Cus D'Amato

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Cus D'Amato
Personal information
Birth nameConstantine D'Amato
Born(1908-01-17)January 17, 1908
The Bronx, New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedNovember 4, 1985(1985-11-04) (aged 77)
Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S.
OccupationBoxing manager and trainer
Years active1933–85

Constantine "Cus" D'Amato (January 17, 1908 – November 4, 1985) was an American boxing manager and trainer who handled the careers of Mike Tyson, Floyd Patterson, and José Torres; all went on to become members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.[1] Several successful boxing trainers, including Teddy Atlas and Kevin Rooney were tutored by D'Amato. 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. The style was criticized by some because it was believed that an efficient attack could not be launched from it.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

D'Amato was born to an Italian family in the Bronx, on January 17, 1908.[4] His father Damiano D'Amato delivered ice and coal in the Bronx using a horse and cart.[5] At a young age Cus became very involved and interested in the Catholic Church, and at times during his youth he even considered becoming a priest. Cus had a brief career as an amateur boxer, boxing 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.[5] This was documented in the biographic novel Confusing The Enemy.[6]


At age 22, he opened the Empire Sporting Club with Jack Barrow at the Gramercy Gym.[4] D'Amato lived in the gym for years. According to D'Amato, he spent his time at the gym waiting for a "champion", but his best fighters were routinely poached by "connected" managers. One fighter discovered by D'Amato was Italian-American Rocky Graziano, who signed with other trainers and managers and went on to become middleweight champion of the world.[2]

D'Amato also confronted boxing politics and decided, along with his friend Howard Cosell, to thwart the International Boxing Club of New York (IBC). Suspicious to the point of paranoia, D'Amato refused to match his fighter in any bout promoted by the IBC.[4] The IBC was eventually found to be in violation of anti-trust laws and was dissolved.[4][7]

Personal life[edit]

In the early 1970s, while looking for a mansion big enough to accommodate about a dozen of his most aspiring disciples and to occasionally receive a half-hundred other, D'Amato being in his 60s, met his partner wife-to-be Camille Ewald, who was thinking about selling her house after her family left, when D'Amato came around and made a proposition to her. Cus took all the training and managing, while Camille was responsible for cooking and other household chores.[8]

Notable boxers trained[edit]

Floyd Patterson[edit]

Under D'Amato's tutelage, Floyd Patterson captured the Olympic middleweight gold medal in the 1952 Helsinki games. D'Amato then guided Patterson through the professional ranks, manoeuvring Patterson into fighting for the title vacated by Rocky Marciano. After beating Tommy "Hurricane" Jackson in an elimination fight, Patterson faced Light Heavyweight Champion Archie Moore on November 30, 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 time, at the age of 21 years, 10 months, three weeks and five days. 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 former two-time champion had already begun to diminish.[5]

José Torres[edit]

D'Amato also managed José Torres who in May 1965 at Madison Square Garden, defeated the International Boxing Hall Of Fame member, Willie Pastrano, to become world Light Heavyweight champion.[9] 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.

Mike Tyson[edit]

After Patterson and Torres' careers ended, D'Amato worked in relative obscurity. He eventually moved to Catskill, New York, where he opened a gym, the Catskill Boxing Club.[4]

There he met and began to work with the future heavyweight champion, Iron Mike Tyson, who was in a nearby reform school.[2][10] He adopted Tyson after Tyson's mother died. D'Amato trained him over the next few years, encouraging the use of peek-a-boo style boxing, with the hands in front of the face for more protection. D'Amato was briefly assisted by Teddy Atlas, and later Kevin Rooney, a protégé of D'Amato, who emphasized elusive movement. It is unclear at exactly which age (11 or 12) 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 of the subject after witnessing Tyson's terrible behavior in his first days at the school. Bobby Stewart introduced Mike Tyson to D'Amato when Tyson was around 12 or 13 years old, after Stewart stated he had taught Tyson all he could about boxing technique and skill.[11][12] D'Amato died a little over a year before Tyson became the youngest world heavyweight titleholder in history at the age of 20 years four months, thus supplanting Patterson's record.[5] Rooney would later guide Tyson to the heavyweight championship twelve months after D'Amato's death.

Footage of D'Amato can be seen in Tyson, a 2008 documentary. Tyson credits D'Amato with building his confidence and guiding him as a father figure.[13]


Cus D'Amato died at Mount Sinai Hospital of pneumonia in November 1985. He was 77.[3]


Cus D'Amato Memorial Award[edit]

Cus D'Amato Memorial Award was established by the Boxing Writers Association of America. The first was presented to Mike Tyson at the group's 61st annual dinner, May 16, 1986.[14]

Science of Victory Marathon[edit]

From October 26, 2017 through November 4, 2017, an international, online "Science of Victory" marathon was dedicated to the memory of Cus D'Amato. Journalists and boxers from Russia, Ukraine, Italy, Spain, Germany and the U.S., including Silvio Branco, Patrizio Oliva, Dr. Antonio Graceffo, Avi Nardia, and Gordon Marino.[15] The marathon promoted the book Non-compromised Pendulum by Tom Patti and Dr. Oleg Maltsev, which reviewed Cus D'Amato's training style.[16][17][18]

Portrayals in film, theater, fiction[edit]

George C. Scott portrayed D'Amato in the 1995 HBO movie Tyson.

KNOCKOUT: The Cus D'Amato Story, is a stage and screenplay based on the life of Cus D'Amato, from a concept by boxing trainer Kevin Rooney and written by Dianna Lefas.

The biographic novel Confusing The Enemy[5] tells the story of Cus D'Amato.[1]


In 1993, the 14th Street Union[1] Square Local Development Corporation named part of 14th Street, where D'Amato's Gramercy Gym was located, Cus D'Amato Way.


  1. ^ a b c Brozan, Nadine (1993-10-29). "CHRONICLE". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b c Heller, Peter (1995). Bad Intentions: The Mike Tyson Story. Da Capo Press. pp. 17–20, 26, 51. ISBN 0-306-80669-X.
  3. ^ a b "Boxing Manager Cus D'Amato Dies at 77". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e Roberts, James (14 March 2003). The Boxing Register: International Boxing Hall of Fame Official Record Book (3rd ed.). McBooks Press. ISBN 978-1590130209.
  5. ^ a b c d e Weiss, Scott (1 August 2013). Confusing The Enemy - The Cus D'Amato Story. Acanthus. ISBN 978-0989000123.
  6. ^ Confusing The Enemy
  7. ^ "D'Amato Misses on Long Shot". The New York Times. 8 January 1982.
  8. ^ Watch Me Now: A Documentary by Michael Marton (1983).
  9. ^ "Hall of Fame Friday: Jose Torres". The Ring. Retrieved 20 September 2017.
  10. ^ Tyson, Mike (30 May 2017). Iron Ambition: My Life with Cus D'Amato. Blue Rider Press. ISBN 978-0399177033.
  11. ^ Heller, Peter(1988). "Bad Intentions: The Mike Tyson Story," p. 13. Da Capo Press, New York, 1988.
  12. ^ Anderson, Dave (3 August 1987). "Sports of the Times; 'Time for the New Trainers'". The New York Times.
  13. ^ Graham Bensinger (3 March 2016). "Emotional Mike Tyson on trainer who made him champ". Retrieved 2 July 2017 – via YouTube.
  14. ^ Berger, Phil (May 20, 1986). "Tyson Named Best Rookie". The New York Times. p. 5. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
  15. ^ Guests of the project
  16. ^ Online marathon dedicated to memory of legendary trainer Cus D'Amato
  17. ^ Internationales Projekt «die Wissenschaft des Sieges»
  18. ^ Unique International Project "Science Of Victory"

External links[edit]