Constantine D’Amato was a manager and trainer who handled the careers of Mike Tyson, Floyd Patterson, and José Torres, all of whom went on to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Several successful boxing trainers, including Teddy Atlas and Kevin Rooney, were tutored by D’Amato. He was a proponent of the peek-a-boo style of boxing, the technique is thought to offer extra protection to the face whilst making it easier to jab the opponent’s face. The fighter holds their gloves close to their cheeks and pulls their arms tight against their torso. The general idea is that the Peek-a-boo practitioners are counterpunchers, who contrary to accustomed ways of counterpunching perceived as constantly backing-up and jabbing from the safe distance, move forward and do it with a lot of aggressiveness by constantly charging at the opponent, provoking him into throwing punches to counter, and subsequently into making mistakes to capitalize on, by creating openings and dominant angles of attack.

The transcript below is from the video “How Cus D’Amato made Mike Tyson champion” by The World of Boxing!.

Cus D’Amato:

He has the ability, he has the potential and most of all he has the desire. He really wants to be a champion. I’m a champion for the same reason my boys become champion. I’m very determined I believe in what I’m doing and I can’t be dissuaded. I cannot be dissuaded.

The World of Boxing! (Informative & Educational Channel to Inspire the Next Generation of Athletes to Engage in Sports, Tom Yankello, Ukraine):

Mike Tyson is a puncher for the ages. In the 80s the American became the youngest heavyweight champion. A record that stands unbroken. His fury in the ring and his unique technique delighted boxing fans. There are no equivalents in the heavyweight division. Just about everyone has heard of Tyson, but many have not heard about the man who made the Champion. Grandfather Cus D’Amato raised the champion from the age of 13 but did not live to see his major victory.

The World of Boxing! (Informative & Educational Channel to Inspire the Next Generation of Athletes to Engage in Sports, Tom Yankello, Ukraine):

Childhood and an Unfulfilled Dream.

Cus was born in the Bronx to a family of immigrants from Italy. And grew up exclusively in male company. His mother died when the boy was only four years old. He was left with eight brothers and a father. The Bronx is not the most prosperous area of New York. Cus had to learn to survive. The guy often fought on the streets and did it very skillfully. Little Cus wanted to become a boxer like Gerry’s older brother. But at the age of 12 all of these dreams were destroyed. D’Amato lost sight in his left eye. The coaches told many versions of what happened and it is still unknown which one is true. One story is that he protected a boy from an older bully who injured him with a knife. Another story says that his eye was knocked out with a stick during an ordinary street fight.

The World of Boxing! (Informative & Educational Channel to Inspire the Next Generation of Athletes to Engage in Sports, Tom Yankello, Ukraine):

However the third and most realistic Cus got into a fight with an ordinary adult man. The injury didn’t discourage D’Amato from fighting. He continued to box, hung out with friends and read many books on various topics. He studied history, psychology, military affairs, martial arts and even philosophical works. Later all this knowledge came in handy.

The World of Boxing! (Informative & Educational Channel to Inspire the Next Generation of Athletes to Engage in Sports, Tom Yankello, Ukraine):

The War with the Mafia in 1939

Cus was thirty years old. He opened his first boxing gym, Gramercy Gym. The number of pupils grew every day and the main one was Rocky Graziano. Cuss nurtured Rocky’s amazing technique and plan to train his fighter for the pros but it was here that the coach first encountered treason. Graziano transferred to another manager one associated with the Italian mafia.

The World of Boxing! (Informative & Educational Channel to Inspire the Next Generation of Athletes to Engage in Sports, Tom Yankello, Ukraine):

The boxer decided that the newcomer D’Amato would not be able to give him the big breakthrough he wanted into professional boxing. The coach was threatened with physical harm. In the 60s D’Amato sold Gramercy Gym for $1 and went to Catskill where he continued to engage with young fighters. While there he lived with Camilla Ewald an immigrant from Ukraine who became Cus’s companion for life. Although they were never married and had no children in common. I received many threatening letters. They wrote they would slaughter me like a dog. They promised to shoot my fighters and relatives with machine guns. I decided to leave so that everyone would remain intact. Cus said.

The World of Boxing! (Informative & Educational Channel to Inspire the Next Generation of Athletes to Engage in Sports, Tom Yankello, Ukraine):

Unique Technique and Philosophy

Why did Cus make champions? Did – this is the most correct word. He did not educate, he did not train, he just did it. Cus cut into the head of every box and drove the idea that he would become a champion. If you doubted even for a second the coach was furious and could kill. Tyson recalled. D’Amato worked not only as a coach, but also as a physiotherapist and psychologist. He instilled the champion philosophy into his fighters from the very beginning. Cus met Tyson when Mike was 13. The future champion lived with the coach at his home calling him his white father and kamila his white mother. In early childhood Mike was a petty, angry boy who was offended by everyone… even girls. At 11 Tyson began to push away his peers and at 13 he became physically larger than them.

The World of Boxing! (Informative & Educational Channel to Inspire the Next Generation of Athletes to Engage in Sports, Tom Yankello, Ukraine):

Mike fought on the streets, stole, robbed and often spent the night behind bars. Dealing with Mike changed Cus. The coach explained in plain words to Tyson how to translate rage in his favor. Cus forced Mike to review old boxing videos and demanded that he read books. He instructed me to read the biography of Alexander the Great. Cus wanted to show in the most accessible ways how a person from an empty place can become a conqueror of the world. He wanted me to be the same, said Mike. Cus believed that a boxer’s thoughts should only be about fights. Only an obsession could lead to success.

The World of Boxing! (Informative & Educational Channel to Inspire the Next Generation of Athletes to Engage in Sports, Tom Yankello, Ukraine):

One time Mike was depressed. The fighter considered himself unattractive. Cus pulled out a bat. He said that he would beat me off my head if I said one more thing about girls, said the boxer. D’Amato led Tyson to a hypnotist. He wanted me to overcome myself. Cus said I must overcome my fears and defeat the darkness, said Tyson. D’Amato style is also unique it has a lot of names. Someone just said Cus’s style, others the pendulum but the most common name is peekaboo. In essence it’s simple but unusual. The boxer stood in front of the enemy, held his hands high, worked actively on his feet and constantly used slopes and dives. After active defense the fighter threw several punches, each last punch of the combination was supposed to bring maximum damage. Hands above and move your head are two phrases that Mike heard the most during training.

The World of Boxing! (Informative & Educational Channel to Inspire the Next Generation of Athletes to Engage in Sports, Tom Yankello, Ukraine):

Tyson went to the pros at age 19 and endured everyone. Cus waited for his son to wear the championship belt. But D’Amato’s death came unexpectedly. Cus contracted pneumonia and complications began. The 77 year old man was induced into an artificial coma. He never regained consciousness. The manager called me and said that Cus will die in ten hours. I went to the bank to withdraw money for the funeral and burst into tears right in the lobby. I understood that my father left the man who gave me everything, whom I was more afraid of than anyone else said Tyson. At the funeral procession Mike carried the coffin holding back the tears, the last of his strength. He began crying as he returned home.

Mike Tyson:

I used to want be alone and now I learned how to deal with anyone. I could talk to anyone even about their problems. It’s like a father-and-son relationship. You know even though he’s my manager and trainer. The first day he even met me… the first day he met me he took me in his house. He didn’t even know me. I can say honestly I have a very deep affection for him. I do. To me is my boy. He’s with me. Quite often he said to me you know I owe you my life. He doesn’t know what I mean, but I’m gonna tell him now what I mean. If he weren’t here I probably wouldn’t be alive today. The fact of the use here and doing what he’s doing and doing as relevant as the journey and improving as he has gives me the motivation and interest to stay alive because I believe that a person dies when they no longer want to live but I have a reason with Mike. And he gives me the motivation. I will stay alive and I will watch him become a success because I will not leave until that happens. A year later Tyson beat Trevor Berbick and won the first championship belt.

Mike Tyson:

I was coming to destroy and win the heavyweight championship of the world which I’d done. I like to dedicate my fight for my great Daddy Cus D’Amato. I’m sure he’s up there looking at him talking to all the great fighters and saying his boy did it. He is smiling. That’s right.

The World of Boxing! (Informative & Educational Channel to Inspire the Next Generation of Athletes to Engage in Sports, Tom Yankello, Ukraine):

Mike remained in his prime for several years. But soon broke up with Kevin Rooney, one of D’Amato students and his career slowly went downhill. If Cus lived no one would ever beat me, said Mike. D’Amato was rightly considered one of the greatest trainers in boxing history. One of the streets of New York is named after him. The very one on which his gym was located. A film is being made about the life of Cus D’Amato with Bruce Willis in the starring role titled Cornerman. Viewers everywhere will see how Cus found and trained Tyson.

Mike Tyson:

That’s why I’m once I got involved with Cus, I was a young boy, but once the, uh he spoke with me every night about discipline and character.

Cus D’Amato:

It is the mark of a great fighter when he has character plus skill. Because the fighter with character and skill will often rise and beat a better fighter. Because of this, character is that quality upon which you can depend under pressure and other conditions. Character makes the fighter predictable character helps them win.

Mike Tyson:

And then one day he says… listen, you have the chance to change your life, your family’s life, just being very special. Don’t you want to be the champion? You are gonna be champion of the world and I didn’t pay no attention to it. He said really, you could be champion of the world, you could devastate the world. No man could take what you did. You just gotta believe it. I looked at this guy and then I started thinking. He really honestly believe it. This guy’s really crazy. You do what I tell you to do and if it doesn’t work, then you can leave. So I said okay… you bet. So I did everything he told me to do. You know, I won. I won every young championship from then on… from the Amateur Championship, won all the championships. I’m gonna cry. So I won every championship that he told me because he told me what to do.

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