by Teddy Atlas

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"Of all the people who have affected by my life and influence the choices I've made, none has been more important than my father."

So begins the autobiography of legendary boxing trainer and commentator Teddy Atlas, who grew from the rebellious son of a doctor to a man who embraces, and lives by, his father's values and code.



"Of all the people who have affected by my life and influence the choices I've made, none has been more important than my father."

So begins the autobiography of legendary boxing trainer and commentator Teddy Atlas, who grew from the rebellious son of a doctor to a man who embraces, and lives by, his father's values and code.

In this gritty, spellbinding tale, Atlas recounts his fascinating life -- as a juvenile delinquent on the streets of Staten Island; as a boxer and Golden Gloves champion under the tutelage of famed trainer Cus D'Amato; as a companion to the dangerous, unpredictable Sammy "the Bull" Gravano, up until the day Gravano turned rat and brought down crime boss John Gotti; and as a trainer of champions and contenders, among them fourteen-year-old Mike Tyson and heavyweight Michael Moorer, whom he led to the crown with a win over Evander Holyfield.

Equally engrossing are Teddy Atlas's accounts of training dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp for her successful comeback at age forty-two; his work with actor Willem Dafoe, preparing him for his role as a concentration camp boxer in the film Triumph of the Spirit; his journey to Poland to choreograph the film's boxing scenes; and his own performance in movies such as Play It to the Bone. In sharing his stories, Atlas reveals the philosophy by which he lives.

Like Teddy Atlas -- inimitable, tough, honest, and wise -- this book inspires. It is about so much more than boxing. It is a story of overcoming hardships, of compassion for those in need, of tremendous personal integrity, and of personal and professional triumph.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Boxing trainer and ESPN commentator Atlas ruminates on fighting as a form of masculine psychotherapy, from his own youthful street brawling to his stints training a young Mike Tyson and heavyweight champ Michael Moorer. His theme is the male psyche's craving for paternal approval, evinced in his juvenile acting out against an emotionally distant dad and his ringside relationships with a succession of surrogate sons. With them, Atlas's mentoring toggles between fatherly tenderness ("I care about you. You're important to me") and tough-love harangues ("hit him in the fuckin' balls and become a fighter or you get on the next train and you get the fuck out of my life!"). He also becomes a spiritual guide to celebrity clients like Twyla Tharp, whom he lectures on the need to face one's fears, and Willem Dafoe, with whom he discusses the nature of truth. Atlas's exhaustively transcribed motivational sermons can be wearisome, and in his self-serving accounts of boxing industry intrigues he is always loyal and principled. But he and amanuensis Alson tell his story with plenty of atmospherics, Runyonesque characters and an illuminating focus on the boxer's internal battle. Photos. (May 9) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Boxing commentator and former trainer Atlas describes a youth spent looking for love and recognition in all the wrong places, until he found it inside the ropes. In his heyday, the author was known in boxing circles as a trainer's trainer who gave his charges the hand skills and, more importantly, the head skills they needed to be champions. He came by those skills the hard way. As a boy, starved for his parents' attention, Atlas took the low road: dropping out of high school, street-fighting, taking to petty crime. He did a short stint in prison. Then he caught a break. Released from jail, awaiting trial, he got a job working at Cus D'Amato's legendary Catskills training camp. Prison had taught Atlas about fear; everyone feels it, and it can be harnessed as a positive asset, he writes. Boxing camp taught him about discipline. Not that he didn't occasionally slip back into his bad behavior, which provides much color here-after all, this is a book about confronting your weaknesses. In a voice shorn of pretense, both edgy and polished, Atlas describes trying to instill his brand of integrity in his fighters, a bunch of young men who had their share of emotional problems. He had to teach them to honor themselves, in particular not to cave during rough moments in or out of the ring. If they did, he told them, they would hurt more the next day than they ever would from immediately confronting the problem at hand. This demanding ethos cost Atlas more than one fighter and some significant paydays, but he also won world championships and a sterling reputation. He may soon be even better known as a talented boxing anecdotist. A work of cumulative, powerful impact: This author doesn't allow anyone,readers included, to evade life's tough questions.

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From the Streets to the Ring: A Son's Struggle to Become a Man
By Teddy Atlas

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Teddy Atlas
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060542403

Chapter One

Not All Bruises Are
Black and Blue

Of all the people who have affected my life, and influenced the choices I've made, none has been more important than my father.

Dr. Theodore Atlas, Sr., was legendary around Staten Island. A Hungarian Jew, originally from the Bronx, he was the kind of doctor that doesn't exist anymore. He wore a bow tie and a rumpled old raincoat and he drove an old wreck of a car to go on his house calls. He traveled all over the island, taking care of people, no matter what time of the day or night. If his patients couldn't afford to pay, he didn't charge them, and when he did charge them, the most it would be was about five dollars. Sometimes they paid him with pies or cookies. In the 1970s, when I was a teenager, my mother started calling him Columbo, after the character in the TV show, because of the way he dressed and because he always seemed distracted and preoccupied.

Besides his medical practice, my father somehow found time to found and build two hospitals, Sunnyside and Doctor's Hospital. He also built over a hundred houses on Staten Island, including the two we lived in -- a small one-family home, and, later, a largerColonial that he built across the street -- plus some Winn-Dixies and condos down South. Think of it: here was a doctor who owned a crane and bulldozer, and on Sundays, to relax after spending an eighty-hour week practicing medicine and taking care of people, he bulldozed the empty lots on the hill where we lived so he could build houses. He even built the sewer system for the whole neighborhood.

Because my father poured all of his time and energy and feeling into his work, my mother and I and my four younger siblings, Tommy, Meri, Todd, and Terryl, often felt shortchanged -- if not consciously at least in our hearts. Maybe it was easier for him to express emotions toward his patients than his family. I don't know. Even today, I run into people who were patients of his, and they all talk about how compassionate he was with them. But at home it was hard for him to show anything. He considered emotions a sign of weakness. I remember one time we were in the car and he made fun of us kids for crying over something. He started going "Wahhhh!" in this loud, mocking way. After that I never cried again, even many years later at his funeral.

Of all the kids, I was always his favorite, which made for an odd kind of tension in the house. In some ways it was like we were two families. One family was my mother, Tommy, Terryl, Todd, and Meri. The other family was my father and me. It wasn't as if I didn't have to work hard for his attention. I did. I showed an interest in science because he liked science. I'd get him to take me out on house calls with him, because that way I could be with him and spend time with him. You have to understand, this was a man who left the house every day at six-thirty or seven a.m. and came home at ten-thirty or eleven p.m. Any time that I got with him was time that I had to steal. He never asked me to go with him. I just went. Occasionally, he would get a call in the middle of the night, and I would hear the phone and wake up. By the time he was coming out of his room and down the stairs, I was sitting there, ready to go. He would tell me to go back to my room, but sometimes he would give in and let me go with him. I remember going with him on New Year's Eve once, around 1964 or '65, for a maternity case. I must have fallen asleep in the doctor's waiting room. At midnight, one of the nurses woke me up. They were all pouring soda and champagne, saying, "Your father just delivered the first baby of the New Year." Half-asleep, I joined the celebration, knowing that it was a special thing to be there, even if my father's full attention wasn't focused on me.

My mother, Mary, suffered from my father's inattention more than any of us. She was Irish and very beautiful. She'd been Miss Staten Island in 1940. Part of the prize that went along with the honor was a screen test in Hollywood. But her mother, my grandmother Helen Riley (called Gaga -- the nickname I'd given her when I was young), had refused to let her go. "That's for tramps," she said. Who knows what direction my mother's life would have taken if she had gone? I'm sure she thought about that over the years. My mother was the complete opposite of my father: very social, talkative, outgoing, used to getting attention, and with a fondness for nice things. My father, meanwhile, was driving around in jalopies and wearing shoes until there were holes in them, caught up in his own world, and his very different concerns.

When my brother Todd died at the age of five, it pushed us all further apart. With some families it might have helped draw them closer; not with ours. Todd had been born retarded and with an enlarged heart, and my father, who read all the medical journals and was always up on all the latest procedures, felt that open-heart surgery, which was relatively new at the time, could help him. It was the kind of thing where if nothing was done, Todd would die by the time he was sixteen. So my father made the decision that he should have the operation, and he was there in the operating room watching when Todd died on the table.


Excerpted from Atlas by Teddy Atlas Copyright © 2006 by Teddy Atlas. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Teddy Atlas works as a color analyst on ESPN's Friday Night Fights and was boxing commentator for NBC's coverage of the Olympic games in Sydney (2000) and Athens (2004). He is also founder and chairman of the Dr. Theodore A. Atlas Foundation, named for his father, which has raised and donated more than one million dollars to individuals and organizations in need.

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