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Tuesday, 18 January, 2000, 10:10 GMT
Team Tyson: Iron Mike's minions

Hitting the shops: Team Tyson go bargain hunting

One might have thought a man who has won 46 of his 50 heavyweight boxing matches would not require much in the way of security - but not so former world champ Mike Tyson.

The notorious 33-year-old fighter descended on London's swish Grosvenor House Hotel with Team Tyson - his burly entourage of heavies, sparring partners and "assistants".

Observers seemed unsure whether these muscular minders - numbering perhaps 15, according to some accounts - were employed to save "Iron" Mike from members of the public, or vice versa.

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Considering the rather genteel clientele of the 750-a-night Grosvenor, it was unlikely they would have much difficulty repelling attacks from the boxer's fellow guests.

Fight promoter Frank Warren had suggested that Team Tyson would be instrumental in blocking the entry of "kiss-and-tell" femme fatales.

It is almost certain they tried to keep the troubled star entertained during the two-week run-up to his bout against Britain's Julius Francis in Manchester.

It did not take long for Tyson to embark on one of his famously mob-handed shopping trips - in defiance of the controversy his very presence in the UK had sparked.

With nicknames as puzzling as those of Sumo wrestlers and imposing physiques to match, discretion is not a strong suit of Team Tyson.

Among a host of colourful characters, none is more difficult to miss than Steve "Crocodile" Fitch.

Who is in Mike's corner?
Shaven-headed Fitch, with his menacing line in battledress, is a regular fixture at Tyson weigh-ins and press conferences - at least in their early stages.

Often given to hyperbole, rich even by the overblown standards of the fight game, Mr Fitch is usually politely asked to take his "cheerleading" elsewhere.

Tyson's entourage is not entirely made up of brawn. His new manager Shelly Finkel, oldest friend Jay Bright and trainer Tommy Brooks have all been credited as calming influences on the twice-imprisoned boxer.

However, Brooks's reported pleas to have Crocodile dropped from the payroll cut little ice with the ex-champ.

Some Tyson Team regulars did not cross the Atlantic. Two of the fighter's drinking buddies were saved the trouble of packing and it was not clear whether Tyson confidante Darryl "Rolls Royce" Francis made the crossing.

"Rolls Royce" was recently linked to a rather improbable incident at Tyson's home in which a ferret was found dead by an animal rescue worker.

Following a number of violent outbursts, in and out of the ring, Tyson has little choice but to pursue the tail end of his boxing career outside the United States.

It was therefore very much in his professional and financial interests that the days leading up to the Francis fight - and even the bout itself - passed off as peacefully possible.

Team Tyson may be a deciding factor in the boxer's struggle to market himself as a reformed character.

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See also:
11 Jan 00 |  Sport
The life of Iron Mike
17 Jan 00 |  UK
Tyson faces legal challenge
12 Jan 00 |  UK
Tyson highlights game of chance
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