(USA TODAY) The signing of a top Olympic boxing prospect Tuesday by Mike Tyson's promotional company prompted USA Boxing to write an open letter to Tyson asking the former heavyweight champion to stop interfering with the Olympic process and allow young athletes to follow their "Olympic dreams."
Tyson's fledgling Iron Mike Promotions signed Erickson Lubin, who turned 18 Tuesday, to a professional contract. Lubin, a two-time junior Olympic champion from Kissimmee, Fla., was described in the letter written by Charles Butler, the president of USA Boxing, as the USA's "best hope."
In a tweet Tuesday, Lubin said, "Officially signed to Iron Mike Promotions. My pro career starts now."
Tyson wasn't talking, but his publicist said Tuesday there was no arm-twisting involved.
"IMP (Iron Mike Promotions) and Rivalta Management signed him today on his 18th birthday," said JoAnn Mignano. "That was his choice, nobody forced him to sign a pro contract."
Mignano and IMP publicist Bob Trieger also said that nobody complained when New York-based promoter Lou DiBella signed highly regarded 17-year-old amateur prospect Junior "Sugar Boy" Younan last month. Younan is expected to make his professional debut later this month or in early November.
USA Boxing said it will pursue legislation to stop "professional promoters from attempting to sign athletes in the Olympic pipeline."
"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," Butler wrote in his letter to Tyson. "You are also undermining the next United States Olympic Boxing Team in the process."
The USA boxing program has suffered in recent years. There were no male Olympic medalists in London last year, and only one, bronze medalist Deontay Wilder, in Beijing in 2008. The last U.S. Olympic gold medalist was Andre Ward in 2004 in Athens. Ward is now the undefeated super middleweight world champion.
Scott Blackmun, the CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, noted the rich tradition the U.S. has had in the sport, but said athletes have the right to decide their future.
"I think the reorganization that USA Boxing recently completed is going to be very, very beneficial because it brings independent thinkers to their board," Blackmun said. "At the end of the day, I don't think you can take away the choices that our athletes have. They have to weigh the importance of an Olympic medal, the impact an Olympic medal would have on their lifetime Olympic goals and weigh that against the short-term opportunity of turning professional."
USA Boxing said it had offered Lubin a spot in its residency program at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, where young fighters "have the ability to train full time and pursue further educational programs. The athletes in the resident program not only have all of their room and board covered but also enjoy access to world-class training facilities, medical care, and a wide array of athlete services. They receive all of these services at no cost and would not owe anyone a percentage of future earnings."