Related Biography: Trainer Cus D'amato
Cus D'Amato was more than a boxing trainer with a good eye for talent. D'Amato was a legend, hailed as the man who had successfully fought mobster Frank Carbo's boxing monopoly and made Floyd Patterson "king of the sport," in the words of People reporter William Plummer. Norman Mailer had called him a Zen master. He was more of a teacher than a trainer, a teacher in the old, all-encompassing sense. While he taught his fighters the moves, he also drew them out, discovering their hidden talents and fears. "Fear is like a fire," he'd tell them. "If you control it, as we do when we heat our houses, it is a friend. When you don't it consumes you and everything around you."
By the time Mike Tyson met him, D'Amato had largely retired from the sport, but he maintained a training camp at an old Victorian house in the Catskills, courtesy of his mistress, Camille Ewald. Usually there were five or six aspiring fighters in residence. Fight-film entrepreneur Jimmy Jacobs provided the equipment. (D'Amato had helped others to riches, but his own money always seemed to slip through his fingers, often lent to friends unable to pay him back.) When he saw Tyson, he saw the kind of champion he'd almost forgotten, one who could reach the top, and actually deserve the honor.