"I can tell you for a fact that the promoters and the associates of the promoters and the agents and the managers have relationships with these different organizations and these judges. They have familiarity at the very least. They have dinner together; they take them out to dinner. There is all kinds of favoring going on and you're going to tell me that doesn't mix into the equation here; that there is a possibility, with those kinds of relationships, that there is not favoritism going on? That there is not favors being bantered out there where the managers and promoters are entertaining these different promoters and stuff? You're telling me that that doesn't come into play when they know that that's this promoter's guy fighting, who fed them dinner and entertained them all week? Are you kidding me? Of course it does. I have been to places, Europe and everywhere, where there are dinners that cost $3,000 to $5,000 with the best of wine, the best of caviar, the best of lobster, and the best steaks, and then sitting right there are the referees and the officials who are going to be doing the fight the next day. And who is the host of the party? Who is picking up the tab? The promoter and it's absurd. It's absurd and that's why I know that it's not just incompetence. Incompetence is bad enough, but I know that it's not just incompetence. I know there is corruption that has shown it's head in these kind of situations," stated ESPN commentator and world-class trainer Teddy Atlas as he talked about the problems with bad decisions, like the one rendered in the Williams-Lara fight, and how that's impacting the sport. In this in-depth exclusive, Atlas speaks passionately about what needs to be done to fix some of the problems like incompetent judging in order to bring boxing back to prominence. Plus, you don't want to miss what he had to say about Alexander Povetkin's upcoming clash with Ruslan Chagaev, as Atlas is unsure of whether or not he'll be training the young undefeated heavyweight for his first world title shot.
PC: How are you doing Teddy?
TA: Not too bad. I'm doing the shows [Friday Night Fights] every week now, and I'm supposed to be training my heavyweight Povetkin to fight for the title against Chagaev on August 27th in Germany, but right now, it's up in the air for me to work with him because they kind of forgot that their commitment was for them to come over here as long as I was still doing my ESPN season, which we have until August 18th. But they seem to have forgot that they are supposed to come over here for training camp if I was doing my ESPN commitment, and if I was clear of my ESPN commitment and it was after the season, then I would go over there to train. For two years I've been training him and helped him get in position for this fight, and done everything I said I would do, and they kinda forgot that they made that commitment and they want me to go over there and train him and I can't just go over there and miss 7 weeks with ESPN. I have a commitment to ESPN obviously; it's what I do. So I reminded them that I gave my word, you gave your word, and we had an agreement that you would come here. Anyway, we will see if that will be worked out or not, but as of now, I will not be going over there to train him, but I feel bad because I did do some work with the kid to help him get into that position. So that's part of the disappointing part of this business sometimes. It's just another one of those things that disappoints me a little bit, but we will see whether or not it gets worked out. Maybe it will get worked out, but I don't know.
PC: You have put a lot of work into this kid and many think you saved him from himself in pulling him out of the fight against Klitschko. You had some issues with his promotional firm.Do you think some of this is influenced by that situation?
TA: Yeah, I pulled him out of that fight and I told him it would lead to something else and this is what I was hoping it led to. I was hoping it would lead to something else, obviously, that made sense and this is what it led to; and it makes sense. I walked away from that fight when I pulled him out of it for all that was on the table, which was a $2 million fight with Klitschko. I didn't think it made sense for him at that time at all, and plus, I didn't think he was going to be treated fairly, to be honest, from an economic standpoint when it came to sell. I'm sure that Sauerland would be pleased to see me not in the picture because I represented a problem for them, as far as looking out for what I thought was the best interest of the fighter, and interfered with what they wanted to do for themselves from a business standpoint. I definitely represented a bit of a problem for them in that way and I'm sure they'd be glad to not see me there. I'm sure they're part of this; part of what's going on a little bit. I don't know, we'll see whether or not it could be worked out. If it can, then I will be there doing what I've been doing, helping him move forward and win a fight, help him win the heavyweight championship of the world, but it's getting closer and closer and there is not that much time.
PC: I hope everything works out with that. I watch you every Friday and you're pretty honest about the quality of fights that they line up. You seemed to be pretty excited about Pawel Wolak and Delvin Rodriguez and that fight did not disappoint. What was it about that fight that led you to kinda stick your neck out there and let the viewers know that this was one they did not want to miss?
TA: Hopefully I know a little something about the business; I guess it starts there. I spent a long time in this business and I try to represent that as fair as I can to the fans every week. To me, I recognized a can't miss fight as far as what it needs to be in terms of being entertaining to the public. First of all, you had a crossroads situation for both guys. I think both guys needed to win this fight. It was at that part of their career where it was as important as it can be as far as where do they go from here or not go from here. They understood the urgency so there was plenty of motive and motivation. I thought that just the walk in style of Wolak would be entertaining, or as I say sometimes, TV friendly. It's good for us and pleasing to the eye of the audience. And I thought that Rodriguez's sharp-shooting style from the outside would give him a chance to poke a few holes in the approach of Wolak. I thought as Wolak came forward, Rodriguez would get an opportunity to sniper him a little bit. And even though Rodriguez was moving up in weight and Wolak would have the advantage as far as physical size, I thought that Rodriguez's experience would sort of balance the boat, so to speak, and even it out a little bit. So I thought all in all, when I looked at it, that it couldn't help but to be a good fight. And I've seen Rodriguez come off of the floor, so I knew he had plenty of intestinal fortitude and plenty of heart and grit. I knew that Wolak had been on the floor and came off the floor, so I knew he had plenty of grit. I just figured we'd get these two guys together and it's going to be good.
PC: It was one of the rare occasions in boxing where a draw was okay. Speaking of judging, I think you get your most animated when we see an unjust decision and the Williams/Lara decision was a fight that got you heated. They took a step in the right direction by suspending the judges, but when are we going to get it all the way right and start reversing decisions?
TA: Yeah, I agree. If you're admitting you got it wrong, and the people that were in that responsible position to make that call got it wrong, then why don't you take it a step further and fix some of the damage that was done to the fighter's career and change the decision. That would tend to make sense. Unfortunately, we don't always do things that makes sense in this sport, but that would tend to make sense and follow suit. When they find something wrong in the other sports, they try to fix the damage that was done or handle it appropriately. When the sanctions are brought on by some of these improprieties in recruiting or whatever they are doing, they remove wins, like they just did to the Ohio State Buckeyes. If you find an impropriety with the way they did in the decision of scoring the fight, then why don't you go and remove that? Do the same thing that they do in the sport that I just mentioned. They removed a win from Ohio State, so remove the win from Mr. Williams and give that win to Lara. That would make sense and I would be all behind that because that would be rectifying it to the next point. That's what needs to get done because it damages these kids' careers and they get back to where they were. It's not like baseball, football, basketball or any other sport where you go come out the next week on a playing field and try to sort things out and get another win. In boxing, you can't do it like that. It doesn't work like that. You drop to the back of the line so to speak, and then to get back to that position in line, you have to take X amount of punches that you already went past and you shouldn't have to take now. You are already in a further place in your career to getting to that impact place, to that important place where you can make money, make a difference in your life, and approach the success that you're looking for, and you get a step closer to that and now you gotta go back. And it's not going back to go through a process again; you go through a process in any other sport, but in boxing, you might have to take another 100 punches, 200 punches or 300 punches. That kind of physical damage and exposure, you should not have to do that. You should not be punished in that way where you have to do that because you have already gotten past those punches and you should be a little bit closer to where you need to get to make the impact in your life that you need to make as far as money and accomplishments.
So that's what bothers me and that's why I'm so passionate about what I say because I know what it's doing to the kids. I know what it's doing to the person, the human being, and the judges have no thought of that. They have no exposure to that; they don't feel it and it really bothers me. The worst that you can say is that it is unethical and there is corruption there, and the best you can say is incompetence. I think that if the best you can say is incompetence, then that's not good if that's the best thing you can be saying. I think it's a combination. I don't think this sport gets protected or policed the way it needs to be and the way the other sports are. If something inappropriate happens in baseball, you got Congress getting involved and the government. Nobody pays attention over here though. Why? Why don't they pay attention over here? Sometimes I ask myself, why? Is it because of the people that are involved in it. I hate to think that, but I want an explanation. Why is nobody caring about it. Also, is it because they are not celebrity type of athletes that are millionaires that you would want to go and ask for their autographs. It's like when Congress wanted to showcase Roger Clemons coming around and everybody is asking for this man's freaking autograph. Because they are not of that stature, it doesn't get on your freaking radar? It's just inappropriate and these are noble young men. They are noble warriors. They are going out there and leaving a piece of themselves in the ring. They are putting themselves at risk and they need to be protected. We need a better policy in place to protect them. There needs to be some kind of policy. We are the only sport that doesn't have a national commission. They have separate commissions around the country, obviously, from state to state, but it's nothing across the board. There is no governing body that's policing and looking out for the sport, and obviously that's part of the problem. We don't have that kind of regulation where you can stop this from happening. You have to have the proper policies and rules in place to stop it from happening, but there is no separation of state and government. What I mean by that is, you make a comparison to any other sport; pick baseball. You're not gonna have an umpiring crew having dinner and having an association with The Steinbrenner's or with the Henry's, the owner of the Red Sox, or any of these other teams. And the same thing in football. You're not going to have the referees and the officiating crew having dinner with the Mara's or the Rooney's, which are the owners of the Giants and Steelers; of course not because there is an impropriety there. You have to have a separation from that, but there is no protection from that in boxing.
PC: I'm sure you have witnessed some strange interactions in your time in the sport.
TA: I can tell you for a fact that the promoters and the associates of the promoters and the agents and the managers have relationships with these different organizations and these judges. They have familiarity at the very least. They have dinner together; they take them out to dinner. There is all kinds of favoring going on and you're going to tell me that doesn't mix into the equation here; that there is a possibility, with those kinds of relationships, that there is not favoritism going on? That there is not favors being bantered out there where the managers and promoters are entertaining these different promoters and stuff? You're telling me that that doesn't come into play when they know that that's this promoter's guy fighting, who fed them dinner and entertained them all week? Are you kidding me? Of course it does. I have been to places, Europe and everywhere, where there are dinners that cost $3,000 to $5,000 with the best of wine, the best of caviar, the best of lobster, and the best steaks, and then sitting right there are the referees and the officials who are going to be doing the fight the next day. And who is the host of the party? Who is picking up the tab? The promoter and it's absurd. It's absurd and that's why I know that it's not just incompetence. Incompetence is bad enough, but I know that it's not just incompetence. I know there is corruption that has shown it's head in these kind of situations.
PC: It definitely sounds like it my man, and that's a powerful statement that you just made. That entire answer was an eye-opener for me and it should be to anyone that follows this sport.
TA: Well, it's the truth and it's an unfortunate truth. It's that old thing where it's that secret that they want to keep a secret I guess; that dirty little secret that nobody wants to talk about, but they better talk about it. They better do something about it and they better quit hiding it and putting our heads in the sand and being ignorant to it, or just completely ignoring it and thinking it's going to go away because it's chasing fans away. It's chasing fans away. The fans don't like to see...obviously they don't want to see one-sided fights. We need good fights like we had last week, and that would be a big step towards bringing boxing back to the healthy place that it needs to be, but these bad decisions and these phony organizations that are corrupt and that rate guys because of a relationship rather than the merit of what the fighter is and what they've done, that chases the fans away. When you see these bad decisions, it chases fans away because they tell me. Every week, I'm in a new city and fans are gracious enough and good enough to come up to me and talk to me and talk about the Friday Night Fights and the state of the game, and they tell me all of the time, these bad decisions make us not wanna watch sometimes. They will tell me, "We love the sport, but they are turning us away from it."
[ Follow Percy Crawford on Twitter @MrLouis1ana ]