Mike Tyson

USA Boxing president writes open letter to Mike Tyson for ‘ending athletes’ Olympic dreams’

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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:

USA Boxing

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.

Don King rips boxing federation

World Figure Skating Championships women’s preview

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Ashley Wagner has not watched any of Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva‘s programs this season, but this much Wagner knows without looking:

“She is technically flawless, and if there is an athlete that we should be chasing, obviously it’s Yevgenia,” Wagner said.

Medvedeva, a 17-year-old from Moscow, is the biggest favorite across all four disciplines at next week’s world championships in Helsinki (broadcast schedule here).

Wagner is the 2016 World silver medalist, the first U.S. woman on the podium in 10 years, but it would be shocking if she upgrades to gold next week. Realistically, she’s at best fighting for a silver or bronze along with Russians Anna Pogorilaya and Maria Sotskova, Canadians Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman, Italian Carolina Kostner and Japan’s Mai Mihara.

Medvedeva is in her own class.

Undefeated since November 2015. Winner of her last 11 events in her first two seasons at the senior level. She can become the first woman to repeat as world champion since Michelle Kwan in 2001.

In fact, another gold would give Medvedeva the most dominant two-season stretch by a female skater since Katarina Witt‘s stronghold in the mid-1980s.

“I really appreciate her in the sport because she is a set bar that everybody is chasing after, and I think in years past that bar was always changing,” Wagner said.

What sets Medvedeva apart is that she has been polished, from her triple-triple jump combinations and spins to her performance quality, since turning 16 in her senior debut season a year ago.

And her consistency. All other recent Russian stars — 2014 Olympic champions Adelina Sotnikova and Yulia Lipnitskaya and 2015 World champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva — simply could not put together two straight world-class seasons at the senior level.

Given that history, Wagner is not fully sold on Medvedeva.

“Time will tell,” said Wagner, who has joked that she needs to skate like “a robot” to compete with Medvedeva. “She is not part of this normal cycle of Russian athletes. I feel like they have one or two seasons of dominance, and then they kind of disappear. So we will see what happens to her, but she seems to be going very strong.”

Medvedeva, whose mom was a skater, started in the sport at age 3, inspired like many by the great Yevgeny Plushenko.

Figure skating is popular and storied in Russia, but Medvedeva is rarely recognized back home, where she still spends weekends watching cartoons. She does have more than 100,000 followers on Twitter and Instagram, though.

Medvedeva’s scores from her four international competitions this season are the four highest scores in the world, all above 220 points. This despite falling at one competition, having one jump called under-rotated at another and stepping out of a landing at another.

Nobody else in next week’s field has cracked 217 points — in their careers.

At December’s Russian Championships, Medvedeva added a second triple toe loop onto a triple Salchow-triple toe loop combination, knowing she would get zero points for the superfluous jump. She did it three minutes into her free skate (with controversial music from a film about Sept. 11, 2001), when most skaters would be tired.

Medvedeva has shown disappointment when not breaking records and talked about adding a quadruple Salchow to her arsenal. She speaks some English in interviews, even though she hasn’t taken English classes in two years, according to Icenetwork.

“Sometimes I feel like I am two people: the grown-up and the kid,” she said in the fall, according to Icenetwork. “The first one is able to understand and execute difficult programs, while the other one is just like … watching cartoons all the time!”

Medvedeva was last outscored in the short program at last year’s world championships in Boston. She placed third behind Gracie Gold and Pogorilaya, with Wagner in fourth.

In the free skate, Medvedeva and Wagner climbed to gold and silver, respectively. Wagner tallied personal bests for both programs at the 2016 Worlds, yet still finished 7.47 points behind Medvedeva.

Wagner has been unable to replicate those kinds of skates this season. In two international events, her best total is 196.44 points, which seeds her eighth going into worlds. She was also beaten by surprise Karen Chen at the U.S. Championships in January.

“This year is not the year I’m planning on peaking,” Wagner said. “Next year is the year that I am like in it to kill. … This year is my chance to work out all of the kinks, figure out where I want to be mentally going into next year and even though to some on the outside looking in, it wouldn’t look like it was the most successful season for me, I think at the end of the day this season has been exactly what I needed it to be.”

As noted, the pressure is on Wagner to lead an inexperienced U.S. team of three women in Helsinki. She’ll be joined by training partner Mariah Bell and Chen. The two worlds rookies have been less impressive than Wagner internationally this season. They’re seeded 10th and 16th.

The two best results out of Wagner, Chen and Bell must add up to no more than 13, or else the U.S. will only get two women’s spots at the Olympics for the second time in the last six Winter Games.

There is an outside chance of a Russian sweep, given the second-best skater this season, Japan’s Satoko Miyahara, withdrew due to injury. Pogorilaya, the 2016 World bronze medalist, has the next two highest scores this season after Medvedeva and Miyahara.

Russia also has Sotskova, the most impressive of the first-year senior skaters.

The experienced category is led by Osmond, having her best results since debuting as a senior in 2012, and Kostner, the six-time world medalist back after two years off. They’re seeded third and fourth.

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U.S. women’s hockey players show solildarity in portraits

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The U.S. women’s hockey team is … family, powerful, united, strong, brave, together, limitless, fierce, bold, historic, ambitious, resilient, fearless and devoted.

All 23 players on the U.S. roster planning to boycott the world championship that starts in one week posted portraits on Twitter on Friday morning. Each player held a paper with a one-word descriptor.

The players plan to boycott the world championship tournament in Plymouth, Mich., unless their wage dispute with USA Hockey is settled.

The players believed they reached an agreement with USA Hockey in a 10-hour-plus meeting Monday, but USA Hockey’s later counter offer “didn’t reflect the progress of the negotiations,” according to the players’ representatives.

USA Hockey said Thursday that it will start reaching out to potential replacement players, but it still hopes to come to an agreement to field its original team in Plymouth.

“As we have maintained from the beginning, this issue is about more than the compensation of the current team: it’s about equitable treatment for female players now and in the future,” the players said in a statement Thursday. “A forward-looking agreement will benefit the next generation of players even more than the current players. For that reason, and the fact that the younger players identify with us, we are confident that they [potential replacement players] would choose not to play.”

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