Teddy Atlas is returning to the gym to train a fighter again.
Atlas told ESPN that he has accepted an offer to train interim light heavyweight titlist Oleksandr Gvozdyk for his shot at world champion Adonis Stevenson in a fight scheduled for Dec. 1 in Quebec City.
It wasn’t an easy decision to go back to training again, Atlas said, but Gvozdyk sought him out, and after meeting with him and thinking hard about it, Atlas decided to accept the job and informed Gvozdyk’s manager, Egis Klimas, on Monday night.
“They’ve been waiting for an answer for a couple of weeks,” said Atlas, a longtime ESPN boxing analyst.
Atlas traveled to Oxnard, California, where Gvozdyk lives and trains, and spent two days with him and his family two weeks ago in an effort to get to know Gvozdyk and see how they worked together.
“I wanted to meet him and his family. So I did. I met him, spent two days with him, we watched film, had lunch and dinner on the first day, and then we spent the second day in the gym working together,” Atlas said. “I met his family. He has three young children and a wife, and I trust Egis as a person. I told him that the first prerequisite to even entertaining the thought of coming back to training is if I thought they were good people. If I didn’t think that, I wouldn’t even entertain it.
“That is the first thing — do I want to spend time with this person? And I felt that I would want to be around a person like that. And then the next thing was can I help him and is he conducive to being trained? Will he allow himself to be coached? The answer was yes from what I could see, and they’re asking for my help, so can I help him? I feel I can help him.”
Atlas, 62, also said he had to determine if he could do the job physically and if his heart was in it.
“I had to ask myself, ‘Am I ready to do this again?’ Are you emotionally ready to do this again? I’ve been training fighters since I was a kid, since I was 21 years old training [Hall of Famer] Wilfred Benitez. That took me a couple of weeks to decide,” Atlas said. “It’s not something to decide on in a couple of days. And after all these years training fighters, your neck hurts, your shoulder, the back.”
Atlas will replace Marco Contreras as Gvozdyk’s head trainer.
“Oleksandr was looking to step up and be trained by Teddy,” Klimas told ESPN. “I know Teddy for a long time. He’s not committing just because. He thought about this very deeply. It wasn’t an easy decision for him to make. When he spent time with Oleksandr, with his family and in the gym, it looks like they clicked. Teddy said he would think about it. I spoke to him three or four times after that and he wasn’t sure, but [on Monday] when we spoke, he said he will take the opportunity and that he would try to help Oleksandr as much as he can.”
As for why Gvozdyk left Contreras, Klimas said, “Oleksandr just felt like it was time for him to step up, and this is a championship bout and he just was looking for an opportunity to learn more and have more attention.”
Atlas hasn’t trained a fighter since his two-fight stint with Timothy Bradley Jr., who came calling asking him for help. Atlas accepted the role after having not trained any fighters for a few years and guided Bradley to a ninth-round knockout victory over Brandon Rios in a November 2015 welterweight world title defense before Bradley got knocked down twice and lost a unanimous decision and the belt in his third fight against Manny Pacquiao in April 2016. After that fight, Bradley retired and Atlas returned to his broadcast role full time.
Atlas, who is best known for training Michael Moorer to the heavyweight world title in 1994, has also worked with fighters such as Simon Brown, Donny Lalonde and Alexander Povetkin. He said he will train Gvozdyk in Oxnard and that they will open camp in mid-October.
“I’m already looking at film, and I’ve already got a few pages of notes and things that have to be worked on, things that need to be corrected,” Atlas said. “You’re fighting the second-hardest puncher in boxing [behind heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder]. You can’t make mistakes with a guy like this. You have to be technically solid, and you have to have a very definitive plan on how to go about winning this fight. We will work on that. There’s no real margin for error.
“[Gvozdyk] behaves like a fighter. He’s got good instincts. From a technical aspect, he just has to take it to the next level, but he has the right ideas. He has to expand on the ideas.”
Gvozdyk (15-0, 12 KOs), 31, who claimed a bronze medal for Ukraine at the 2012 Olympics, won a vacant interim world title — and became Stevenson’s mandatory challenger — by outpointing France’s Mehdi Amar on March 17 in New York.
Montreal’s Stevenson (29-1-1, 24 KOs), who turns 41 on Saturday, will be making his 10th title defense following a majority draw with former titlist Badou Jack on May 19 in Toronto.