New York, NY, United States (4E Sports) – Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson defended the signing of Olympic prospect Erickson Lubin to a contract, saying it was the latter’s choice to turn professional rather than “wait around for a very slim shot at Olympic glory”.
“No one knows better than I the pitfalls of amateur and professional boxing,” Tyson said in his letter addressed and faxed to USA Boxing president Charles Butler late Thursday night.
“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,” he added.
Tyson’s letter was a response to Butler’s accusation that he undermined the Olympic team because he signed a top boxing prospect to a professional contract.
“These young fighters have worked diligently and deserve the right to pursue the best path they deem fit for themselves,” said Tyson, a former amateur heavyweight champion who missed making the 1984 U.S. Olympic team.
Tyson added that USA Boxing’s poor record of producing medalists in the last several Olympics might have something to do with young boxers deciding to forgo Olympic training for a pro career.
“Our country hasn’t had a male boxing gold medalist since 2004 (Andre Ward) , which could be why many young hopefuls decide to turn professional sooner,” he said.
Tyson also mentioned that many of these boxers 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,” he said.
Tyson’s sentiment was echoed by USOC CEO Scott Blackmun, who said that “I don’t think you can take away the choices that our athletes have”.