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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 September 2005, 18:27 GMT 19:27 UK
Boxer Tyson welcomed in Chechnya
Mike Tyson shakes hands with boy as Ramzan Kadyrov watches
Tyson was invited by Ramzan Kadyrov (centre)
Former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson has received an ecstatic welcome from fans in the southern Russian republic of Chechnya.

He travelled to the eastern city of Gudermes as the guest of honour at a boxing tournament.

The boxing hall was filled with spectators, mainly men, who cheered and clamoured for Tyson's autograph.

The competition is being held in memory of assassinated Chechen president Akhmad Kadyrov.


The boxer told the crowd: "I always watched the situation in Chechnya on television, but it is a much more difficult occasion with you today," the Associated Press news agency reported.

He told the crowd that when he boxed, it was not for himself but for all Muslims in the world, including Chechens whom he considers to be his brothers.

Tyson converted to Islam after being sentenced to six years in prison for rape in 1992.

Tyson has a lot of fans in Chechnya, particularly among young athletes
Chechen government spokesman

Chechnya, a mainly Muslim province in southern Russia, has been torn by conflict between separatist rebels and Russian troops.

The US boxer was invited by Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov, the late president's son.

"Tyson has a lot of fans in Chechnya, particularly among young athletes, who used to admire his boxing skills and learn from him," a government spokesman told the Itar-Tass news agency.

"We shall welcome him as [our] dear guest in accordance with Chechen traditions and will treat him to our ancient meal, zhizhig galnash [meat with dumplings]," he added.

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