Cus D’Amato


Cus D’Amato (1908 – 1985) was an American boxing manager and trainer who handled the careers of three boxers who would go on to become members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame: Floyd Patterson, José Torres, and most notably, Mike Tyson.

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.

Constantino ‘Cus’ D’Amato was born into an Italian family in the Bronx. His father Damiano D’Amato delivered ice and coal on a horse and cart. At a young age Cus became very involved and interested in the Catholic church, and at times during his youth even considered a career in the priesthood. He had a brief career as an amateur boxer, competing as a featherweight and lightweight, but was unable to get a professional license because of an eye injury he had suffered in a street fight.

In 1933 he opened the Empire Sporting Club with Jack Barrow at the Gramercy Gym in Manhattan. D’Amato lived in the gym for years. According to his biography, he spent his time there waiting for a ‘champion,’ but his best fighters (such as Rocky Graziano) would routinely be poached by ‘connected’ managers. D’Amato also confronted boxing politics and decided, along with his friend Howard Cosell, to thwart the International Boxing Club (IBC) of New York. Suspicious to the point of paranoia, D’Amato refused to match his fighter in any bout promoted by the IBC. The IBC was eventually found to be in violation of anti-trust laws and was dissolved.

Under D’Amato’s tutelage, Floyd Patterson captured the Olympic middleweight gold medal in the 1952 Helsinki games. He then guided Patterson through the professional ranks, maneuvering Patterson into fighting for the title vacated by Rocky Marciano. After beating Tommy ‘Hurricane’ Jackson in an elimination fight, Patterson faced former Light Heavyweight Champion Archie Moore in 1956, for the World Heavyweight Championship. He beat Moore by a knockout in five rounds and became the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history, at the age of 21. He was the first Olympic gold medalist to win a professional Heavyweight title.

Patterson and D’Amato split after Patterson’s second consecutive 1st round KO loss to Sonny Liston, although his influence over the champion had already begun to diminish. D’Amato next managed José Torres, who defeated the International Boxing Hall Of Fame member Willie Pastrano in 1965 at Madison Square Garden to become world Light Heavyweight champion. With the victory Torres became the third Puerto Rican world boxing champion in history and the first Latin American to win the world Light Heavyweight title.

After Patterson’s and Torres’s careers had ended, D’Amato worked in relative obscurity. He eventually moved to Catskill, New York, where he opened a gym. It was there that he met and began to work with the future heavyweight champion, Mike Tyson, who was in a nearby reform school. He took Tyson under his wing and adopted him after Tyson’s mother died. D’Amato trained him over the next few years, assisted by Teddy Atlas, who later became a respected trainer himself, and later Kevin Rooney, a protégé of D’Amato, who emphasized elusiveness of movement and took Tyson to the heavyweight championship sixteen months after D’Amato’s death.

At eleven or tweleve, Tyson first became seriously interested in becoming a professional boxer. Bobby Stewart, a former Golden Gloves Champion, was approached by Tyson while working as a counselor at the Tryon School For Boys. Tyson knew of Stewart’s former boxing glory and specifically asked to speak with Stewart who immediately took on a gruff attitude after witnessing Tyson’s terrible behavior in his first days at the school. However, he relented, and eventually took Mike Tyson to meet D’Amato the following year. Stewart was clear on the fact that he had taught Mike all he could about boxing technique at that point. D’Amato died shortly before Tyson became the youngest world heavyweight titleholder in history at the age of 20.


2 Comments to “Cus D’Amato”

  1. Hello ,

    I know tha the boxing game is rife with corruption, managers and promoters who often rob fighters blind. However, from what i can determine , i think Cus D’ Amato was an honest man. HE WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN GUIDING Mike TYSON to the heavy weight crown. I recall FLOYD Patterson , who was the youngest man [ at the time ] to win the heavyweight crown [ beat Archie MORRE in elimination when Marciano retired ] . Cus didn’t want him to fight LIston, but he did and 2 times got knocked out in the first round by Liston. however, Liston had a lot of dog in him. First fight with ALI, Liston sat on his stool in the 7th round saying he hurt his shoulder. A true champion never quits, he will have to take his crown in the ring. If someone has any other info on CUS D’ Amato please let us knoow.

    God bless aLL.

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