• Boxing

Tyson accused of poaching Olympic hopefuls

ESPN staff
October 3, 2013 « Campbell-Brown escapes doping ban | Chartbeat test »
Mike Tyson has been accused of offering money to highly-rated amateur fighters to turn pro before the Olympics © Getty Images
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It didn't take Mike Tyson long to find controversy in his new role as a boxing promoter.

The head of USA Boxing has come out swinging with an open letter to Tyson - a former Olympic hopeful himself - that accuses the former heavyweight champion of trying to poach fighters who might be candidates for the US Olympic team in 2016.

Dr. Charles Butler said in the letter that recently formed Iron Mike Productions has been offering money to the best amateur fighters to turn pro, in particular an 18-year-old who some in amateur boxing believe to be the country's best hope for a gold medal in Rio. He says the money being offered is "pennies on the dollar" of what the prospects could be worth with an Olympic medal.

"Mike, USA Boxing does not have the funds to compete with your offers," the letter said. "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."

Tyson did not immediately return a phone call, and publicist Joann Mignano said he would not be commenting. Mignano confirmed, though, that Iron Mike Promotions signed Florida fighter Erickson Lubin on Tuesday, his 18th birthday.

Lubin is a two-time Junior Olympic national champion and won the 152-pound division at the National Golden Gloves this year. In his USA Boxing bio, he said his goals were to win a gold medal at the Olympics, turn pro and win every title possible.

"We want to be competitive and we want to increase our overall performance in the Olympic Games," said USA Boxing executive director Anthony Bartkowski. "This is a new strategy of trying to make sure our Olympic-aged athletes are not poached by promoters. In the past, USA Boxing was passive and just accepted it."

Tyson isn't the only promoter trying to lure amateurs to the pros. Last month, DiBella Entertainment said they signed highly-touted 17-year-old Junior "Sugar Boy" Younan of New York to a contract and said he would make his pro debut in late October or early November, after he turned 18.

Boxing promoters have long trolled the amateur ranks looking for talent, especially in recent years as the lure of Olympic gold has faded for many fighters. Winning in the Olympics was once a guaranteed way to make millions, but as US Olympic boxing teams have faded so have the prospects for Olympic fighters.

The last American man to win an Olympic gold in boxing was Andre Ward in 2004, and last year's team in London didn't even win a medal. USA Boxing, meanwhile, has undergone a series of shake-ups and their funding has been cut by the US Olympic Committee.

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