“It must be done now,” Teddy Atlas warns passionately from his home in New York City, explaining the potentially devastating impact of corruption that boxing still faces today.
“As fans are leaving the sport in droves and the credibility of it is being lost to a degree where it is in danger of becoming a fringe cult-like sport.”
From blatant dives and shadily fixed fights to inexcusable decisions, along with the dubious dealings that have gone on behind closed doors, no sport has unwittingly gathered more widespread scandal and public outrage than boxing.
Wild West of Boxing
The name Wyatt Earp may be more famously connected to Wild West gunfights as an American frontier lawman back in the 1800’s, but he holds surprising ties to trading punches as well as pistol fire.
In 1896, the legendary gunslinger was the referee for a heavyweight showdown between Bob Fitzsimmons and Tom Sharkey, despite the latter fighter rumoured to have taken the lawman on his payroll.
Suspicions were soon confirmed when Fitzsimmons floored Sharkey, but Earp ruled the decisive shot to be an illegal blow, seeing ‘Sailor Tom’ awarded a highly controversial victory by disqualification.
It was a result that hung over Earp until his passing in 1929 and ultimately overshadowed any of his other eventual gun-fighting exploits later in life.
Fast forward over a century and boxing still can’t shake the corruption concerns that has lingered over it since its so-called heyday and Golden Age in the early 1900’s. Whether it was 1896 or 2023, the underlining narrative has long been that boxing is crooked regardless.
Time For Change
At certain points in history, the sport has been tainted by criminals who dictated proceedings and used their power to leverage it to their own financial gain. Frankie Carbo. Frank ‘Blinky’ Palermo. Even ‘The Kray Twins’. All have been linked to the ring.
But, while times have changed and the sharp suited mobsters have faded into the past, boxing remains rife with powerful figures spearheading the sport from behind more modern means of deceit.
We love boxing. That’s why we tune in for fights hoping our passion is repaid in the skill and entertainment we crave as fans.
But there are frequently frustrating moments that sadly chips away at its integrity and forces those who are watching or involved to lose confidence in it.
This includes Hall of Fame trainer, broadcaster and analyst, Teddy Atlas, who has refreshingly continued to openly call out the all-too-regular incidents of either dishonesty or incompetence at boxing’s highest level.
Teddy Atlas Rallies For Revamp
Having been involved with boxing his whole life, Atlas has witnessed many moments of corruption first hand in the ring as a trainer and outside of it at ringside as a broadcaster or analyst.
The Hall of Famer, who learned his trade under the tutelage of famed trainer Cus D’Amato and has coached the likes of Mike Tyson and Michael Moorer in his own career, has outlined his hopes for changes in the system.
“Open scoring would help. No other sport are the scores not divulged in live time for full transparency,” stated Atlas, regarding how judges should be selected and the current scoring system in boxing.
“Judge the judges, have an oversight committee that examines questionable decisions and brings the judges in front of them in a hearing to explain their actions.
“And hold them accountable where, if there’s a questionable decision, they’re put on suspension while it’s investigated, and if there’s another complaint when they come back, they are removed from work for a year while attending training seminars.
“Develop a ratings system to rate the judges by their performances. No more of the old guard being automatically granted all the prime assignments. The better your rating, the bigger fights you are chosen to work. The lower your rating the smaller fights and less activity while you attend classes to improve your rating.
“Establish a clear criterium for scoring. Recruit and develop new judges and referees and rotate them instead of having same ones all the time for the bigger fights. And move them from their same geographic locals.
“Familiarity breeds contempt and cosy relationships with promoters who do fights in one area. For example, Vegas judges fly them to the East coast to do shows instead of in their home State. And vice versa.”
Atlas Starts Petition For Boxing Reform
After seeing more and more incidents of corruption within the sport, Atlas made the decision to start a petition for a boxing reform in the hopes of making a decisive impact on the sport he’s so passionate about.
“Form a Federal National Commission like all the other major sports,” he continued, explaining what needs to be done to govern the sport and help fighters financially.
“Bring in an independent outside company to do ratings. Eliminate the ‘Alphabet’ organisations, who have and continue to grow rich from the lucrative sanctioning fees they intact from the fighters for their frivolous ‘belts’.
“Have an appointed 'Czar’ with no affiliation to the sport. Create in the same way a non-biased oversight committee to create uniformed, unilateral rules for medical standards.
“Place a 2% tax on all the bigger promotions and that money goes into a pool to form a fighters’ pension. The metrics for the distribution of it would be determined by a panel, based on amount of fights, years as a pro and purses.
“Merchandising with hats, shirts and other apparel will be created and marketed under the auspices of the National Commission. Monies from the promotion and merchandise would also be used to create proper health care for the fighters.”
Boxing has never been fully able to escape the dark cloud that’s hovered suspiciously over it for decades.
But, despite the unstable climate that often threatens to damage the sport to an unrepairable degree, it still looks capable of weathering the storm and shining brightest on the other side with the help of some changing conditions.