak his peace. That will be missed, though I dare say he will still get his licks in, take aim with that sharp barb when needed. And we will always have YouTube, to remind of us why Atlas should never do Nilsson.
Check here for a longer recollection and adieu to Friday Night Fights.
I chatted with Teddy at length about what he sees as the FNF legacy. He kindly shared.
He recalled the time that Lennox Lewis, or maybe it was Riddick Bowe, was fighting another portly sort, a “local gardener type,” Teddy called him.
Guys, something’s bothering me, Atlas said on-air, addressing the viewers like he was on a barstool, telling the crew at the Dew Drop Inn his thoughts.
I’m sick of seeing overpaid blimps get too much moolah for too little action. “I’m tired of it,” he ranted. “And I knew HBO was listening, they’d watch our show, find someone, then maybe bring him over. We were like their farm system. ‘So I want to propose a fight,’ he continued to the watchers. ‘Some guys have given so much of their blood, their sweat…I want Micky Ward to get a million dollar fight.’ About maybe five days later, I got a call, a thank you, from Micky Ward. He said thank you, I got a million dollar fight. I said, ‘Don’t thank me, thank yourself, for all those years of service. You never gave up, you were true to the sport, even when it didn’t seem like it should be so. I felt good, that kid deserved it. He deserved to get that and more. I’m glad I had a little something to do with helping get that.
“I figured when I started, I have a platform, I can be heard and if I see things that are wrong, I can bring a light and should shine it, and I should do more than just take a check. I tried to make a difference, and I did the best I could.”
Props to him for being a principaled voice, ESPN for giving an atypical face and voice that megaphone, and for hiring solid people to entertain us all these seasons. Friday Night Fights, we will miss you, we will miss the sometimes so-so matchups, the beard dye and ED pill ads, the Max-Teddy debates, the stability and the longevity. THANK YOU, all involved, for your service.