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Legendary trainer Teddy Atlas: Make boxing like the UFC if you want the best fights to happen

Outspoken boxing trainer and commentator Teddy Atlas had an interesting idea for how boxing could make the best fighters actually fight each other.

Boxing: Pacquiao vs Bradley-Press Conference Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Teddy Atlas is well known as both a highly successful boxing trainer and longtime analyst for ESPN, but he’s also a brutally honest critic of his own sport. If there’s corrupt judging afoot, he might blow a gasket on live TV.

Atlas is also more than fed up with the ugly politics and corruption within boxing that has often led to major fights either not happening at all, or in the case of Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao, several years overdue. What is Teddy’s solution? As he said on his podcast, boxing needs to look at the UFC.

“You want [boxing] to change? I’ll tell you how it changes — make boxing the UFC,” Atlas said. “Get Dana White — it’s not happening, but... he’s a dictator. You know what? Dictators usually are not good. But sometimes in some places they can be useful. With the UFC and the building of that product, the development, the building, the growing of that franchise — and boy did it grow — was because they had a dictator. Because the dictator could make all the rules.

“As I just pointed out, there were no separate power brokers in different areas that had their piece of property and their piece of property and we fight on our network, we fight on our network, and we do what we want to do. There was one place, one guy, laying the rules out. You fight him, or you’re out. You fight him, or you’re out. And you know what? That’s why he grew that sport. And that’s why he grew that product. Because he could demand competitive fights.”

“That’s what you’re asking for,” Atlas concluded. “You’re just asking for the best fights. That’s what the fans want. I’m just pointing out [that] he could do it because he was a dictator. And that’s it.”

The odds of boxing restructuring itself to be more like the UFC are slim and none, as much as the eradicating of horrendous sanctioning bodies and “network rivals” (among other things) would be appreciated. Right now, the market is red-hot with many fighters making obscene money without even needing pay-per-view, which comes from the fact that boxing doesn’t have a single promoter dominating the market like we see in MMA. However, it has to be acknowledge that what’s best financially for boxers doesn’t mean it aligns with the interest of the fans.

Oh yes, and while the UFC’s structure makes it so competitive matchmaking and champs fighting top contenders is high priority, I can’t imagine boxers would be too keen on conceding so much control over their careers. Middleweight veteran Tureano Johnson certainly didn’t agree with Teddy’s sentiments.

On another note, Atlas is on his way into the International Boxing Hall of Fame this year.