Boxing Manager Cus D’Amato Dies at 77
“There will never be another manager or person who cares about his fighters the way Cus did.”
So said former heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson, who Tuesday was mourning the death of longtime boxing manager-trainer Constantine (Cus) D’Amato.
D’Amato, under whose guidance Patterson, at 21, became the youngest heavyweight champion, died here Monday in Mount Sinai Hospital of pneumonia. He was 77.
“Cus cared more about his fighters than money,” Patterson said. “He gave money away like it was just giving somebody a drink of water. He wasn’t a greedy person. His main concern was his fighters.”
Patterson, who lives in New Paltz and is now a trainer, said: “Good as I am, I could never touch Cus.”
Patterson and D’Amato met when Patterson was just a 13-year-old carrying bags to D’Amato’s gym. When he was 14, Patterson started training, at D’Amato’s request.
D’Amato will be buried in Catskill, N.Y., about 30 miles south of Albany, where he had been living for the last 15 years and had established a boxing club for teen-agers.
Although he was in semi-retirement, D’Amato remained an adviser to fighters managed by Jimmy Jacobs, his longtime associate, among them Wilfred Benitez.
He also had trained Jose Torres, former light-heavyweight champion and now chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission.
D’Amato most recently was overseeing the career of Michael Tyson, 19, a tough street kid turned heavyweight slugger who has knocked out all 11 of his pro opponents.
D’Amato also feuded with the boxing Establishment and often was criticized for bringing Patterson along slowly and providing him with easy opponents on the way to the title.
D’Amato’s stormy career included a suspension in 1955 by the New York Athletic Commission with two other managers after refusing to testify at an inquiry into the New York Boxing Guild.
In 1960, he was given a suspended 30-day jail sentence and a $250 fine for failing to answer a subpoena by the New York attorney general, who accused D’Amato of wrongdoing in the promotion of the fight between Patterson and Ingemar Johansson of Sweden in June of 1959.
D’Amato was born in the Bronx, and boxed as a featherweight and lightweight amateur, but was unable to get a professional license because of an eye injury he had suffered in a street fight.
He was a proponent of the peek-a-boo style of boxing, in which the fighter holds his gloves close to his cheeks and pulls his arms tight against his torso. That style was criticized by some because it was believed that a legitimate attack could not be launched from it.
Patterson adopted the peek-a-boo style, however, and was only 21 years 8 months when he upset veteran Archie Moore for the title Nov. 30, 1956, at Chicago Stadium. Rocky Marciano had retired undefeated, leaving the crown vacant.
Patterson lost the title to Johansson in 1959, but became the first heavyweight to regain it when he knocked out the Swede in their rematch in 1960. Patterson then retained the title by winning a third fight with Johansson, but subsequently lost the title to Sonny Liston in 1962.