- Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com columnist
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It seems so wrong, doesn't it? For a respected organization to go after -- and find fault -- with a man who is just trying to find his way in an unforgiving institution that is as morally corrupt as the man who is trying to get in was once criminally immoral.
In the form of an open letter, USA Boxing took issue with none other than Mike Tyson for trying to "buy" fighters before the organization felt it was the fighter's time to get paid.
"USA Boxing does not have the funds to compete with your offers," Dr. Charles Butler, USA boxing president, said. "If you have money and would like to assist these young athletes and the sport, you should donate for athletes' stipends to support the training of these boxers and help your country regain its prominence on the medal stand."
Now, no one in their right (or left) hemisphere would say Mike Tyson is walking around with a halo hovering over his head as he tries to get his post-Broadway career off the ground by getting into boxing promotions.
But if Tyson wants to move past pigeon-racing reality shows on Animal Plant or another academy award-winning guest appearance in "The Hangover IV: A New Hope" and make his move to be the next Don King, who are we -- or USA Boxing -- to complain?
Tyson has done so well with his life since he left the sport (as long as he does not revert to the misbehavior he exhibited after longtime trainer Cus D'Amato died, then all is good).
But this isn't about Tyson or his response to Butler's letter in the New York Post claiming the organization never reached out to him directly and is "taking advantage of my name and company for publicity." This is about USA Boxing.
When did USA Boxing become so sanctimonious? So righteous and indignant?
Boxing promoters have perpetually gone after amateur boxers in an attempt to get them to skip the Olympic route. For years, promoters have used everything from Muhammad Ali throwing his gold medal into the Ohio River to the image of Roy Jones Jr. standing next to a ref as he lifted the arm of Park Si-Hun in the Seoul Olympics (considered by many as one of the most corrupt moments in Olympic history) as examples of the unimportance of the Olympics in the arc of one's career.
More recently, promoters simply need to run off the names of top boxers who didn't need an Olympic medal to succeed as a pro -- Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez, Adrien Broner, Timothy Bradley -- to prove that participating in the Olympics is as useful as an iPhone 3GS.
After Athens 2004, USA Boxing had been able to say to every American who has thought about joining them: "Look at Andre Ward's career, and we'll show you how Ward benefited from being in the Olympics."
But when a country goes through an entire Olympics as the United States did at London 2012 and returns without a single medal, the sell gets difficult.
Tyson is doing nothing different from any other promoter in the game since boxing became a free enterprise for promotion and hype. Boxing promoters from Butch Lewis to Bob Arum have always "poached" boxers they feel can make them money sooner rather than later. It's their way of building a relationship with a boxer before anyone else has the chance. That's kinda always been part of the (shady) business side of boxing. For USA Boxing to start bitching now is laughable. It reeks of an organization that is panicking. It's so not a good look for them.
It's called prizefighting. And the prize these days is dollars not medals. USA Boxing should be used to this by now.
1dMalik Smith, ESPN Stats & Information