Teddy Atlas: Mike Tyson, Cus D'Amato, Boxing, Loyalty, Fear & Greatness | Lex Fridman Podcast #406

Teddy Atlas: Mike Tyson, Cus D'Amato, Boxing, Loyalty, Fear & Greatness | Lex Fridman Podcast #406

Introduction (00:00:00)

  • Teddy Atlas emphasizes that a fighter must be ready to endure, persevere, and push beyond comfort to pass tests in training.
  • Teddy Atlas, a renowned boxing trainer and commentator, had conversations about boxing with Lex Fridman, including discussions about techniques, tactics, and famous fighters.
  • The conversation goes beyond boxing, delving into the human stories involving Teddy Atlas, his mentor Cus D'Amato, and boxer Mike Tyson, touching on themes such as loyalty, betrayal, fear, and greatness.
  • Atlas's narrative includes his early days training with Cus D'Amato and the incident with Mike Tyson's inappropriate behavior with Atlas's niece, which led to a serious confrontation and Atlas's subsequent dismissal by D'Amato.
  • Lex Fridman summarizes the complexities of the relationships and events that transpired, which are laden with contradictions of love and anger.
  • The podcast aims to explore the intricacies of human nature and the importance of trust and forgiveness in human relationships.
  • Fridman offers appreciation for his audience and encouragement to support the podcast through sponsored links.

Lessons from father (00:03:25)

  • Teddy Atlas learned from his father through osmosis, observing rather than through direct teachings.
  • His father was a doctor who built two hospitals and made house calls until he was 80, charging only $3.
  • He was known for helping those in need, especially people who couldn’t afford care and the homeless.
  • During the holidays, his father would bring homeless people to the hospital to keep them from being alone and for their safety, preventing potential self-harm due to holiday depression.
  • Teddy viewed his father as his first hero, even though the concept of a hero was not something he connected to his father as a child.
  • The most profound act of love Teddy remembers from his father was a kiss on the forehead at an airport when he was a child.
  • Passing of his father made him realize the unrealistic bargains he used to make with God as a child, such as wishing to die before his father.
  • Teddy misses his father in moments of uncertainty when he needs guidance.
  • His father was a man of thought, who loved science, wars, and read voraciously, enabling Teddy to cheat on a school report about the war of Stalingrad.
  • On car rides, his father would go into deep thought, which he described as envisioning "what could be."

Scar story (00:13:31)

  • The speaker described his past as a violent, angry kid who didn't understand his own anger, similar to many kids today.
  • He came from a seemingly well-off family with a doctor as a father but felt deprived of his father's attention.
  • His behavior escalated to dangerous levels, including street fights and robberies.
  • He developed a belief that being hurt would help him connect with his father, who mainly associated with "fractured" individuals.
  • He was involved in a serious street fight where he was stabbed with a knife he recognized ("007") from his neighborhood.
  • Choosing not to run, for fear of living with the memory of cowardice, he engaged and was cut fatally close to his jugular vein and eye.
  • In the ambulance, he insisted they contact his father, who eventually showed up at the hospital.
  • His father's only comment on seeing him was to note the quality of the stitching, indicating he would have a scar for life.

Additional Key Points

  • The speaker realized you only know who people truly are when they're tested; he learned this from his mentor Cus D'Amato.
  • His best friend Billy, who was with him during the fight, initially fled but later helped him by calling for an ambulance.
  • In the ambulance, despite the urgency, the speaker remained calm and confident because of his faith in his father's medical skills.
  • The speaker reflected on the freedom from fear that he experienced when he was close to death.
  • He received around 400 stitches and was lucky to have narrowly avoided more severe injuries.

Cus D'Amato (00:34:09)

  • Legendary boxing trainer Cus D'Amato testified in court on behalf of Teddy Atlas, emphasizing Atlas's character, loyalty, and potential to help others.
  • D'Amato trained two world champions and helped many young men build character.
  • From D'Amato, Atlas learned that actions reveal true intentions regardless of words, and that fear is common and necessary for survival.
  • According to D'Amato, those who claim not to feel fear are either lying or need a doctor.
  • Atlas also discussed the societal tendency to avoid labeling fear, using other terms to describe it.
  • Fear can cause and solve problems, playing a crucial role in the pursuit of greatness by allowing bravery.

Life Lessons and Loyalty [Merged from multiple sections]

  • Teddy Atlas values the word selfishness and believes overcoming it can lead to greatness.
  • Fear of regret drives people, but Atlas encourages not yielding to that fear.
  • He learned from various experiences that submitting less often leads to better outcomes.
  • The concept of convenience was highlighted as a common reason for disappointment and failure to commit.
  • Loyalty is considered paramount, running through humanity like blood through veins; without it, people are like ghost ships—empty and without humanity.
  • Atlas acknowledges the difficulty and pain involved in remaining loyal, but insists that it gives strength and essence to life.

Fear, Greatness, and Regret [Merged from multiple sections]

  • Teddy Atlas suggests that fear is connected to greatness because it necessitates bravery.
  • He associates being less selfish with aspiring to be great.
  • Atlas believes that by not giving in to the things we fear, such as rejection or failure, we come closer to achieving our potential.
  • He emphasizes the importance of facing fear and recognizes the long-lasting pain regret can cause, which he refers to as a "solitary sentence."

Mike Tyson (00:44:21)

  • Teddy Atlas was involved in training Mike Tyson under the tutelage of Cus D'Amato.
  • Atlas felt betrayed by Tyson and D'Amato, comparing the betrayal to an earlier personal experience with disloyalty.
  • D'Amato had retired but saw potential in Atlas, eventually convincing him to stop pursuing a boxing career himself and instead to train other fighters.
  • D'Amato believed in the transformative power of boxing and its ability to make better people and champions.
  • The Catskill Boxing Club was revitalized by Atlas, who brought in and trained numerous young fighters.
  • Tyson was introduced to D'Amato and Atlas while in a correctional facility, showing raw talent and a willingness to display the characteristics the trainers were looking for.
  • Atlas noted Tyson's potential but also his need to learn discipline and technique.
  • The relationship between Atlas, D'Amato, and Tyson eventually fractured, leading to Atlas's departure.

The Betrayal and Loyalty [Continuation from 2661.0]

  • Mike Tyson acted inappropriately with a young girl, and Atlas responded by pulling a gun on him.
  • D'Amato chose to side with Tyson, leading to the end of Atlas's partnership with both.
  • Atlas noted that D'Amato, who once valued loyalty, was influenced by his desire to secure his legacy as a legendary trainer by harnessing Tyson's potential as a great fighter.

Mike Tyson's Greatness [Continuation from prior sections]

  • While acknowledging Tyson's exceptional talent, Atlas questioned whether Tyson was ever "truly" great, citing his failures to overcome adversity in key fights.
  • Atlas pointed to fights where Tyson was unable to surpass his own limitations as evidence of his unfulfilled potential for greatness.
  • Despite their complex history, Atlas recognized Tyson as a significant figure whose impact extended beyond boxing.

The summary captures key points discussed by Teddy Atlas, including his views on loyalty, betrayal, and what constitutes greatness in a fighter, with a focus on his relationship with Mike Tyson and Cus D'Amato.

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