Teddy Atlas has been a staple of broadcasting for ESPN boxing for 17 years now and whether you agree with him when he is going on one of his crusades about the sport’s shortcomings or disagree with his sometimes repetitive tirades that slash through ESPN’s broadcast time, you have to admit he is a genuine individual with an admirable passion for boxing.
Personally, I never really enjoyed Atlas as a commentator. I find myself disagreeing with him in the moments when I’m not being comically amused by his antics, even when I agree with his point. He is one of the few guys that can get me vocally frustrated after being reduced to hysterics in a previous segment. It’s a real rollercoaster ride.
It’s his personality I find most unappealing, that and the squeamish attempt to relate to his audience, also the fact that he almost never has any idea who his audience actually is. The overly theatrical ramblings combined with the lack of concern for his on-air counterparts hurt his likeability as well.
Even so, Atlas has always been a champion for the sport while using his position to vocally challenge the most atrocious aspects of boxing. Despite my disapproval for his personality, I have always applauded him for his attempt to shine a light on boxing’s darkest inadequacies.
What’s more impressive is the way Atlas sticks to his guns and never falters on his opinions of fighters, matchups, promoters, and managers. As much as I respect men and women unafraid to task the institution and all of its enablers, I find a greater deal of admiration for those unwilling to break their conscious stance for the sanctity of saving face. And Atlas’ character, as it relates to unrelenting advocacy, is as tried and true as anyone’s in the business. Bottom line, Atlas will stick to his guns, even if he’s wrong, even if he is in the minority, even if it’s a risky play, he will convince himself that his word is true and revered, if not for its flaws than in spite of them.
And yet, he has unwittingly altered the perception of fans that trusted he’d always remain a staunch believer of his own opinions.
In an interview posted on ESNEWS YouTube channel, Atlas publicly stated that he is picking Pacquiao to defeat Mayweather Jr., thus changing the pick he’s always made. More than that, Atlas acknowledged a change in his firm belief that Mayweather has always been the superior fighter.
“It’s not the same fight that it would’ve been 6 years ago, [Mayweather and Pacquiao] aren’t the same guys,” Atlas said in the interview. “Pacquiao is not the same seek and destroy missile that he was 6 years ago. He’s not physically that guy. He’s not mentally that guy anymore. He doesn’t have the power anymore. He’s not even as big as he used to be, you figure that out. I don’t know why, maybe Floyd had a point some years ago, who knows?”
Atlas went on to offer some explanation into why he has changed his opinion on the mega fight, specifically on the things he’s seen from Floyd that make him a Pacquiao believer.
Atlas feels like Floyd has become overly defensive. Mayweather has always been a defensive oriented fighter, and in fact he has become one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport due largely in part to his defense-first approach to the game. But Atlas feels like Floyd is much more defensive now and that it will affect his ability to look good in front of the judges when they see him in against a volume puncher like Manny, who has an innate ability to look busy even when he isn’t doing all that much.
“Floyd’s greatest strength is also his weakness, he goes defensive, sometimes too much. Pacquiao has the hand speed, and the volume punches. When Floyd is maybe defensive a little too long, Pacquiao has the chance to out-hustle him, outwork him, steal rounds, and maybe steal a decision at the end.”
Later in the video, Elie Seckbach asked Atlas about his opinion on Mayweather-Pacquiao, specifically on why he’s changed his mind.
“I was thinking about the way he fought Maidana in his last fight. [Floyd] had options, we all have options and people shouldn’t forget that, and he could’ve fought him where he made him miss and spit back at him, but he didn’t. He used his legs, and I’m not knocking him, but he used his legs, he potshotted, and he grabbed. And he did it all night long.
“That showed me that he’s moved towards that place that I’m talking about, more and more careful. If he’s going to be more defensive minded than ever before, that made me change my mind and say maybe that gives Pacquiao a chance to outwork him.”
Atlas spoke about options and the fact that we all have them. He’s right. And Atlas has every right to change his opinion. He can see something that alters his perception, and if he feels a certain way then he should make it known, we wouldn’t expect anything less.
Furthermore, regardless of how I or anyone else feels about Teddy as a professional analyst, there is no question that he knows boxing. For me to question his abilities on the mic has nothing to do with my confidence in his boxing IQ, and I know I will never understand the intricacies of the sport half as well as he does.
However, the one aspect he should be most revered for has become unwound, so to speak. Atlas leaves himself vulnerable to criticisms every Friday, but now he has given fans yet another reason to resent his commentary.
A bandwagon jumper is just about the dirtiest thing you can be as a sports fan. I don’t consider Atlas a boxing fan even if he is a fan of boxing, but I consider him a little less after this leap. The ironic part is I found his analysis to be eloquently articulated and subtly charming. More than that, I agree with it. It is funny because now that I finally agree with Teddy I simultaneously call into question his integrity on the subject, a complete reverse from my typical feelings on the great boxing aficionado.