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ESPN Removes Teddy Atlas From Live Fights for Good

You may have noticed something different about ESPN’s telecast last Saturday, December 9, 2017 when pound-for-pound fighters Vasiliy Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux squared off at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.

A few days before the fight took place, ESPN announced that Teddy Atlas, the outspoken boxing analyst and legendary trainer, would not be joining Joe Tessitore and new addition Mark Kriegel ringside.

At the time the original statement was made, it didn’t seem like a long-term decision had not been made regarding Atlas’ inclusion on the ESPN telecasts.

Mikey Williams/Top Rank

“Teddy’s expertise and knowledge of boxing is unparalleled and he will continue to be part of our boxing coverage,” said Stephanie Druley, an ESPN senior vice president (per Boxing Scene). “As we embark upon a new approach with our boxing coverage, we are also going to utilize different talent lineups.”

But now, according to Lance Pugmire of the LA Times, Atlas–who has three years remaining on his ESPN contract–has confirmed that he will no longer be calling fights for the network.

“Doesn’t look like it, at least from what I understand is the decision,” said Atlas. “It wasn’t my decision.”

According to two people close to the situation, but who are unauthorized to speak publicly on the matter, Atlas was removed primarily based on two recent Top Rank on ESPN shows.

One of those shows was a card headlined by Jose Ramirez in Fresno, which was also Kriegel’s debut on ESPN.

Atlas was tough on Kriegel, and at one point during an undercard bout, he even told Kriegel that they shouldn’t talk for a while.

“They gave [Atlas] a bunch of chances,” said one official. “The Fresno show was terrible. He was terrible to Kriegel and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

For boxing spectators who have been guided by Atlas’ commentary and pre-fight breakdowns for so many years, it’s been educational and comical to hear him “put the lime in the coconut.”

In all seriousness, Atlas has been a steady dose of truth and a reason to gather around the water cooler and talk boxing after ESPN shows. In the Twitter age, you’d even have people specifically ask what they missed from Teddy as opposed to how the fights were going.

You’d be hard pressed to agree with every single thing that Teddy Atlas ever said, or all of his pound-for-pound lists, but that’s the point, you need a guy that isn’t afraid to speak up and speak out–even if he reminds you of your crazy uncle a bit.

He’s earned the right to talk shit and to his credit, Atlas never backed down from calling it like he saw it–especially in terms of corruption in the sport.

So while Mark Kriegel has been ushered in to help us understand the thematical similarities between A Catcher in the Rye and Canelo Alvarez, Teddy Atlas will be watching the fights at home.

“I can’t really talk about it [more] because I’m under contract,” said Atlas. “I always try to be up-front and honest. I’m not able to speak about it. I don’t mean to be vague or be to the point, because that’s what I like to be and always try to be, whether people like it or not.”

Here’s to hoping that Teddy Atlas still gives fans an honest bit of what’s on his mind on ESPN’s fight nights–even if it’s from his living room, arguing with Stephen A. Smith.

 

Header photo by Marilyn Paulino/RBRBoxing

 

Alejandro "Alex" Burgos is a former Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Round By Round Boxing. He is a professional blogger, SEO Consultant and Marketing Director at Capital Practice Consulting in Washington, DC.