Teddy Atlas, veteran trainer of the likes of a pre-stardom Mike Tyson and a post-Witness Protection Program Sammy “the Bull” Gravano, dubbed the sport he’s dedicated his life to as “corrupt” and a “sham” after an inexplicable decision on a special-edition Thursday Night Fights on ESPN.
The spirited response, even by Teddy Atlas standards, came in reaction to the take of the judges in the Oscar Escandon-Tyson Cave super-bantamweight bout. The Canadian appeared to outclass a game but flatfooted Colombian tough guy in Escandon, who stalked Cave around the ring only to get perpetually popped for his efforts.
Atlas scored the fight, a title eliminator presenting a big payday for the winner, ten rounds to two for the quick and flashy Canadian. The ESPN audience scored a Cave shutout. Breitbart Sports scored it nine rounds to three. So did one of the judges–for Escandon. Raul Caiz Jr.’s 117-111 scorecard joins Eugenia Williams’s 115-113 nod to Evander Holyfield in his draw with Lennox Lewis as among the more puzzling in recent boxing history. The two remaining judges split, awarding each fighter a 115-113 win to push Escandon to 24-1 and hand Cave his third defeat in 27 fights.
The famous trainer, who once put a gun to a teenage Mike Tyson’s head and dramatically stole the stool from Michael Moorer as a successful motivational ploy midway through his title fight with Evander Holyfield, exploded, in time-bomb fashion, in an emotional outburst beyond the likes of which he has gained a reputation for.
The ESPN analyst’s voice steadily rising into a frenzy, Atlas called the sport he has been involved in for more than four decades “corrupt.” He loudly denounced the decision as “garbage” and a “trash.” He pleaded with politicians to intervene to save the sport from itself and confessed that he would quickly do something else with his life if he knew anything besides boxing. He spoke of the insult from judges who have never laced up gloves to fighters who give all to have so much taken by crookedness. More expressive than his words were their tone and the speaker’s body language, which appeared at once blisteringly angry and on the verge of an emotional breakdown.
Even after several commercial breaks, Atlas remained fixated on the injustice. “They knew the truth of the punches,” the ringside commentator said of Escandon’s corner desperately imploring him to take his opponent out, “not the lie of human beings–the lie of judges.”
The evening presented noteworthy action in the boxing ring atop the action in the broadcast booth.
Antonio Tarver, who wants to fight the heavyweight champion of the world, got to fight his trainer instead on Thursday night. Rocky VI’s “Mason Dixon” scored a seventh-round TKO over a fourteen-years-his-junior Jonathon Banks. Tarver appeared ahead on the scorecards as much from Banks’s listlessness as his own activity. Though devoid of much footwork, the plodding Tarver exhibited veteran craftiness and the power that once knocked Roy Jones into next week. Seconds after knocking Wladimir Klitschko’s cornerman down, Tarver coaxed referee intervention by pinning his opponent against the ropes on the verge of dropping him to the mat again.
The fast-talking, 46-years-young Tarver made his case to ESPN for a title fight. “Bottom line, man: I’m a star,” he maintained. “I’m a knockout artist.”
Austin Trout improved to 28-2 after Louis Grejada’s corner refused to allow him to answer the eighth round’s bell. The former junior-middleweight titlist had scored an early knockdown and punished Grejada with body punches that slowed him down considerably. The New Mexican improved to 28-2.
But the cloud from the undercard hung over the two featured fights of the ESPN special broadcast. A dejected yet passionate Teddy Atlas concluded: “I’m sick of it.”
Tyson Cave is too.