30.06.06 – An unsolicited Book Review by Ted Sares: “From the Streets to the Ring: A Son’s Struggle to Become a Man,” Harper Collins, 2006, By Teddy Atlas, Peter Alson. The best way to start this review is to recite those lyrics from a famous Sinatra tune, “………I’ll do it my way………,” and that’s what this book is really about. Teddy Atlas doing it his way, even when it meant emotionally draining confrontations and walking away from big paydays..
Though almost borderline “feel good” in certain chapters, I found this book to be an excellent and, at times, even riveting read that makes you anxious to watch Teddy analyze his next fight because now you have a much better foundation for understanding his complex persona. The book reveals more about the fiber and makeup of the author than it does about the activity in which he made his living for thirty years. The exception was when he discussed his complex relationship with Michael Moorer where both his compassion and his well documented stubbornness revealed itself, as well as his great technical grasp of boxing. While Teddy was being honest with himself when he walked away from Moorer after the Vaughn Bean fight, he also walked away from a hugh payday, one that might have “taken him over the top.” But more to the point, it would have taken his family over the top and it at least plants a seed of doubt as to the wisdom Teddy’s priorities.
While I could have done without the chapter devoted to Sammy “The Bull” Gravano (whose place in infamy is cemented), the chapters that deal with his relationship with Cus D’Amato in the Catskill and his interactions with a young Mike Tyson are particularly interesting…………..and to his credit, the authors avoid vilifying or demonizing Tyson the way some might have expected. The impression, and a correct one, is that this book is not about Tyson; it’s about Teddy Atlas’ “struggle” to become a man…………but herein lies the rub. Teddy’s rough early life on the streets was his doing and he has to be accountable for it. If helping young people find a better direction in their lives though boxing is an outgrowth of that early life, then he has indeed resolved that accountability.
The author Is a pretty unforgiving, albeit emotional, chap and I sometimes wondered, as I read through the chapters, whether he really understood that life sometimes involves compromise and that sometimes winning the war means losing a few battles. On the other hand, who can argue with his successes and, as much of the narrative discloses, he achieved much personal gratification from wanting and meeting the challenge of getting somebody to become the best they can become or overcoming themselves to get to a spot where they can be effective. Indeed, describing his relationship with the Shamrock Express, Chris Reid, is nothing short of poignant.
It’s clear that Teddy has left a bridge for the next chapters in his life……..and the hints as to where he might go next are intriguing to say the least, though it’s also clear that he has fallen in love with being a color analyst and as he says, ” I’ll stand behind the microphone right now, where nobody can talk back, at least not too much!”
In sum, Teddy Atlas comes off in this book as a person who is very aggressive and opinionated, but also very honest and with great personal integrity. Whatever he says, he does not sugarcoat it and, above all, the fact he is acting in the best interests of both his fighters and boxing itself is manifest. More importantly, the book makes it crystal clear that he did it his way. Bottom line, the book is well worth the price.
Ted Sares is a boxing historian and a syndicated writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org