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Tuesday, January 12, 1999 Published at 21:21 GMT


Tyson in last chance saloon

Tyson's last fight: The infamous bite

"I expect him to die."

So said Mike Tyson of Francois Botha, the fighter he faces in his comeback bout on Saturday.

Thankfully, such an outcome looks remote - but the fact that Tyson allowed himself to be quoted in this manner supports the widespread opinion within boxing that the former heavyweight champion of the world is still a troubled man.

Final chance

The fight, to be staged at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, is Tyson's first since he bit off a portion of Evander Holyfield's ear over 18 months ago.

Following that indiscretion, Tyson was suspended from American boxing rings for a year, and it was only after a undergoing a lengthy series of tests by psychiatrists that the Nevada State Athletic Commission allowed him to continue his boxing career.

At 32, the New Yorker knows that this is his final chance.

Although the profile of boxing has diminished in recent years, there is no doubt that Tyson's return to the squared circle represents a major story.

Most are familiar with his rags to riches and back to rags tale. There are rumours that his purse for this fight, a cool $20m, will finance outstanding tax demands.

Irrespective of that, if the "Iron" one can beat his South African opponent, then he can look forward to more big pay days, potentially meeting the winner of the Holyfield-Lennox Lewis unification fight in March.

[ image: Francois Botha (right) against Axel Schulz]
Francois Botha (right) against Axel Schulz
Botha is not expected to halt Tyson's comeback at the first stage. The 30-year-old has lost just once during his professional career, and has a reputation as a tough and durable fighter who perhaps lacks the natural size to compete with the top heavyweights.

He briefly held the IBF title in 1996, before it was revealed that he had tested positive for steroids after his 12 round points decision over Germany's Axel Schulz. When he faced American Michael Moorer for the vacant belt later in that year, he was comprehensively beaten.

The "White Buffalo", as Botha has been nicknamed, fought twice in 1998, and his comparative activity is likely to be his big advantage over Tyson, who has had just six fights since June 1991. And Botha is not lacking confidence.

Rude Awakening

"He's in for a rude awakening, that's all I can say. I come to fight, I don't come to lay down, and that's what I intend to do." Botha said.

[ image: Tyson's new trainer, Tommy Brooks]
Tyson's new trainer, Tommy Brooks
Tyson enters the fight with a new trainer, Tommy Brooks, who had planned both of Holyfield's victories over the convicted rapist. Tyson has also dispensed with the promotional services of Don King, and is being advised by Shelly Finkel, who also used to work with Holyfield.

It is all part of Team Tyson's attempt to portray the fighter in a more positive light.

That could all amount to nothing if a court decides to send him to jail after he pleaded no contest to assault charges stemming from a traffic accident in Maryland last August. Tyson could serve up to 20 years.

For now, though, Iron Mike will be concentrating solely on matters away from the courtroom - and inside the ring.

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06 Jan 99 | Sport
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