Legendary American boxing trainer, who nurtured a lot of fighters in the professional boxing including Floyd Patterson, Jose Torres and Mike Tyson.
Constantino D’Amato was born January 17, 1908 in a tough Bronx neighbourhood of the Clason Point. His large family (9 children, all of them boys) immigrated from Italy to the United States in 1899. Growing up in an exclusively male environment (his mother passed away when the boy was only 4 years old), Cus dreamed of becoming a professional boxer like his brother Jerry. However, these dreams did not come true, as the 12-year-old D’Amato got in a street fight with a grown up man as a consequence of which he went blind to his left eye.
Despite this, Cus did not leave the box and in 1939 he had opened the Gramercy Gym. He starts steadily “releasing” tough boxers one of which was Rocky Graziano. Having trained him as an amateur, Cus expected to continue working with him after the transition to the professional category, but Rocky Graziano chose another manager, who had relations with mafia and had more influence in boxing. So for the first time in his life Cus experienced on himself what means a “theft” of a boxer in the sphere of a professional ring. Nevertheless, Gramercy Gym has won a good reputation.
After the Second World War, in 1945 Cus meets the Ukrainian girl Camille Ewald, whose sister was married to his older brother Rocco. For the rest of her life, she became D’Amato’s faithful companion, running a house in which under the supervision of Cus there were beginning boxers “growing up”, among whom was Tyson who called Camille his “white mother.” Cus and Camille were not married and had no children, except for an adopted 15-year-old Mike. In 2001, at the age of 96 Camille passed away while sleeping and was buried next to Cus at the cemetery in Catskill.
After returning from World War II, Cus was in litigation with the International Boxing Club (IBC). Cus had been leading dangerous struggle for 11 years (1952-1963) with IBC, a powerful organization that monopolized professional boxing in the late 40s. Officially it was headed by a well-known businessman Jim Norris (owner of the hockey club Detroit Red Wings, as well as numerous stadiums and arenas), but in fact, all matters were handled by the famous mafiosi Frank “Blinky” Palermo and Frankie Carbo. One of the examples of the IBC fraud is Jake Lamotta, who had to lose the fight to Billy Fox in order to lead fights for the middleweight title in future.
Being uptight about mafia Cus sells out his Gramercy Gym for $1 to coaches Bob Jackson and Al Gavin and moves to Catskill. There, in 1970 he opens a new hall “Catskill Boxing Club” over the police station on Main Street. His decision to leave New York Cus commented as “I’m not paranoid. I just know that if they (the mafia) gets me, things are going to be bad for me. Therefore, I acted accordingly.”
The aim of Cus was helping difficult children from poor families. All he asked in return for his lessons (Cus was not only a boxing coach, first of all he wanted to develop the personality of a teenager) was helping around the house. One of his students was Kevin Rooney, “Golden Gloves” champion in 1975. Growing up in a family of alcoholics, Rooney became a devoted boy of D’Amato. It was he, who has continued the legacy of the old mentor and led Tyson to the championship title.