Mike Tyson answers USA Boxing
Mike Tyson found a way to bite back Thursday, sending a response to USA Boxing president Dr. Charles F. Butler after Butler had accused Tyson of poaching potential Olympic team fighters, according to a report.
Following the initial accusations from USA Boxing on Tuesday, Tyson publicist Joann Mignano said the former heavyweight champion would not be commenting. Tyson began working as a promoter recently, joining with promotion company Acquinity Sports to host his first card last month in Verona, N.Y.
"Your organization never attempted to contact me directly to discuss this matter," Tyson wrote. "Had you done so, perhaps you would have a better understanding of my love for amateur boxing and my commitment to protect fighters by giving them the best possible opportunities this business can offer."
On Tuesday, Butler sent an open letter to Tyson -- a former Olympic hopeful himself -- accusing recently formed Iron Mike Productions of offering money to the best amateur fighters to turn pro, in particular top 152-pound fighter Erickson Lubin, who some in amateur boxing say represents the country's best hope for a gold medal at the Rio Games.
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Butler said the money being offered is "pennies on the dollar" of what the prospects could be worth with an Olympic medal.
Mignano confirmed that Iron Mike Promotions signed the Florida fighter on his 18th birthday, which was Tuesday. Lubin is a two-time Junior Olympic national champion and won the 152-pound division at the National Golden Gloves this year. In his USA Boxing bio, Lubin listed as his goals winning an Olympic gold, turning pro and winning every title possible.
Tyson defended the signing of Lubin, saying it "was solely his decision and based on consultation and input from his advisors."
Tyson reminded Butler in the letter that the former heavyweight champ himself turned pro at age 18 and "had a very successful professional career."
"No one knows better than I the pitfalls of amateur and professional boxing," Tyson wrote. "This is precisely why I am compelled to make Iron Mike Productions a transparent company. Our priority is the well-being of our fighters and to produce the most exciting fights we can and in the process uplift the sport of boxing.
"I love my country and I love the liberties living in a democracy affords. These young fighters have worked diligently and deserve the right to pursue the best path they deem fit for themselves. Unfortunately, many of them can't wait around for a very slim shot at Olympic glory."
Tyson was left off the 1984 Olympic boxing team after losing a close decision in the trials.
"Our country hasn't had a male boxing gold medalist since 2004 [Andre Ward], which could be why many young hopefuls decide to turn professional sooner," Tyson wrote. "Many of these boxers are like me in that they are from poverty stricken communities and boxing is their only way to a better life. They have obligations beyond your personal vision for them. No one has the right to question the path a fighter chooses in pursuit of their American dream.
"I will always be supportive of amateur boxing and will continue helping in any way possible. My door is always open to assist the USA Boxing team reach its goals. Hopefully, in the future, you will be more comfortable reaching out to me directly."
USA Boxing executive director Anthony Bartkowski said his organization is looking to be more competitive.
"This is a new strategy of trying to make sure our Olympic-aged athletes are not poached by promoters," he said. "In the past, USA Boxing was passive and just accepted it."
Tyson isn't the only promoter trying to lure amateurs to the pros.
Last month, DiBella Entertainment said it signed highly touted 17-year-old Junior "Sugar Boy" Younan of New York to a contract and said he would make his pro debut in late October or early November, after he turned 18.
Boxing promoters have long trolled the amateur ranks looking for talent, especially in recent years as the lure of Olympic gold has faded for many fighters.
Winning in the Olympics was once a nearly certain way to make millions, but as U.S. Olympic boxing teams have faded, so have the prospects for Olympic fighters.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.