Teddy Atlas on Tyson

I was looking through some old Boxing Digest issues the other day, and I found an old interview (July '96)with Atlas. Pretty interesting I thought.

BD: What do you think of Tyson as a fighter now? Did his skills as a boxer deteriorate in jail?

TA:Tyson definately deteriorated as a fighter even before he went to jail. He was not the same fighter in 1990 that he was in 1986. tyson hasn't gotten better. The imagination of the public has gotten better. They think Godzilla is back. These are the facts: Tyson got konocked out by Buster douglas, who in his next fight was KO'd by Evander Holyfield in 3 rounds. Tyson struggled in his two fights with Ruddock, who then got KO'd in 2 by Lewis, who in turn was KO'd by Oliver McCall. And four years in jail are certainly not going to make tyson a better fighter. The first time he has to deal with somebody, with whom he may have to negotiate his way inside against, Tyson might get hurt, and then he finds ways to cooperate.

BD: Do you mean Tyson may quit in the ring if he gets hurt?

TA: Tyson was never the invincible monster that everyone envisioned him to be, even when he was at his best. When thing didn't go right, he always did what I call "silent agreements" with guys. Tyson would put his hands behind his opponents in clinches inside, and make like a silent deal with his opponent. That happened in his fight with Bonecrusher Smith. The fight was filled with clinches, and everyone blamed Smith. But the truth was that, in that fight - and in others of Tyson's where the action was less than scintillating - it was Tyson who caused the problems. He would put his hands around his opponent's back and make silent agreements with them. He knew it was human nature for some fighters to take the easy way out. He did it himself. So guys faced with that situation either punched and made Tyson fight, or submitted to Tyson's wishes and just held on because of their mutual fear of getting punched. The first guy who didn't accept the silent agreement situation was Douglas. Buster, quite simply, just kept punching, and said to Tyson "You're going to have to fight back and try to dominate me, because I am not going to cooperate with you." Most guys Tyson faced did not have the in-ring discipline - or character - to say, "I'm not going to accept your agreementof us both tying each other up in clinches." Tyson's flaws were always there, but Douglas was the first fighter to capitalize on those flaws."

well I agree that after Cus dies Tyson did nothing but get worse, especially defensively

Very insightful. Thanks for posting that.

tyson tried to mess around with his 11 year old neice at the age of 16 or 17, you wouldn't be bitter at a guy who did that?

Atlas doesnt give Tyson any credit what so ever but did say something interesting.

'Tyson is like a shooting star, there brilliant but not great. To be great you have to have staying power'

Anyway didnt Atlas threaten Tyson with a gun?

Yea vortex physically he may of done.

Rooney said that the original plan was for Tyson to get to 50 - 0 and beat Rocky's record.

Um guys, Atlas was correct in a lot of the things he said. In 1996 Atlas was saying that Tyson wasn't the fighter he used to be, and he was correct in what he said.

Dunno if he had best heavyweight skills ever but he did have great head movement, speed and power.

As much as i hate to admit,i have to be a man and say
a lot of what Atlas say's is true.The only thing i
will disagree with is that Tyson didn't initiate
holding,but fell into a patern with cagey guy's who
did their best not to get hit.Especially really tall
and strong fighters like Smith.There were a few
occasions i noticed at the time ,that Tyson got tagged
and fell inside and imediatley started working the
body,shielding the fact that he got hurt.Tyson was a
very smart fighter in the ring because not a lot of
people noticed these nuances.
That being said,Tyson at his best kills anyone that
ever graced the HW scene.

"Tyson at his best kills anyone that ever graced the HW scene."

I dont think that he could have handled a young George Foreman. But a case can be made for Tyson. I think what he had going for him when he was younger besides his awesome physcial skills. Was alot of fear, he used to cry and doubt himself before fights. Which made him fight like a wildcat. He also used to use alot more combinations. Never standing back to admire his work, he would just throw tremendous combinations. Now he seems to have a big ego, no fear, and instead of throwing combinations he is a single punch fighter. Trying to set up his big bombs with out anything to distract his opponents. A younger combination throwing Tyson(with good head movement). Would have caught Lewis with something and won quick. This new style of his is just too predictable. That being said his earlier years there was a drought in Heavyweight boxing. We really dont know how a young Tyson would have done against the greats. Because a lot of good fighters, above average fighters gave him alot of trouble.
Tony Tucker, Mitch Green, Ossio Ocassio. All these guys exposed Tyson to one degree or another.

Atlas is so bitter....

Tyon did get better and was at his best for the Spinks fight.

It was after Rooney was replaced, that Tyson's started to go down.
Atlas also said that "at least under Rooney he didnt get worse". He
couldnt even give Rooney credit for the great job he did with

I'll try and type out more form the interview later on today - it's stuff he says about Tyson's personality growing up etc.

Merry Christmas too guys!

teddy himself is very overrated as a trainer so he should not talk.
he talks a big game but how many good guys expect moorer did he train.

briggs and kirk johnson could not put up with his crap and he killed what little remained of micheal grant.

he loves to put people down and even micheal moorer was better with stewart

I wasn't too impressed with how Atlas handled Michael Grant. In Grant, he had a guy who seemed to be a little bit fragile emotionally, and he didn't adapt accordingly. The tough approach works on some, but not others. A great trainer is one who can adapt. Not only with the physical training and teaching, but in handling a fighters psyche.

"young george foreman was slower, easier to hit and less powerful than tyson"

Slower? Yes.

Easier to hit? Maybe.

Less Powerful? Nope.


BD: there's been a lot of stories written about Cus teaching Mike Tyson about life, and about the right and wrong things to do. Has this picture of Cus D'Amato being this teacher been overblown?

TA: Absolutely. I found out from Cus that not evrybody tells the truth all the time. I want to make one thing clear: all this sltuff about Cus came out in the past few years, about how he taught Mike Tyson about life, and all those wonderful things. But Cus was not what everybody now thinks he was. Cus was loyal as long as you could punch hard. I learned all about the values of life from my father. He was a doctor for 55 years and worked until he was over 80 years old. All the things Cus wanted to be, my father was. I learned from my father about professionalism. My father taught me about loyalty and commitment. My father was the toughtest man I ever knew. Cus wanted to be all these things, but he wanted the liberty to live another way, too. Cus wanted to be a humanitarian, but if you couldn't punch like a bastard, you'd be out. Humanitarians don't throw you out becuase you can't throw a left hook.

BD: [After talking about D'Amato's apparent refusal to accept the blame for allowing a very sick Rooney fight Arguello] So I guess what happened with Rooney gout you ready for what later happened with Mike Tyson?

TA: I was never ready for what happened with Tyson. Let me explain it this was: Nothing happens immediately, unless it's a bomb going off, or someone hitting the lottery. Like when the stock market crashed, and people started killing themselves. But it just didn't happen that day. It started a long time before. There were certain events that were allowed to happen that made the situation ripe for that sort of fall. Tyson didn't just wake up one morning and start getting on Teddy Atlas' nerves. Tyson gradually started doing things more and more, as he became more successful, what were against what we were supposed to stand for in that camp. We had a responsibility, and I don;t want to dramatize this too much, but the reason we had him was becuase he was in jail. So I didn't have to be a social worker to understand that we had a responsibility to teach him something more than how to throw a jab. We had to keep him within certain boundries in his growing up. And little by little, Mike started to cross those boundaries. And Cus let him get away with it. We weren't doing Tyson a favour by ignoring all the things he was doing wrong. Look where it got him. Three more years in jail. Mike was laways very manipulative as a kid. People put a different spin on how Tyson was then, and is now. I get a kick when I read guys like Peter Hamill writing about how intelligent Mike Tyson is, because he was reading all those philosophers' books, like Camus and Sartre. Then the next week, Tyson fails a simple math test. Hamill wrote that story when Tyson was in jail, and I had to laugh. Guys like Hamill and Jose Torres feel like they are connected with something important in history, like Mike Tyson in a peripheral way, then it makes them inportant too. But the bottom line is, Mike Tyson was not a very nice guy from when he was a kid. He got worse and worse, the more successful be became in the ring. People let him get away with things because he was a good fighter.


Teddy Atlas is right. But he's still an asshole.

A young George Foreman crushed Ken Norton, Joe Frazier, George Chavalo, Ron Lyle. He was a monster. Probably the most natural puncher that ever lived.

The only two big bombers that Tyson beat are Ruddock and Bonecrusher.

"Because a lot of good fighters, above average fighters gave him alot of trouble. Tony Tucker, Mitch Green, Ossio Ocassio. All these guys exposed Tyson to one degree or another."

I agree with Tucker and Green giving Tyson some trouble. But he never fought Ossio Ocassio! But I will one up your Young Foreman with A prime Ali, or a prime Joe Louis!, even a prime Joe Frazier would 'out Tyson' Tyson.

I always LOL@people who think the five men who survived with Tyson, in his victories, say that they gave him trouble. Watch those fights.....

At age twenty and sporting a flawless 19-0, 19KOs record, Tyson critics then(and there were few) had thought Tyson's stamina was suspect and that he couldn't last the distance. So against Green and Tillis, Tyson stretched the fights....and he easily outboxed both guys HANDIDLY, when the action was at it's best pace. If you watch those fights objectively, Tillis and Green combined maybe take 3 or 4 of the 20 rounds they fought with Mike. These fights have been broadcasted on ESPN Classic every now and then, so you might be able to catch those in the future.

The story of those fights also carries on the to "Bonehugger" fight, Smith legitmately wins one round using any boxing skill, and in the sparse action he got handidly outboxed, too bad you don't get points for clinching.....you'll see a lot of great inside action from Tyson in this fight. It's been argued that you can perhaps give the 11th(or was it the 12th) round to Smith, where he jolted Tyson real good. IMO one big punch isn't enough, unless there is a knockdown, and it is argued that Tyson's glove touched the canvas.....and the scores were wide open too, 120, 119 2x....for Tyson.

Tyson-Tucker could have been a great fight....other then Holmes and Spinks, Tucker was the next best guy. The first four rounds were good, Tucker really brought it to Tyson, and he ended up breaking his hand, after that, it was all Tyson, and a lot of clinching initiated by Tucker, who after round 6 just tried to finish the fight standing. Two judges had it running away for Tyson, but I agreed with the 116-112 score.

Tyson-Ruddock......both of these fights were really good. The first was pretty action packed, a nice fight, Ruddock only really won one round(the 6th), and then came that controversial stop.....leading to the rematch. Ruddock did better in the rematch, but Tyson really punished him, broke his jaw, knocked his mouthpiece out a few times, knocked him down twice....Ruddock took some heavy bodyshots in this bout....

Of the people who really frustrated Tyson, I mean really got to him....weren't guys like Tillis, Green, Smith.....they just clinched a lot, which helps their gameplan....but does nothing for them in the long run...the people who really gave Tyson fits were Tucker, Douglas, Holyfield, Botha, even though Lennox kicked Tyson's ass, you can't give Lennox any credit for giving Tyson any fits, Tyson never really had a chance outside that first round, he just lost the magic, not to mention the stamina that night and ultimatly got his ass kicked, badly.

Regarding the mythical match-ups, I too believe Tyson in his prime, with the right people behind him, and decent work ethic was amazing, the only all-timers who I give a legitmate shot with Tyson, are Ali, Marciano, Dempsey, Liston, Johnson(for his defense)....notice these guys are known for having good chins. I'm hesitant regarding Holyfield(I just don't believe Holyfield circa 92' could have a lot of success against Tyson circa 86', not 96', completly different fighter Tyson was from that span), Holmes(The KO would only be delayed, Tyson has the favorable style IMO), Louis(Footwork too slow, too robotic, suspect chin), Foreman(Too plodding, too slow, and regarding this, Tyson was way faster then Frazier, stronger too, and had more then Joe's left hook), and Fraizer(Suspect chin, and just doesn't have the speed or power of Tyson in his prime) up there.