The full Teddy Atlas - Donny Lalonde "Murder" story

Donny Lalonde responds to Atlas

by Dave Spencer, FightNews Canada

Fightnews recent interview with ESPN commentator and trainer Teddy Atlas has
drawn quite the reaction from fight fans all across North America. In the
exclusive interview, Atlas touched on having to go to Winnipeg and broadcast
a fight of Donny Lalonde in 2003, a former world champion on the comeback
trail at the time, and somebody Atlas had trained years previous. It is
revealed in his book, "Atlas: From the Streets to the Ring: A Son's struggle
to Become a Man," that Atlas came very close to murdering the 'Golden Boy'
from Winnipeg in his New York City apartment, many years previous to their
reunion in Winnipeg. In the book, Atlas describes getting a gun and going
into the city, ready to get the job done. Getting buzzed into the building
by another tenant and knocking on Lalonde's door. "If he had opened the
door, he was dead," Atlas writes, "I would have pulled the trigger, turned
around, and walked away."

Teddy waited through the night, waited for Lalonde to return, phoning the
apartment periodically. When he finally got through, Lalonde's girlfriend
picked up. Atlas asked if Donny was there, and when the answer came back
yes, he hung up and started making his way over to the apartment, still
intent to finish the job he came to do. Somewhere during that walk, Atlas
changed his mind, for whatever reason, he decided not to go down the path
that would take Lalonde's life and forever alter his own, likely ruining it.
Lalonde who had let Atlas go as a trainer, had no idea how close he actually
was to dieing, had no idea that had he not been out that evening, he would
have likely been dead. He found out two weeks ago.

"The first I heard of this was about two weeks ago from a friend and former
fighter Danny Vandal, the former mayor of Winnipeg," Lalonde tells Fightnews
from his beachfront home in Costa Rica. "It actually didn't even surprise me
when I heard it. Teddy got into fights with trainers and fighters quite a
bit when I was with him. He may not be the most stable person walking

Lalonde wanted to set the record straight, "I feel compelled to communicate
with the boxing community the accurate truth of his inaccurate comments,"
the 41-5-1 fighter told us, adding that he has no recollection of the
particular evening in question, "I don't remember any of it. Maybe he said
it to sell his book, maybe he did that. I hope not for his sake. Sounds
pretty demented to me. I feel sorry for him.

"Teddy always prided himself on being such a man of morals and values. Can
you imagine being that disturbed by being fired? Sounds like he needs some
therapy to me." At the heart of the matter was Atlas being let go by
Lalonde. The money aspect of walking away from Mike Tyson was never
important according to Atlas, but the potential money he lost out by the
Lalonde split had him seething well past the first WBC super-middleweight
championship fight ever with Sugar Ray Leonard in 1988 and well past the
time Atlas had a heavyweight world champion in Michael Moorer in 1994.

"I understand that Teddy suggests that he trained me for two years, was
instrumental in my success, and that he was fired just short of him
benefiting by being involved in the financial success of my career. Had he
still been my trainer when I fought Ray Leonard, he would have earned
$600,000 and he refers to that in the book.

"In case Teddy doesn't realize he actually only trained me for one year of a
23 year professional career. Look at my record; it was one year and one
month exactly. Teddy Atlas was my trainer for 8 fights of my 47 fight

Lalonde who refers to Atlas as a "certifiable nutcase" points out that his
former trainer even gets the apartment wrong that he painstakingly describes
in great detail, talking of walking through the rain to 50 Barrow Street. "I
bought a condo on Bleeker and Broadway in June of '87," said Lalonde, "I
lived there at the time. He thinks he was at Dave's (manager Dave Wolf) old
apartment that I lived in when Teddy trained me."

Also disputed by Lalonde is him asking Atlas to manage him and being refused
and told instead that Dave Wolf would be the best fit. Lalonde describes his
quest for a manager that eventually would lead him to Wolf and subsequently
Atlas as trainer.

"As I did in looking for the best help in the gym by seeking out Marvin
Johnson for the toughest sparring I could find, my next step was finding the
best manager in the game. I called Mike Trainer who managed both Ray Leonard
and Shawn O'Sullivan the Canadian that won a gold medal in the previous
Olympics. My other hope for a manager was David Wolf who managed Ray "Boom
Boom" Mancini as well as others. At the time they were the most successful
mangers in the game and both were respected as the two best. As a matter of
logistics I ended up visiting Mike Trainer first in Maryland at his office.
Mike was very kind but he was unable to help me he said because he had
committed to Ray and Shawn to not take on any more fighters so he could
concentrate on their respective careers. I then asked Mike who he thought
would be the best choice for me in the game as a manager. Mike didn't have
to think about it, he said David Wolf. I told him that I had already spoken
to Dave, I thanked him and contacting Dave was my next move.

"I contacted Dave and having seen my fights against Willie Edwards and the
ESPN fight. Dave was interested enough to invite me to N.Y. to visit him and
talk to him about the possibility of us working together.

"Dave and I made an agreement and his first priority was to move me to N.Y.
He, at the time managed Donny Poole also from Canada and Teddy was Donny's
trainer, Dave suggested that we try working with Teddy."

It was not a relationship that would last, and one that has Lalonde ranking
the D'Amato protégé at the bottom of his list of trainers. "I can't honestly
say that I retained much if anything that I was taught by Teddy. Teddy too
was a part of the whole but a VERY insignificant part I must say. The least
significant of ALL my trainers throughout my career in fact.

"Overall I was injured a lot while with Teddy and he refused to acknowledge
these injuries which made them worse. By trying to "be a man" as Teddy would
say. My injuries are so documented, he is completely nuts, as if two
shoulder surgeries and many subsequent tears are "in my head", both hands
broken and incorrectly aligned wouldn't have something to do with my
injuries? Again, "in my head" he had to convince me I wanted to fight??

"After one year of struggling to establish a cohesive relationship with
Teddy, Dave and I decided that it was in our best interest to try another

"Teddy is well known, he is a good self promoter so I don't have to get into
who he is but as it related to me his training style was not effective for
me and that is all I really have to say about him as a trainer. I was World
rated before I met Teddy, I was World rated when "I left Teddy but more
likely because David had earned such respect with sanctioning organizations
with his work with Ray Mancini than my ring performances.

"Generally speaking I performed poorly when I was being trained by Teddy as
his focus on negativity had reduced my overall confidence in myself."

The heart of the matter as it relates the dispute, as it usually is in
boxing, is money. Michael Spinks had plans on vacating his strangle-hold on
the light-heavyweight division, creating a trio of vacancies. Atlas and Wolf
believed that with the proper maneuvering and the proper training, Lalonde
could be moved into one of those three vacant belts at 175 pounds. Atlas was
gone by the time the 'Golden Boy' captured gold in 1987, winning the vacant
WBC light heavyweight championship against Eddie Davis with a second round
stoppage. A successful defense of the title followed, and then the
multi-million dollar payday. With Vince McMahon of WWE wrestling fame
handling the promotion for the pay-per-view, Donny Lalonde and Sugar Ray
Leonard would meet not only for Lalonde's light-heavy belt, but also the
newly created super-middleweight belt at 168 pounds. For Leonard, a chance
at an unprecedented five championships at five different weight categories.
For Lalonde, a unique unification opportunity in which he would drop down to
167 pounds and fight for two belts at once, and get paid six million for
doing it.

"When he made six million for Leonard, it tore me up," writes Atlas in the
HarperCollins published book, "It made me murderous."

Ten percent of six-mill is certainly a nice payday any day of the week, and
while Atlas was left without a cent of it, Lalonde does wish he had divvied
it up a bit different. After the split, Wolf suggested to Lalonde that the
duo of Tommy Gallagher and Bobby Cassidy might be the best match training
wise. "They worked together at the time," said Lalonde. "I could always
punch and after Tommy and Bobby spent about 6 months with me my confidence
was at an all time high going into the fight against Mustafa Hamsho in N.Y.
[his home town] at the Garden, in May of the following year. After that I
won the World title, defended it and the fight with Ray Leonard came about.
Bobby Cassidy was really most significant in that run of fights as a
trainer. Tommy Gallagher was part of the team, definitely part of the whole
in respect to trainers, a much bigger part than Teddy, but I connected most
with Bobby and his past experience as a pro fighter and his style as a
trainer was VERY helpful to me. If there was anyone that independently
earned that $600,000 that Teddy feels he was entitled to it was Bobby who
didn't get any because he was not available at the time for personal

"Tommy was very instrumental in making the Leonard fight. He helped Dave in
a sense of a manger as it relates to that fight, and in retrospect really
should have been paid by Dave from his managerial end. He trained me for the
Leonard fight but it was Bobby who really got me there as a trainer.

"If I could take it all back I would love to have given that $600,000 to ALL
of these men proportionately because they were all a necessary part of the

It was his relationship with Gallagher that Lalonde believes is the true
heart of the rift between them. "He knocks Tommy as "some ex cop" as my
trainer. Tommy did more for me and my career than Teddy would even know
needed to be done. When Teddy was with me he was a kid. He was trained by
Cus D'Amato to be a trainer but Tommy was a fighter, NY GG be it, but still
a real man and a fighter, not some wanna-be that uses his past with one
fighter as an assistant, that 25 years later is still his claim to fame.
Tommy and Bobby trained me to a championship and Teddy can't stand it.

"I think that he is so upset that his favorite fighter, a person I liked
very much and we had a lot of good times together, Chris Reid, wasn't a
success in the ring like Teddy thought he would be. It killed him that I was
a success and he and Chris were not. I cried when I heard about Chris's
untimely death, he was a wonderful person who, if it wasn't for Teddy, I
would have most likely remained friends with until his death."

Lalonde refutes just about everything in the chapter written about him from
being accused of being a con-man.. "In regards to my being a bleach blond
and a fake and a con man, other than the blond, he sounds like exactly what
he accuses me of. Teddy, I was a fighter before and after I was trained by
you. I did more in a boxing ring than you could even dream of accomplishing.
For a guy as injured as I was I am very proud of my accomplishments in the
ring. Teddy Atlas can not take that from me, no one can."

On Atlas as part of the ESPN crew in Winnipeg for Lalonde's last career
fight... "In Winnipeg he was very invisible. I guess he was obligated so he
was there but he didn't talk to me ever. He attempted to minimize my career
as much as possible and what was actually happening in the ring was never
really referred to, he did a very minimalist job that day just to get
through. I regreted agreeing to him participating in the telecaste as I knew
that no matter what happened he would try to hurt me and he essentially did
with his comments in a very subtle way. No problem, with one eye I left him
an opening and he took it."

On running into Atlas in Las Vegas for Michael Moorer-Evander Holyfield
championship fight.... I was with my wife at the Moorer-Holyfield fight. I
saw Teddy and was just happy for him and at the same time you could say
proud of him for what he had accomplished as a trainer. Remember he was
about a 30 year old kid when he trained me. I was happy for him. He trained
the heavyweight champion of the world. Has to be the ultimate goal as a
trainer? I was happy for him. I had accomplished all I could have dreamed of
in teh sport and had been retired at that point. I thought and said to me
wife, "who knows how he will respond but I want to congratulate him". I
walked up to Teddy and said, Teddy congratulations, I am so happy for you.

"He turned around like a raging maniac and went into some tirade about not
wanting to shake my hand. I didn't really hear what he was saying, he didn't
realize it was me that he was shaking hands with. When he did, he went off.
I said I am sorry you feel this way in such a high point in your life and
walked away. I really feel sorry for him. He was always off the wall but I
still hoped the best for him."

To fighting stiffs... "The reason I fought some stiffs when I was with him
is a direct result of what he DID to me as a fighter, look at my career
before and after and you can see it was much better ANY time I wasn't with
Teddy. Sorry Teddy but the proof is in the record books. I was the Champion
of the World!!"

To fighting a "SHOT" Eddie Davis.. "The SHOT Eddie Davis I fought had won 7
since narrowly losing to Michael Spinks and lost 1 to Marvin Johnson before
I fought him and Michael won 6 fights against heavyweights after Eddie beat
him. According to the record books Edie was 36 years old and prime for a
victory. For a guy as limited as Teddy suggests I was, I sure got lucky."

While he admits that Atlas did get under his skin a bit, Lalonde says he is
very happy with his life right now and wishes his former coach the same. "I
congratulate Teddy on his success as a trainer, I was very happy for his
family and I hope he gets the psychiatric help he apparently needs.

"I sincerely think he is delusional or desperate to sell books or for some
reason he has this against me and can't get over it. I hope he does one day,
it must be terrible to feel this way and actually believe the BS he is
saying which it sounds like he does. "I live on a beach, raise my wonderful
children, have been married 15 years happily and look back on my career with
great pride and I enjoy the memories so much."