The ringside absence Saturday of longtime ESPN boxing analyst Teddy Atlas appears to be permanent.
Atlas, reached by telephone Wednesday, was asked whether he’ll return to live fight analysis on the network for which he has worked for 21 years.
“Doesn’t look like it, at least from what I understand is the decision,” Atlas said. “It wasn’t my decision.”
Atlas, who has trained boxers, including heavyweight Michael Moorer and welterweight Timothy Bradley Jr., has been a constant presence on ESPN boxing reports.
According to two individuals familiar with Atlas’ situation but unauthorized to speak publicly on the matter, the decision to remove him from live broadcasts was based on his comments in two ESPN Top Rank cards this year.
ESPN and Top Rank agreed to a lucrative four-year deal this year that will feature the promotion company’s best fighters, including Terence Crawford and Vasyl Lomachenko, on the network.
In Manny Pacquiao’s upset loss to Australia’s Jeff Horn in a welterweight bout in July in Brisbane, Atlas harshly criticized the judging.
Last month, in a Fresno card headlined by junior-welterweight Jose Ramirez, Atlas argued with newly hired co-analyst Mark Kriegel and questioned his credentials.
“They gave [Atlas] a bunch of chances,” one official said. “The Fresno show was terrible. He was terrible to Kriegel and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
ESPN used Atlas in the studio before and after Saturday’s World Boxing Organization super-featherweight successful title defense by Lomachenko, and Bradley, who also worked the Pacquiao-Horn fight, was alongside Kriegel and blow-by-blow broadcaster Joe Tessitore at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
In post-fight coverage, Atlas and sports commentator Stephen A. Smith engaged in a lively debate about Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux quitting on his stool after six rounds because of a hand injury that proved not to be a fracture.
Asked whether Atlas would be kept from working future fights, ESPN executive Burke Magnus said Friday that Atlas had two more years on his contract and left it at that.
Atlas said Wednesday he has three years remaining with ESPN.
“I can’t really talk about it [more] because I’m under contract. I always try to be up-front and honest. I’m not able to speak about it. I don’t mean to be vague or be to the point, because that’s what I like to be and always try to be, whether people like it or not,” Atlas said.
In an emailed statement, ESPN executive Stephanie Druley said that “Teddy’s expertise and knowledge of boxing is unparalleled and he will continue to be a part of our boxing coverage.
“As we embark upon a new approach with boxing, we are also going to utilize different talent lineups. For example last week, Teddy contributed a feature on Vasiliy Lomachenko; he will continue to contribute to boxing across our platforms.”
Asked whether he’ll be content without being so close to the action, Atlas repeated, “It wasn’t my choice.
“I’ve appreciated the 21 years I’ve been at ESPN and the opportunity I’ve been given, and I appreciate the opportunity the fans have given me. I still have three more years of a commitment to a company that’s been good to me.
“I’m looking to fulfill my commitment and be true to that. I wish I was able to speak more on it, but I gave my word that I wouldn’t.”