Cus D'Amato earned a reputation as one of the most forthright and honest men in boxing. He guided Floyd Patterson and Jose Torres to world titles and was instrumental in launching Mike Tyson's career. Top trainers Teddy Atlas, Kevin Rooney and Joe Fariello all learned their trade from D'Amato.
Born in 1908 in New York, D'Amato grew up as one of five brothers and learned to fight in the streets. At the age of 22, he opened the Empire Sporting Club with Jack Barrow at the Gramercy Gym. The purpose of the club was to develop young boxers. D'Amato was devoted to the gym and actually lived there for years. He was very attentive to his boxers, and his belief in his young stars was important to their success.
He built the neophyte Patterson into an Olympic gold medal winner and then world heavyweight champion, and he later guided Jose Torres to the light heavyweight championship. Both Torres and Patterson continued responsible careers after boxing, Torres as a writer and member of the New York State Athletic Commission, Patterson most recently as head of the New York State Athletic Commission.
Once Patterson won the championship, D'Amato carefully selected his opponents both with an eye towards maximizing revenues for his fighter and thwarting the International Boxing Club (IBC). Although it meant bypassing many top challengers, D'Amato refused to match his fighter in any bout promoted by the powerful but corrupt IBC. The IBC was eventually found to be in violation of anti-trust laws and was dissolved. However, D'Amato's stance had the unintended effect of decreasing interest in boxing because Patterson fought infrequently and did not face many top contenders.
After Patterson's and Torres's careers had ended, D'Amato worked in relative obscurity for some years, surfacing briefly as a possible trainer for Wilt Chamberlain when the basketball great considered going into the ring. D'Amato then moved to Catskill, New York, where he opened a gym. He began to work with Mike Tyson who was in a nearby reform school. D'Amato did much to develop Tyson into a top heavyweight contender, but he died in 1985 before Tyson became the youngest world heavyweight titleholder in history.
* * *
Excerpted with permission from 'The Boxing Register' by James B. Roberts and Alexander G. Skutt, copyright © 1999 by McBooks Press. All rights reserved.
Born: Jan. 17, 1908
Died: Nov. 4, 1985