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

U.S. diving moves on without David Boudia

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ATLANTA (AP) — These days, the pool deck seems a little empty for the U.S. diving team.

Someone’s missing.

David Boudia.

He was the stalwart of the American program for the better part of the decade, the guy who usually came through at the biggest meets.

“It’s going to be weird … not having David there,” said Steele Johnson, a good friend of Boudia’s and former synchronized partner. “But at the same time, it’s a new generation.”

After winning two more Olympic medals in Rio, Boudia decided to take a year off and may be done for good. His wife is having their second child, and there’s not much left to accomplish at age 27.

With a little over three years to go before the Tokyo Olympics, the U.S. is already moving toward filling the huge hole that Boudia’s retirement would leave.

“I’m sure everyone has felt that same way about other people,” Johnson said. “Like when Mark Ruiz retired or Laura Wilkinson first retired, all these awesome people, it’s always different. But it’s a good change. Generational change needs to happen.”

MORE: Wilkinson unretries

There are some experienced divers for the U.S. team to build around, including Johnson, a silver medalist with Boudia in synchronized platform at the Rio Games last summer, and the springboard team of Sam Dorman and Michael Hixon, who also captured a silver in synchro springboard.

Several promising youngsters are working their way up, as well, most notably 14-year-old Tarrin Gilliland.

During a recent meet in Atlanta, the Texas teen qualified for a pair of synchronized events at the July world championships in Budapest, Hungary. Gilliland paired with Olympian Jessica Parratto to win the women’s platform and joined Andrew Capobianco to claim victory in the mixed platform, a non-Olympic event.

Yep, it’s going to be quite a summer break for the high school freshman.

“The plan is to keep getting stronger and healthier and start getting my dives more consistent, and maybe add some (degree of difficulty) in there,” Gilliland said. “And just have fun during the process.”

Everyone realizes that not having Boudia puts a huge burden on the rest of the divers to step up their performances, especially if they want to have any chance against the powerful Chinese team.

Boudia had a hand in two of the three diving medals the Americans won in Rio, also taking an individual bronze in the platform.

He also captured two medals in London, including a stunning gold in 10-meter — the first Olympic win for the U.S. in a dozen years — along with a synchronized bronze off the big tower.

Throw in Boudia’s performances at the next-biggest meet on the calendar, and it’s clear how much he meant to the program. Over the last five world championships, he earned four silvers and a bronze.

“David Boudia obviously offered a lot of leadership and he had a lot of experience, so he was a role model to a lot of us,” said Kassidy Cook, a Rio Olympian. “But I think that a lot of other people, like Sam and Mikey and me, we can pick up where he kind of left us off. He’s left us with a lot of good advice and some good leadership roles to fill in. Although we will miss him if he doesn’t come back, we can definitely keep up the positive attitude and hard-working vibes transitioning into this next Olympics.”

Boudia still takes time to mentor Johnson and other young divers based in Indiana.

But Johnson, who is only 20, knows it will be on him and the other Olympic veterans to work with those who haven’t experienced those sort of high-pressure meets.

“Leading into the Olympic year, I really learned from David, through all the World Series meets, how to really handle each competition with different environments and different competitors,” Johnson recalled. “It’s just a lot of learning over these next few years, but it’s a lot of fun interaction with each other.”

He is eager to see how divers such as Gilliland and 15-year-old Maria Coburn, who qualified for worlds in synchronized 3-meter, fare in Budapest.

No matter what the result, the experience they gain will be invaluable.

“It’s good for them to get their feet wet now, with three years left leading up,” Johnson said. “There’s time for growth. You may not go in and win world championships your first time. You may never win. But you’re going to go into these competitions and you’re going to learn from those experiences. That’s what I did the first couple of years when David and I competed.”

As part of the development process, the coaches have paired of up veterans with some of the most promising newcomers. Parratto has taken Gilliland under her wing. Coburn will compete at worlds with Cook.

Synchro diving has become a huge emphasis for the U.S., contributing heavily to its renewed success at the last two Olympics. The Americans were shut out in both 2004 and 2008, an embarrassing fall for a program that once dominated the international scene with stars such as Greg Louganis. But synchro, in which only eight teams compete in a single round of competition, provides a much better chance of reaching the medal stand.

“Synchro has definitely been a main focus for the United States,” Cook said. “You only have to beat five teams to get on the podium. That is definitely the best shot for a medal at the Olympics and the world championships.”

That will continue to be the strategy heading toward Tokyo.

With or without Boudia.

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MORE: Boudia to decide whether to retire

Chuck Wielgus, head of USA Swimming for 2 decades, dies at age 67

Chuck Wielgus
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus, who led a federation that brought home 156 Olympic medals during his 20 years at the helm, died Sunday. He was 67.

USA Swimming said Wielgus died in Colorado Springs of complications from colon cancer. The cancer was first diagnosed in 2006, and Wielgus underwent regular chemotherapy while leading USA Swimming to record growth. He was due to retire in August.

He had announced his planned retirement in early January on the same day he learned he’d been approved to use a new cancer drug that’s in clinical trial.

“Chuck fought a long and hard battle with amazing grace and optimism, and will be missed,” U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun said.

Wielgus was the longest-tenured leader among U.S. Olympic organizations. The 156 medals represent about one-third of America’s overall total from the last five Olympics.

During his two decades, USA Swimming’s revenue increased by about 600 percent, and its four-year, Olympic-cycle budget grew from $35 million to nearly $160 million. Membership more than doubled, to 400,000-plus, and Wielgus helped turn swimming’s Olympic trials into a showcase event. The 2016 trials sold out more than 200,000 tickets.

Wielgus came under fire in recent years for his handling of numerous sexual-abuse cases against the organization, with some calling for his resignation. After saying he had done nothing wrong in a defiant TV interview in 2010, he apologized four years later, writing in a blog: “I wish my eyes had been more open to the individual stories of the horrors of sexual abuse. I wish I had known more so perhaps I could have done more.”

The national governing body said current assistant executive director Mike Unger will serve as interim executive director. Unger has taken an active role in helping run the organization while Wielgus was dealing with his illness in recent years.

Wielgus’ vision to promote swimming to wider audiences resulted in securing year-round television coverage of major events, including the Pro Swim Series, national and world championships, U.S. Olympic Trials, Pan Pacific championships and Duel in the Pool.

During his tenure, the annual Golden Goggle Awards and fundraiser began to recognize that year’s accomplishments.

“Chuck was one of the finest CEOs in all of sport and his leadership of USA Swimming has made it the premier national governing body in the Olympic movement,” USA Swimming board of directors chairman Jim Sheehan said. “Chuck’s selflessness, compassion and intelligence have been hallmarks of his work with the staff, Board of Directors, athletes, coaches and volunteers of USA Swimming.”

Wielgus helped create the USA Swimming Foundation, which provides financial support for national team athletes and helps to save lives through swim lessons with the Make a Splash initiative. He served as chief executive officer when it began in 2004.

“An amazing leader, an incredible mentor, a wonderful friend. RIP Chuck,” three-time Olympic gold medalist Rowdy Gaines tweeted.

Before joining USA Swimming, Wielgus was executive director of the Senior PGA Tour Tournament Directors Association. From 1989-96, he was executive director of United States Canoe and Kayak, the national governing body for that Olympic sport.

From 1983-89, he was executive director of the Hilton Head Island Recreation Association, where he led the effort to produce the master plan for the South Carolina resort island’s public recreation facilities and sports programs.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy, daughters Savannah and Shelby; sons Chip and Tommy; and four grandchildren.

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