In a letter to Mike Tyson, USA Boxing’s president criticized the Iron Mike Productions boxing promotion company for “undermining” the U.S. Olympic boxing team by offering the best amateur American fighters money to turn professional.
The letter was published on TeamUSA.org’s USA Boxing section on Tuesday.
Professional boxers haven’t been allowed to compete in the Olympics, but the International Boxing Association (AIBA) created its own professional circuit to allow boxers to make money and retain Olympic eligibility. It could open the door for pro boxers to compete at the 2016 Games, though pro boxing organizations such as the WBC are fighting it.
USA Boxing president Dr. Charles Butler wrote to Tyson that he’s “offering these athletes pennies on the dollar” compared to what they could be worth as Olympians. Butler suggested Tyson use the money being offered to donate stipends for amateur boxers instead.
Iron Mike Productions did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.
Butler wrote that “the other promoters are not prematurely stalking our future Olympic stars at this time.”
“Please do not take them from us,” Butler said. “If they win a medal for their country, you can always sign them to professional contracts at that time.”
Tyson never boxed in the Olympics but attempted to make the 1984 Olympic team at age 17. He lost to eventual gold medalist Henry Tillman at the Olympic trials after meeting Evander Holyfield for the first time at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Here’s the full text of the letter:
Dear Mike Tyson,
USA Boxing trains and develops the United States Olympic Boxing Team. We have been working hard to develop athletes to compete for our country in the 2016 Olympics. We provide structure for many young athletes in poorer communities who are in dire need of guidance. We try to help our young men and women develop their boxing skills, and try to teach them values, a moral code, and the skills necessary to have a life after boxing.
Iron Mike Productions is offering money to our best athletes to turn “professional”. Many of these youngsters are living in poverty. These young boxers are foregoing their Olympic hopes and the hopes of our nation in exchange for a professional boxing contract now. You are offering these athletes pennies on the dollar of what they could be worth with an Olympic medal, or even potentially just being an Olympian. You are also undermining the next United States Olympic Boxing Team in the process.
Mike, USA Boxing does not have the funds to compete with your offers. If you have money and would like to assist these young athletes and the sport, you should donate for athlete stipends to support the training of these boxers and help your country regain its prominence on the medal stand. Please do not take them from us. If they win a medal for their country, you can always sign them to professional contracts at that time.
We have heard that you were waiting for early October so that our best hope, a 17-year-old athlete, can turn 18 and be of age to sign a contract with you. We have offered him a spot in our resident program at the U.S. Olympic Training Center where he can train in a safe environment and we can provide for his education. The facilities and support services at the Olympic Training Center are unmatched and would benefit him and his future in boxing greatly.
Mike, an athlete who is just turning 18 is too young for the world of professional boxing. The other promoters are not prematurely stalking our future Olympic stars at this time. You were a prodigy within USA Boxing in the early 1980s and understand the importance of our program; please don’t harm our 2016 Olympic team.
We ask, Mike, that you stop actions that will end these athletes’ Olympic dreams. The value of these youngsters can increase dramatically if they become Olympians and, better yet, Olympic medalists. You are offering them a pittance of their future worth.
USA Boxing’s dedicated volunteers give their lives and their time to rescue our young people from the disadvantaged communities often riddled with crime, drugs and gangs. We provide an outlet for these young people to release their aggression in a positive matter under strict supervision. We are the safest of contact sports—for example, boxing has just one-third the concussion rate of football. A doctor is present at every competition and every athlete receives pre and post-bout physicals, which is often more medical care than others in their community are receiving.
USA Boxing asks any readers of this letter who have compassion for these struggling athletes to donate what they can so we can help them pursue their Olympic dreams. Donations to USA Boxing can be made at:www.usaboxing.org or sending to:
Open Letter Donations
1 Olympic Plaza
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
USA Boxing is currently moving in the right direction, our junior athletes won four gold medals in World Championships action in the last month and the United States has claimed 75 international medals in 2013. We are working extremely hard to give our young athletes the right resources, coaching and guidance to succeed at the highest levels.
Mike, you have been blessed with the talent to advance as far as you did in the sport of boxing. Please do the right thing now. Let our young boxers develop and represent the United States proudly in Rio de Janeiro. Don’t hurt your country by signing these athletes before they are ready to make the transition to professional boxing. Let’s work together to protect our fine young men and women as they seek to fulfill their Olympic dreams. Give them the opportunity to win in the arena, to become role models for succeeding generations and Olympic heroes for our country.
I ask your help.