It has been eight years since "Iron" Mike Tyson stepped between the ropes and into a boxing ring, but the former heavyweight champion scored another TKO on Friday.
In responding to an open letter written to him on Tuesday by Dr. Charles F. Butler, the president of USA Boxing, Tyson released an open letter of his own that seemed to give him the upper hand.
At issue is the signing of highly touted super lightweight Erickson Lubin on Tuesday on his 18th birthday by the promotional company, Iron Mike Promotions, that bears the Hall of Famer's name.
Butler released a letter addressed to Tyson to the media on Tuesday, pleading with him to not sign any more of the promising fighters who are contenders for the 2016 U.S. Olympic team. He said Tyson was offering the fighters "pennies on the dollar" for what they'd be worth following their Olympic experience.
Tyson, though, defended his practice and made a great point early in his letter.
I am writing you directly to give you the respect you didn’t afford me when you addressed me in a public forum. I am most disappointed that you and USA Boxing could not afford me the courtesy and respect, not only as a former heavyweight champion, but a former amateur champion to contact me first instead of taking advantage of my name and company for publicity.
Unquestionably, Tyson was on the money. Regardless of whether you agree with Butler or Tyson on the merits of signing Olympic prospects to pro contracts before the Games, writing an open letter and releasing it to the media without first having discussed it privately is not a wise strategy.
There are plenty of arguments on both sides of the issue. From USA Boxing's standpoint, the Olympic program has been horrible and something needs to be done to improve it before it's totally ignored.
In men's boxing, the U.S. has won just one gold (Andre Ward, 2004) and two bronze (Andre Dirrell, 2004, and Deontay Wilder, 2008) in the last three Olympiads.
If the amateur program spends time and money developing young fighters only to have them take a pro offer just as they're developing into medal threats, the Olympic program will become a long-term failure.
But from Tyson's standpoint, this is a capitalistic system and the fighters have the right to turn pro if they feel it is in their best interests. Many of the fighters come from impoverished backgrounds and may need the money that a high-profile signing could bring.
The following is Tyson's letter in full to Butler:
I am responding to your open letter regarding an erroneous claim that my boxing promotion’s position of signing young fighters is hindering the growth of USA Boxing’s future Olympic team. I am writing you directly to give you the respect you didn’t afford me when you addressed me in a public forum. I am most disappointed that you and USA Boxing could not afford me the courtesy and respect, not only as a former heavyweight champion, but a former amateur champion to contact me first instead of taking advantage of my name and company for publicity. Your organization never attempted to contact me directly to discuss this matter. 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. No one knows better than I the pitfalls of amateur and professional boxing. 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. Our country hasn’t had a male boxing gold medalist since 2004, which could be why many young hopefuls decide to turn professional sooner. Of all the current champions, I believe you would be hard pressed to find a former Gold Medalist. 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.
The only reason they are amateurs is to turn pro. Your letter seems to stem from our recent signing of Erickson Lubin. Erickson’s desire to sign with our company was solely his decision and based on consultation and input from his advisors. Various established promoters have been aggressively pursuing him; some which even offered more money. My company isn’t even a year old, yet from your assertions you make it as if my promotion team is what is wrong with boxing. I feel the decision to have amateurs fight without headgear is putting them in a precarious situation. I have been told repeatedly by elite amateur boxers that they do not want to risk injury in the amateurs while they can turn pro and be paid for their efforts. This was also the primary reason why Erickson Lubin decided to go professional.
You also state that 18 is too young to turn pro, yet you write this open letter to someone that has turned pro at 18 and has had a very successful professional boxing career. I still hold the record as the youngest heavyweight champion. Let’s not forget Wilfred Benitez who was the youngest champion of all times at 17. Currently there is a young fighter in the Washington D.C. area, Dusty Harrison, who turned pro at 17, is now 19 and undefeated in 17 professional fights. Harrison also attends a local college. Promoters, managers and trainers have always been in the recruiting business. This isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s an engagement that goes on in ALL professional sports.
Your recently elected position as President of USA Boxing comes after the previous President was dismissed for publicly making unacceptable comments. As a matter of fact, USA Boxing and its precursor USA/ABF has had a succession of executives who have either resigned under controversy or were fired. This historical lack of leadership I am hopeful will change under your guidance since these issues flow down to LBC’s, tournaments, local shows, and of course our boxers.
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.
Tyson made a series of great points in his letter. While I understand Butler's concern, this was another USA Boxing miscalculation.
TKO, Iron Mike.