The Impact and Influence of Cus D’Aamato
More than any other trainer in boxing history, Cus D’Amato and his legacy has reached an almost mythological proportion. A lot of this has to do with his eccentric personality, his in-depth understanding of the psychological profile of the athletes he worked with, his unique product inventions and his revolutionary, peekaboo fighting style. These are just a few of the methods he employed to build world champions and a reputation of being one of boxing’s greatest minds.
As a young trainer and manager, D’Amato fought against the system. He wouldn’t bow down to the mafia-run boxing operations and wouldn’t give in to their demands. Instead, he worked around the Madison Square Garden and spoke out against the International Boxing Club (I.B.C), who controlled most of the world champions at that time. He gained a reputation of constantly “going against the grain” with his unorthodox training methods, business practices and management style.
Aside from an entire library of boxing books and magazines, Cus was an avid reader of the classics. He looked for every bit of information that would give him greater insight into human psychology, strategy or how history repeated itself. His eclectic library included The Analects of Confucius, The Creation of the Universe, The Art of War and nearly any form of literature that provided insights into the human psyche. He believed that boxing was an analogy of life and that all human instincts became magnified in the ring.
These insights, combined with his access to Jim Jacobs’ extensive library of historic fight films, made him and his fighters extremely educated. This visual access to their predecessors, a sense of self-awareness and understanding of their personal potential are part of what made his fighters special.
The Training Method
D’Amato’s trademark peek-a-boo style was geared towards creating a cohesiveness flow between offensive and defensive movements.
By having his fighters constantly shift their weight from side to side, in order to avoid getting hit, this also kept their opponents on the defensive. In turn, this defensive posture created offensive openings. The constant head movement, shifting of body weight and changing of position made his fighters unpredictable.
Getting hit less, frustrating the opponent more, while always remaining in position to capitalize on openings, oftentimes gave D’Amato’s fighters the upper hand.
The Training Tools
There are two training devises that can directly be attributed to D’Amato. The first is the Cus D’Amato Slipping Ball. The concept behind this bag is to instill the art of hitting and not getting hit. He developed this tool to engrain the movements he employed with his fighters, including Mike Tyson, Floyd Patterson, Jose Torres and others. He wanted their hands held up high in front of their cheeks, elbows tucked-in tightly and for them to remain in a state of constant perpetual motion. It requires non-stop head movement, shifting of your body weight from side-to-side and encourages a fighter to always be in the best position to block and counter.
The second invention he developed was called the “Willie Bag”, named after Willie Pastrano. D’Amato was working with Jose Torres at the time and was preparing him to fight Willie Pastrano for the world light heavyweight title. The concept for this bag literally woke Cus from his sleep one night and he constructed it out of several mattresses he drug from the bedroom of his apartment in the middle of the night. He ultimately drew a rough sketch of a man (Willie) on the bag and gave each punch a number:
#1 = left hook to the jaw
#2 = right hook to the jaw
#3 = left uppercut
#4 = right uppercut
#5 = left hook to the body
#6 = right hook to the body
#7 = jab to the head
#8 = jab to the body
This numbering system would be used to call out specific punches and combination of punches in succession. The idea was to rehearse these combinations so repetitively that hearing them and executing them would become instinctual. On command or through a natural response to his opponents’ move, the fighter would throw punches without even having to think about it. Cus didn’t just want to create boxers, he wanted to build “fighting machines.”
The D’Amato Legacy and Legend
Cus D’Amato added layers to what “typical” boxing trainers had been up to that point. He was an inventor, a boxing psychologist, a historian and his insights changed the game. His philosophy, stylistic impact and approach have all created various off-shoots and ideas that permeate the world of boxing. His boxing innovations (ideologies, equipment inventions and training methods) worked then and have come full circle to make today’s fighters better.
The D’Amato Resume
- 1952 Olympic Gold Medalist, Floyd Patterson - who also went on to become the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history at the age of 21.
- Jose Torres - who holds the distinction of being the first Latin American to win the Light Heavyweight Championship of the World
- Mike Tyson - who took over Patterson’s record as the youngest Heavyweight Champion by knocking out Trevor Berbick while he was only 20 years old. He was the undisputed heavyweight champion from 1987 to 1990.
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